11 July 2008

No Fathers Needed?

A headline on the Fox News website reads: “Teen Pregnancy Rate Hits 15-Year High.” But the real story is buried down in the final section of the story, which is based on a report by the National Institutes of Health.

“The number of babies born to unwed mothers continues to increase. In 2006, 38 percent of all births were to unmarried women, up from 37 percent in 2005. The percentage of children under age 18 living with two married parents fell from 77 percent in 1980 to 68 percent in 2007. The percentage of unmarried births to women in their 20s tripled, from 19 to 58 percent for women ages 20 to 24 and from 9 to 31 percent for women ages 25 to 29. The percentage of births to unmarried women in their 30s more than doubled from 8 to 18 percent.” (Emphasis added.)

This says a thing or two about our culture. First, there is a rising acceptance of single-mothers who are single by choice. The idea that a single parent should be the default family situation for 20-24 year-old women is ludicrous. How, one may ask, is a woman that age supposed to hold down a full time job, care for a baby full time, and care for a household? My guess is that, more often than not, one of two things happens. Either the single mother is living with her mother – living in her house and sharing her bounty, or the single mother is in fact living with the child’s biological father – but marriage is not necessarily in the picture. Surely one of these two has to be the case, because virtually no one has a “Sex in the City” –esque job through which nannies can be paid for, apartments kept up, and long lunches with friends are the norm.

One thing to notice about the above two assumptions – either grandma or baby daddy is in the picture – is that the role of father is easily disposed of. And we wonder why it seems that so many of our young men are directionless and wandering. For 58% of women ages 20 – 24, a husband is not necessary and perhaps not even desired.

But a child is. It strikes me as recklessly selfish. Indeed, a psychologist interviewed for the Fox News article, Dr. Keith Albow, says:

“Ultimately, the gravest long-term consequence is that we have babies being nurtured by mothers who really can’t provide them with what they need. And that’s really a self-centered act. You’ve basically declared that it’s all about you.”

The child-mother wants something all to herself, and marriage does not provide that. Marriage takes work far before the act of actually getting married. Having a child, on the other hand, delays the realization of work until it’s too late. Indeed, the frustrating work may well not begin until the child is two or three years old – when the child can rebel at being told “no”. The child-mother has no one to really share the burden with.

Marriage is what is supposed to provide that support, that base from which to do the hard family duties. A family should not be one parent and one child (or more) by choice. Adults need the support of a loving, dedicated peer. Grandma can’t be expected to fill that role. Biological fathers lack a formal declaration to stay when things get rough. They are easier to put out of the picture than fathers who are married to their wives.

That our country has such a problem with fathers, the idea of fatherhood, and the notion of what makes a family does not bode well for our culture. We all have freedom of choice, freedom to create a life through which we can approach happiness. However, acts of extreme selfishness are not roads we should take. They will not provide for our happiness, nor the happiness of our children. They will also irreparably harm our culture and our nation.

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