“[A] father is just as much a parent as a mother. Except when we decide he’s not, as did Ms. Suleman and her medical enablers. According to media reports, the male friend who provided the sperm for all of Suleman’s 14 children had begged her to stop after the first six — to no avail.”
Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute asks some good questions in her new column Where in the World Is Octodad? (Wall Street Journal, 2/20/09). She writes:
Nadya Suleman, aka Octomom, is now the mother of 14 children — eight newborns and their six older brothers and sisters. She has also managed to give birth to debate on issues as far-ranging as welfare, reproductive technology, health care and celebrity worship (Ms. Suleman is said to have an Angelina Jolie fixation)…
But in all of this punditry one question goes missing: Where is Octodad? Surely Ms. Suleman’s babies have a father. Yet his role in the baby-palooza is barely mentioned. Not that this should surprise anyone. The reaction to Ms. Suleman and her brood typifies our cultural ambivalence about fathers, an ambivalence fed in no small measure by the fertility industry.
On first thought, Americans seem really keen on fathers. We fret about the emotional impact of father absence and insist “that responsibility does not end at conception,” as then-candidate Barack Obama put it in a memorable speech last Father’s Day. We excoriate “deadbeat dads” who fail to pay their share of their children’s upbringing; in fact, the stimulus bill adds $1 billion to child-support enforcement. Married fathers who don’t step up and share the burdens of diapers and pediatrician appointments are condemned, in the words of one much-discussed book of essays, as “bastards on the couch.” After all, the argument goes, a father is just as much a parent as a mother.
Except when we decide he’s not, as did Ms. Suleman and her medical enablers. According to media reports, the male friend who provided the sperm for all of Suleman’s 14 children had begged her to stop after the first six — to no avail. Having consented to the use of his sperm, he would have been expected to give up control over the future children created with them…
True, studies of “choice mothers,” as single, financially independent mothers call themselves, suggest that most of them had wanted to find a husband to be father to their kids before they decided to go it alone. But once they make that decision, they often choose anonymous donors precisely because they don’t have to worry about the fathers interfering with their — or is it her? — children. Shortly before Ms. Suleman made headlines, the New York Times Magazine published an article, notably titled “2 Kids + 0 Husbands = Family.” It describes a clan of college-educated single mothers, all of whom admitted how they wanted to “make decisions about their kids, from when they are excused from the table to where they go to school, and how hard it would be to share that authority.”
But our equivocation about paternity is finally untenable. Out-of-wedlock birth rates in the U.S. are now 38%; among African-Americans the figure is 70%. Fathers of children living with single mothers are far less involved with their children than are married fathers; about a third of all children in single-mother families have not seen their father in the previous year. Yet decades of social science have made it clear: Children who grow up without their fathers experience more poverty, have more problems at school, more trouble with the law — and more single motherhood in the next generation.
Read the full article here.
Kay interviewed me for the piece about some of the wonders of the child support system, though most of that didn’t make it into the final column. Question–can anybody explain to me how giving an extra billion dollars to Child Support Enforcement will “stimulate” the economy? Particularly when most enforcement efforts are fruitless attempts to beat arrearages out of low-income men who can’t pay them…