Gloucester, MA–I discussed the Gloucester High School pregnancy scandals on the Al Rantel Show on KABC AM 790 in Los Angeles last night. Many are drawing links between Gloucester and the way single mother actresses/stars are glamorized and extolled. I believe this is true, but one of the points I made on the show is that I also believe that there’s a link between the Gloucester issue and the Single Motherhood by Choice movement.
There have been three highly-publicized books overt the past couple years which advocate single motherhood as a choice: Stanford Gender Scholar Peggy Drexler’s Raising Boys Without Men, Wellesley College Women’s Studies Professor Rosanna Hertz’s Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice; and Louise Sloan’s Knocking Yourself Up.
I certainly sympathize with those single mothers whose husbands or lovers abandoned or mistreated them, and who soldiered on in the raising of their children without the father those children should have had. However, the Single Motherhood by Choice movement goes well beyond this, openly advocating single motherhood as a lifestyle choice.
Drexler portrays father-absent homes–particularly “single mother by choice” and lesbian homes–as being the best environments for raising boys. Hertz interviewed 65 single mothers and concluded that “intimacy between husbands and wives [is] obsolete as the critical familial bond.”
Whereas a family was once defined as two parents and their children, Hertz asserts that today the “core of family life is the mother and her children.” Fathers aren’t necessary–“only the availability of both sets of gametes [egg and sperm] is essential.” In fact, Hertz explains, “What men offer today is obsolete.”
Each of these three writers has received a very friendly reception from the mainstream media. Those of us who point out the damage caused to children by Single Motherhood by Choice are portrayed as meanies, grumps, and stuffed shirts who won’t get with the program. Some of you may remember I debated Sloan on Fox’s nationally-syndicated Morning Show with Mike and Juliet last fall–to watch, click here.
Al & I also discussed the way the damage caused by divorce goes from generation to generation. The man or woman whose parents divorced when the kids were 12 and 9 is going to hesitate to marry because he or she will expect that the same thing will happen to their family. When children of divorce do get married, they are in turn more likely to divorce.
One other aspect of divorce which I noted was that children will inevitably blame themselves for what has happened. There was a poignant scene in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness where Will Smith’s son asks, “Did mommy leave because of me?” and Smith tells him, “No, mommy left because of mommy.” To use an excessively harsh example, I always remember this from the Andrea Yates killings: as she was drowning one of the little boys, the boy kept fighting his way to the surface of the bathtub and saying, “I’m sorry, mommy, I’m sorry.” But that’s how a child understands his or her parents’ anger and often their divorce–they blame themselves.
Al also made the point that he believes that boys are particularly harmed by fatherlessness. In one way I think he’s correct, but I also wonder if the damage to girls isn’t just as bad, but more subtle. Do readers have any thoughts on the question?