Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I will take it further and say that having a child out of wedlock is contributing to the self-annihilation of the family unit. If 72% of children are born out of wedlock it’s just a matter of time before we get pretty close to 100%. I know that I will take some heat for some of the comments I’m about to make, but you have been fairly warned, so brace yourself.
A few weeks ago, I visited my mentee’s church at her request. While sitting in the church (a black congregation), I noticed there were no “young” married couples. In fact all the married couples I saw were in the 55 and over age range. I saw more grandparents raising their grandchildren (a growing phenomenon nationwide across all races and ethnicities) than what I recall from my childhood. The number of teen and young 20-somethings with children was disturbing. Fathers were nowhere to be found. There were only 2 married couples in their early 40s with children sitting in the church. I should note the congregation had well over 120 people in it.
I grew up in an evangelical black church where intact families were the norm. The church coalesced around families that had a missing parent to ensure there was a mother or father figure for those children. I was reared to believe that children come after one is married and not before. Furthermore, it was instilled in us that having a child out of wedlock brings upon great shame to not only the person having the child, but the entire family. I think the shame factor is due to cultural norms in addition to religious beliefs.
To this day (and at my age), it would kill (literally and figuratively) my mother to know that one of her children had a child out of wedlock. I have seen my mother shed tears for young women (teenagers and twenty-somethings) who have children before they are married. I recall when I was about 17 or 18 and a 23-year old woman had a child and my mother kept saying “she’s ruined her life.” I looked up and said mom “at least she has a college degree. She hasn’t ruined her life. She can raise the child on her own. Why does she need a man to do it?”
Although, I still stand by the she didn’t “ruin her life” comment. Time (and being exposed to more things) has caused me to see my other comments a bit differently. Personally, I don’t care whether children are reared by parents that are heterosexual or homosexual. However, I think that rearing a child on your own is probably the most difficult thing to do in the world. A child needs two parents. A child that grows up in an intact family is more likely to do better in school, less likely to grow up in poverty, and less likely to be imprisoned.
I am NOT suggesting that the child of a single parent is doomed. I know many parents that have reared wonderful and successful children on their own. However, they had to overcome challenges to get the job done.
We live in a society that GLORIFIES being a single parent and that black women are superwomen who can do anything on our own. That is false. We need to stop lying to ourselves and be honest. Being a single parent is hard on the parent and child. It is a struggle to rear a child on your own. We need to tell others that having a child is expensive. Unless you have a trust fund that you can live off, it is unlikely you will be able to stay home and rear the child if that is what you want to do.
When you make a decision to have a child on your own and be a single parent, you’re being SELFISH more often than not. I think all women and men should think about what is BEST for the child. Is it best to raise this child with no mother or father? Can you afford to have the child on your own? DO you have a support system in place? If you can’t answer yes to all of these questions, then you shouldn’t be having a child in my opinion. How and what will you tell the child about the other parent? After all, rearing a child is the most important job you will ever have. Most importantly, one must recall that the child did NOT have a choice in being conceived.
It sucks for a child not to have the other parent present in their lives. I cannot imagine what it is like to spend my days and nightswishing to know who the other parent is, waiting for the parent to call or visit, wishing your parent was there to get a hug or tell you that you’re loved. If all men and women thought about this, I think there would be some pause before deciding to have a child on one’s own. Children have the right to know who their parents are.
I am not going to partake in blaming one party over another. Both men and women are responsible for the decisions they make. They must also consider the consequences intended and unintended consequences of those actions.
When a teenager becomes pregnant and has a child, I’ll excuse it as an accident. When you have a 2nd, 3rd, etc it’s not an accident. As a dear friend and mentor said last night, when you have a child out of wedlock in your 30s and 40s, it’s a “conscious decision” you are making. That is, you are choosing to have a child out of wedlock.
My sisters and I did not become pregnant as teenagers for a few reasons. First, my mother sat us down at a very young age (it may have been as early as 7) and taught us about our bodies and sex. (Please note she told us information that she deemed to be at the appropriate level for our age.) It was drilled into us that you are precious. Your body is a gift and not “just anybody” should have access to it. My mother insisted on instructing us about being a girl because her mother never had those conversations with her. My mom didn’t want her three daughters to grow up in the dark like she did. I am extremely grateful for that.
Secondly, my parents were extremely strict with us. Dating was not permitted as teenagers. My parents were of the thinking, fall in love with school, the library and books. There will be plenty of time for boys.
Last but not least, my mother promoted and fostered the thought in us that marriage is the norm.
My mom’s frank conversations with us (sisters and brother) are one of the best things she ever did for us. If every woman and man had similar conversations with their children, I don’t think the number of out of wedlock children would be so high.
Frankly, we need to inform teenagers that if you’re going to have sex, then use protection. I take that back, adults should stress the importance of protection. If I could I’d hand out condoms to every teenager. I’d make sure that girls have access to oral contraceptives. (Too bad there isn’t one for men…) Telling teenagers whose hormones are raging to not have sex is not going to work. It’s doomed to fail.
If we want to restore the family unit, then we all need to take responsibility and do our part. Talk to the girls and boys in your family. Mentor someone. If you’re a single parent, tell other women and men considering single parenthood that being a single parent is difficult. If you’re the child reared by a single parent, share your experiences with others. No Wedding No wombs should be our words to live by…
P.S. Please note that I am in not suggesting that one should stay in a marriage or rear children in a home that is unsuitable for children. For example, if there is abuse of any sort in the home, neither child nor parent should be subjected to it.
Post Written by E