Allow me to stipulate:
1. Katy Chatel has every right to have a child if she wants to.
2. I accept her assertion that she is able to be, and will be, an exemplary parent, and that her child will not suffer in any way for want of a father.
3. Everything in her Washington Post essay “I’m a single mother by choice. One parent can be better than two” may be accurate and correct from her point of view, which as far as her own life is concerned, is all that matters. I will accept, for the purpose of this post, that it is correct.
4. This is a free country, and she can express any opinion that she chooses.
Nevertheless, she should not have written the article, which is irresponsible and cannot avoid doing more harm than good.
In some ways, this is the Murphy Brown argument all over again.Quayle said,Vice President Dan Quayle delivered a family-values speech to the Commonwealth Club of California in which he criticized the fictional TV news reporter played by Candace Bergen on the popular sitcom for her decision to have a child outside of marriage.
“Bearing babies irresponsibly is simply wrong. Failing to support children one has fathered is wrong. We must be unequivocal about this. It doesn’t help matters when prime-time TV has Murphy Brown, a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid professional woman, mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice.”
Quayle’s position was promptly attacked by the liberals, Democrats, Hollywood and the media. The show reveled in the attention and controversy, and even worked it into the storyline. “Perhaps it’s time for the vice president to expand his definition and recognize that, whether by choice or circumstance, families come in all shapes and sizes,” Murphy said.
It didn’t help that Quayle was the Sarah Palin of his day: he could have accurately expounded on string theory and it would have been derided as the ramblings of a moron. It would have been nice—exemplary, even—if a prominent liberal Democrat had the integrity to back up what Quayle said, which was self-evidently true. Sen. Pat Moynihan comes to mind: as a prominent sociology scholar, he knew Quayle was right. This was a close Presidential race, however, and Hollywood was a major donor to the Clinton campaign. So much for integrity. Years later, even Bergen conceded that Quayle was right. “I never have really said much about the whole episode, which was endless,” the actress told People in 2002. “But his speech was a perfectly intelligent speech about fathers not being dispensable and nobody agreed with that more than I did.”
Murphy was another in the long line of high-profile, wealthy and privileged characters, real and fictional, who have glamorized and endorsed destructive conduct for those who do not have the unusual resources and support networks that their reckless role models do. Research indicates that marriage benefits children, and that those with two parents living together tend to be better off than children who have just a mother or a father raising them. Those who live with both biological parents are more likely to graduate from high school and are less likely to get pregnant or arrested. They have lower rates of suicide, and earn more as adults. Children raised in single-parent families are less healthy, more likely to misbehave, engage in criminal activity and be unemployed—and to start single parent families. In a 2012 article, also in the Post, Isabell Sawhill, who was and is senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution and co-director of the Center on Children and Families, concluded….
“Dan Quayle was right. Unless the media, parents and other influential leaders celebrate marriage as the best environment for raising children, the new trend — bringing up baby alone — may be irreversible.”
Articles like Chatal’s don’t help. Because she is convinced that she can raise a child better by herself, she makes assertions that will serve as instant rationalizations and justifications for this toxic conduct by women who, unlike her, can’t. Some examples:
I wonder why more people don’t choose single motherhood. Parenting alone allows me to make the best decisions for my son without needing to compromise for a partner’s differing personal beliefs, needs or career demands.
They don’t do it because it’s hard, because the research says that its likely to fail, and because not everyone believes that taking on a difficult, stressful, time-consuming task solo is preferential to having a partner and ally to share the job.
There’s an assumption that single motherhood results from women’s poor decisions and that parenting alone can’t possibly be a fit way to raise children.
That’s not an assumption, it’s a fact, at least when the deceitful absolutes are removed. The author is playing straw man games: single motherhood frequently results from women’s poor decisions, and parenting alone is a risky way to raise children.
A 2011 Pew Research Center poll found that 61 percent of Americans believe a child needs both a mother and a father to grow up happily. Seven out of 10 think single women having children is bad for society. I’ve never seen it that way.
Well, whether she sees it that way or not, that’s what the data shows, and that’s the reasonable conclusion from our society’s experience. What Chatel means is, “That doesn’t necessarily apply when the single mother is me.“ Swell, and maybe she’s right. I hope she is, for her sake and her child’s. But her statement is phrased to serve as an argument that any and every women is responsible to choose single parenthood, and that’s the equivalent of throwing kerosene on a fire that’s out of control already.
Single motherhood is no longer an unusual choice, and many single moms don’t reflect the stereotype.
“Everybody does it,” and not everyone who smokes doesn’t get lung cancer. Weak.
Most [single mothers[ do not live in poverty, use food stamps or go to food pantries.
I thought we were talking about what was best for the children.
The whole essay, in fact, reads like someone trying to convince herself that what she is doing isn’t just reasonable, but virtuous. I hope writing it was therapeutic, but the ethical course would have been for Katy to keep it to herself. Publishing it in the Washington Post will encourage women without her advantages and skills to dismiss the very legitimate warnings about starting a family without a committed father in the mix. That’s still irresponsible, and so is Katy Chatel’s article.
Spark: The Washington Post