Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Marry Your Baby Daddy" Day

In September, novelist Maryann Reid and Rev. Herbert Daughtry made the dream of marriage a reality for 10 lucky couples. Hundreds of couples who already had children together and who hoped to marry “someday” responded to a contest. The prize: ten all-expenses-paid weddings, presided over by Rev. Daughtry. This contest was aimed at African-American couples, and most of the couples and wedding-makers were black. The idea, though, is a good one for the whole nation to ponder and pursue.

The single most urgent family problem is to get single moms to marry their baby daddies.
(That’s what I think today, anyway. I am still puzzling on this.)

In the long run we need to create a culture which authoritatively supports marriage and careful childrearing. In the short run, though, we already have couples who have children and plan to marry someday, in the pie-in-the-sky future.

Communities could make this dream of marriage a reality. All they need is the wedding.

Suppose every congregation in town agreed to take part in a “Marry Your Baby Daddy Day” – or “Parents’ Wedding Day,” or “Mommy and Daddy Get Married Day,” or whatever name works best. Each minister would agree to perform the wedding, and members of the congregation would find a way to get the dress, the cake, the rings, the flowers, the pictures, the reception, and so forth, and do it nicely. As with the original Marry Your Baby Daddy Day, there could be a contest – which would itself get many couples to get down to cases about getting married, even if they didn’t win the contest. On that happy day, the front-page news would be that the whole community had worked together to make marriage dreams come true for the couples and, especially, for their children.

Promoting marriage among parents would, I am convinced, pay for itself in happier and healthier grownups, and better cared for kids. Men, who would probably resist the idea the most at first, would benefit the most in the end. Yes, we should build in a marriage preparation course, even for cohabiting couples with kids. Yes, we should screen out likely wife-beaters, and get them some other kind of help. Yes, we would probably need to reach beyond each congregation to find the money. But it would be worth it.

The spin-off benefit of a community Marry Your Baby Daddy Day would be to make clear how much the community as a whole supported marriage for all children’s parents – not just those who think they can afford a wedding.

2 comments:

ken mcintyre said...

This article was in this week's Princeton Alumni Weekly. It just goes to show that, even at Princeton, it's hard to resist an idea whose time has come.

Encouraging two-parent households

Government should take a more active role in promoting “stable, low-conflict” families, researchers from the Woodrow Wilson School and the Brookings Institution have concluded. The researchers said that children raised in two-parent families are significantly more likely to have financial, emotional, and academic success than those raised in single-parent households.

A Brookings-Wilson School conference Sept. 13 in Washington, D.C., explored how healthy marriages benefit children. The event coincided with the release of the second issue of The Future of Children (www.futureofchildren.org), a journal published at Princeton by the two institutions.

Since 1970, the number of children living with a single parent has grown from 12 percent to 27 percent, with considerably higher numbers among low-income families. “Marriage penalties” built into the federal tax and welfare systems can discourage marriage, especially for low-income parents, researchers said. Noting that marriage correlates with higher earnings for each parent, senior Brookings fellow Isabel Sawhill said, “If we could get back to where our society was 25 years ago, the child poverty rate would drop by 3 or 4 percentage points.”

The Bush administration’s proposed Healthy Marriage Initiative would provide $1.5 billion over five years to research and test programs promoting marriage. Sara McLanahan, Princeton sociology professor and editor-in-chief of the journal, said the administration’s plan is “good policy” but should be tried cautiously. Marriage education programs “are not a magic bullet,” she added, “and we should continue our efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies and improve services for children of single mothers.”

By Aimee Hess ’02

Gruntled said...

Amen. This is the conference at which Kathryn Edin spoke, which I refered to in another post.

Sara McLanahan is herself a single mother, and was expecting to prove that single parenting was just as good as dual parenting when she started the research for Growing Up With A Single Parent. But she is a good empirical scientist, and went with the evidence.