A recent forum conversation struck an odd chord with me. It took place in a highly upbeat community of (largely) single mothers, but in this instance, it almost felt like a scorned, dumped mommy club. Having been a single mother for a few years, and also having some experience with the topic at hand, I was in the huge minority with my stance on the issue. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I am a millennial mommy and my views are more liberal than those who have gone before me? I don’t know.
Some background: this discussion took place in an invite-only, private forum with a particular group of women who are all mothers and (were/are) single, and who are very dedicated, hard-working, and entrepreneurial-spirited. The tone is generally upbeat and positive, and full of the female empowerment (i.e. the standard “we-don’t-need-you” type of attitude), which is why the women's' reactions caught me a little off guard. Rather than providing sound reasoning and discussion, many of the comments were snappy, had a victim-mentality, and almost sounded bitter.
My largest issue with it was this: there is a double standard at work here (more to follow). It’s so easy to say what you would do if put into “x” situation, but the truth is, until you are actually sitting with your ass firmly planted in that exact position, you have no flippin’ clue what you would do. You have an IDEA of what you SHOULD do, but no idea what you WOULD do. It’s very different.
The question posed to the group was: “What are your thoughts about holding men responsible for babies they don’t want? If, say, a woman hooks up with a guy, gets pregnant, and choses to keep the baby even though he is clear he doesn’t want to, is he morally responsible for caring for that child (financially, logistically, emotionally)?”
As one could probably guess from earlier statements, the popular answer sounded something like this: Of course he is! He knows how babies are made. Don’t do the crime if you don’t want to do the time.
While I whole-heartedly agree that crime doers should be crime payers, and that even the densest guys know exactly what the consequences of unprotected sex are, I don’t know how I feel about the responses I was reading. What I do know is that every situation is completely different, so there really is no one-size-fits-all solution here.
With those thoughts in mind, I decided to play devil’s advocate to get to the root of why I feel the way I do about this:
He has clearly stated he wants no part of having this baby, yet you do, so you proceed anyways. While legally, you can make him financially support the child (which is, and will be, a pain in the ass...trust me, our court system has a “one-size-fits-all” approach that doesn’t really fit anybody), you will find yourself hard-pressed, dare I say it will be impossible, to make him be a father. You cannot make someone be a dad. I know this because I tried. I kicked and screamed and begged and pleaded for two years straight…and all it got me was a massive headache and bucket loads of stress. It sounds cliché, but being a father is something that has to come from within.
How would women feel if the tables were turned and she didn’t want the child, but he did? Then what? I know of situations in which men wanted the baby, but the mother did not, so she had an abortion. Where were his rights then? What if legislation made it so that abortions were illegal unless the father agreed as well? That's what we're saying we want right? We are saying that as the sperm donor, he is responsible and obligated to care for that baby whether he wanted it or not. Well, if that's the case, even if you don't want the baby, as long as he does, you should be forced to have it and then you should be forced to pay him child support. It seems to me we have massive double standards in this regard.
If you disagree with being forced to carry (and then care for) a child you didn't want to have, then you should also disagree with men being forced to provide for children they don’t want. In one situation you are forcing a man to be a father and saying it is your moral right to provide, and in the second you are saying, even though it’s your child, you get zero say and zero rights. Not so cut and dry now is it?
Let’s assume you have the baby and the father has already stated he wants nothing to do with the child at any point in their life. Is he going to miss out? Absolutely. He won’t get to see their first steps, first birthday, first day of Kindergarten, prom, or when they learn to drive. But in that same breath, he didn’t sign up for it (according to his angle anyways). Now you start chasing after him for child support. After a long battle, check. Finances covered. But what about emotionally and morally? Emotionally you can nag him to death, but you’ll be wasting your breath. Morally? If he never wanted the child, you’ll probably have trouble getting him to feel horrible about it, because he will remind you he never wanted this family, each and every time it comes up.
So now, with the tables turned slightly, people will say that he knew what he was getting into by doing the deed. Fair enough. But so did you! You also are equally to blame. Maybe you shouldn’t be sleeping with someone who would potentially run away and leave you pregnant and stranded. Relationships, whether held together by love or not, are still a two way street. The fault lies with BOTH parties. There is no victim in this situation, other than the child.
I believe strongly in single mothers (all mothers, actually). I believe that we are super heroes in disguise, and I believe strongly in female empowerment. This is, in no way, meant to villainize mothers who seek support from their children’s fathers (I receive child support for goodness sake). I was merely pointing out that there is no easy, canned answer to these questions, despite how quick people are to jump in and hammer down on these “dads.” These situations are twisted, and tough, and often have so many more layers than what meets the eye. All I am saying is refrain from passing immediate judgement on a situation that seems so "black and white" from the outside.
I also think that men kind of get the shaft on this one. As women, mothers nonetheless, we are saying these men have every obligation to provide for this child, regardless if they want them or not. BUT in the instance they do want the child and we don’t, they are shit out of luck. That certainly doesn’t seem very fair, does it? If men were the ones growing babies in their bellies, would this conversation go entirely different? If your 16-year-old son were in this situation would you think differently? If your estranged husband had a fling that produced a child he didn’t want, would you think differently? If you were forced to have a baby that you didn’t want, just because the baby's dad wanted it, would you think differently?
I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the women involved in this discussion would feel differently if they were living in one of these situations, or if legislation made it so that a father's rights could override the rights to your own body. Some would firmly hold their ground, I have no doubt. But others may find their stance waver a bit. Life is tricky. Relationships are tricker.
I am anxious to hear others’ thoughts on this. This conversation is a tough one, and one that people tend to shy away from because it brings such passionate debate. Respectful discussion is good though, because it at least gets people talking.
As a side note, this post may come across as pro-choice. While I am pro-life, I can appreciate that everyone has differing opinions and a thousand different reasons for making the decisions they do. In my own personal situation, I decided to have my son regardless of whether his dad would be in the picture or not (we lived in different states at the time). I respect your own beliefs and views, and this post is meant to spur discussion and heighten points that sometimes get covered up by the popular opinion. I absolutely encourage you to do what is best for your situation.
If you are a single mother and want to get in on the conversation (or merely want to listen and learn from other boss moms), check out the Millionaire Single Moms group, run by Emma Johnson, writer behind www.wealthysinglemommy.com. Income not required.