“On Mother’s Day, many moms do not get taken out to brunch or presented with potted plants. For them, Mother’s Day is just like any other day – a struggle to get by. There is one gift we can collectively give them, though: We can stop judging. We can throw away the good mother/bad mother distinction. We can recognize that most mothers genuinely want to do what is best for their children. It is simply much easier for some of us than for others.”
—-, a social worker and the executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network, in Washington Post column titled “Stop judging poor moms. Bad policies hurt their kids — not bad parenting”—also a strong candidate for “Sweeping Generalization of the Decade.”
There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes, “When the only tool you have is a diaper, every problem looks like a baby’s butt.”
Or something like that.runs a laudable and necessary social service that provides diapers for families that can’t afford them. That’s a wonderful service and a wonderful charity, and she and her colleagues are doing a service for humanity. Unfortunately, her unique perspective on the problem of negligent and irresponsible parenting has produced her column in the Post, which uses a stream of rationalizations, logical fallacies and rhetorical deceits to reach an absurd and societally dangerous conclusion.
The fact that public policy may not do enough to help stressed mothers or minimize the damage caused by the irresponsible, negligent, dangerous or self-destructive—or just plain stupid—decisions by women that made them mothers in the first place, cannot mean that society should stop “judging mothers.” the Biblical rationalizations), and with that tactic sides with the ethical relativists. Without critical judgment, there can be no standards. Without public conclusions regarding ethical behavior and unethical behavior, what conduct we encourage and what conduct we condemn, there can be no culture, no shared values, and no internal or external controls to limit destructive behavior. Everyone has a societal obligation to judge their own conduct, and that of everyone else. Judging conduct does inherently reflect on the purveyors of that conduct, but pointing out destructive conduct by mothers does not and must not preclude compassion, fairness, respect and charity.intentionally uses “judging” as a pejorative term (evoking
Goldblum’s initial attack on anyone who dares to suggest that women should not have children they can’t afford to care for and that will permanently cripple their chances at success, proceeds by paring such critics with those who oppose the work of her organization.
“One man called me screaming that impoverished moms should “just use newspaper!” to diaper their infants. In letters and phone calls, others have accused us of encouraging mothers to keep “breeding.” (Barnyard animals breed, mind you. Women have babies.) Our critics believe the women who come to us are bad mothers who should not have had children in the first place. (We rarely get criticism of fathers, as if women become pregnant all by themselves)”
Breathtaking. She begins with the fallacy I call “The Bad Lawyer,”concluding from the fact that a proposition has some foolish advocates that the proposition itself is incorrect. Yes, anyone who advocates endangering a baby’s health by using newspaper as diapers is too mean and dumb to be in civilized society, but using that position to characterize critics or irresponsible mothers is dishonest debating. The suggestion that women decide to have babies they can’t afford because they are confident that they can get free diapers is similarly idiotic,but the position that it’s irresponsible to have children when you should know you can’t care for them is not only not idiotic, it’s blazingly obvious.
“Our critics believe the women who come to us are bad mothers who should not have had children in the first place” is a masterpiece of unethical rhetoric, dishonestly representing the stated belief as the logical and the ethical equivalent of foolish criticism of her organization’s service. Many, surely not all, but many women who need donated diapers are bad mothers, and we should say so. Are they out partying all night? Do they engage in drug use? Do they choose male partners who are irresponsible themselves, or even a danger to their infants? Does this author really believe that there’s no such thing as a mother who isn’t sufficiently mature, employed, smart, responsible, educated and married to have babies? That is as embarrassing a position as believing that newspaper is a substitute for diapers.
Then the paragraph closes with a classic example of that Avis Rent-A-Car of rationalizations, old #2, “They’re Just as Bad” Excuse, or “They had it coming,” which posits the absurd argument that because there is other wrongdoing by others that is similar, as bad or worse than the unethical conduct under examination, the wrongdoer’s conduct shouldn’t be criticized or noticed. The excuse is a pathetic attempt to focus a critic’s attention elsewhere, by shouting, “Never mind me! Why aren’t you going after those guys?”
To make Goldblum’s use of this hoary rationalization especially deceitful, society is very critical of deadbeat dads and randomly procreating bums. That does not mean that we shouldn’t be critical of the foolish women who hook up with them.
The essay, impressively, gets worse from there. Its main thesis is that the only thing separating “good” mothers from “bad” mothers is money, and we all know where that is headed: just transfer enough wealth, and every mother magically becomes caring, competent, responsible and selfless.
In one respect, Goldblum is stating the obvious: if it is irresponsible for women who are too poor to care for children to have them anyway, the problem would go away if they weren’t poor. Yes, and it’s crazy for a legless man to try to run the Boston Marathon, but wouldn’t be crazy if he had legs. The logical thrust of her argument is that it is unjust to expect poor mothers to consider their resources at all: if a women has a child, the State, that is, you and I, should pay for it. If she has ten, I suppose the same principle holds. And if a middle class family plans its offspring, saves its money and lives modestly so that they can afford clothes, medical care, and education for the children they have while paying taxes to support the women who have as many children as they want or blunder into, what are they? Saps and fools, I guess.
“America is big on the idea of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. But raising a family on a low-wage job can leave you strapless,” Goldblum writes. Well, yes, and a woman starting a family before she can get an education and a higher wage job is irresponsible conduct that it is both reasonable and appropriate for society to criticize, or in her words, “judge.”
Goldblum never actually addresses that core issue; instead, she erects a straw man. “None of this, of course, satisfies those who say that people should not have kids they cannot afford,” she writes. “They don’t acknowledge that poverty often comes after the children are already born.” Yes, that’s because the topic is having children when you already can’t afford them.
Oh, I almost forgot..
Happy Mother’s Day.