Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Single Mothers and the Second Child

Emily Bazelon has an interesting long article in the New York Times magazine about single mothers by choice. One new feature of this now-familiar story is the number of middle class single mothers who have a second child in order to round out the family. As is usual in such articles, the increases are reported as big percentages, rather than in absolute numbers, which are still very small.

Not surprisingly, you can find groups of middle class women with adopted kids and sperm donor kids who are doing OK. Nor is it surprising that they tend to work together, to support one another. Moms of all kinds work together. Single mothers of every class need more help, so naturally they are more likely to seek one another out. Middle class mothers seek out other middle class mothers for many reasons, most of them good. This story was about single mothers who were never married to the fathers of their children, but this part of the story would be the same if it were about divorced women. Moreover, these single moms don't just rely on one another. Many in the story live near, or with, their parents, and depend on their siblings, neighbors, and friends.

No one can raise children alone. Married couples have the huge advantage of having someone to share the task with, but even they have to rely on "the village" many times. This problem is squared for single mothers, who draw even more on collective resources.

The implicit task of an article like this in the Times and other center-left venues is to show that this kind of family arrangement is "good enough." Bazelon does a good job in showing that it can be good enough, especially with helpful parents and money to hire babysitters and au pairs.

The implicit question of such an article, even in a center-left source, is whether raising children this way is "just as good as" a competent marriage. Bazelon does not push the issue. Nor does she need to: good enough is good enough. Still, I think it would require a great deal of ideology to look at these families and see an ideal that they would want their own children to reproduce.

Married parents are still best for kids.


Kori said...

While it might seem so easy for oyu to sit up on your oh-so-l;ofy pedestal and tell us what is best for our kids, I proudly shout to the world that my single parent family-myself and four kids-are doing a far better job of BEING a family than the majority of children we know in our area who come from two parent households. And this is despite the fact that at every turn in the road, every crisis or complaint or tragedy, people like you want to step in front of us and block our way. For YOU, and in YOUR opinion, it was what was best for YOU. It wasn't what was best for me and mine.

MoziEsmé said...

I can understand wanting a second child regardless of one's marriage status - and I am all for it because I think it's often better for the first child. Of course, I'd say as a generality it's easier to be a married mom than a single mom. that's not to say that it's better in every case, though.