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12
Proud to be a Card-Carrying, Flag-Waving, Patriotic American Liberal


In Defense of Unwed Mothers
February 23, 1982

Speaking of making a mess of things, let me add my two cents to Bangor Daily News Columnists Abby Zimet's Feb. 8 column about unwed mothers, the one that was raked over the coals a few days later in a Bangor Daily News editorial.

(Hey, if the BDN editorial department can dump on one of its columnists, I can dump on the BDN editorial writers, no?)

I certainly wish some editorial writers would read what they are haranguing about before they put fingertips to keyboard.

Abby was explaining about the new category of unwed mother, the one who was having a baby by choice, not by accident.

That mother, she explained in her first paragraph, happens to be single, but she is also financially secure and not prone to be on welfare, is emotionally self-reliant and in her 30s. She mentions a 33-year-old businesswoman, a 39-year-old psychologist.

That cannot be the picture the very angry editorial calls to mind when it suggests that support services for such women ''flow from the paychecks of those traditional families whose working mothers and fathers find themselves clothing and feeding their own, as well as more and more of Abby's unwed 'supermothers' who have made the 'autonomous choice'.''

I resent the implication in the editorial that all single mothers are on welfare. Abby very clearly was talking about working mothers, mothers who contribute to society through their taxes just as much as so-called traditional families with two working parents.

(Statistics show that the majority of children today will spend at least part of their lives in single-parent homes.)

My impression of the support services Abby mentioned was that they were paid for by the mother, not provided free. But day-care has to exist before it can be bought.

It has been only recently that the majority of intact families have been two-paycheck families. In the traditional family, you have a picture of mother baking cookies while father is out in the real world working. It has only been in the last decade or so (coincidental with the rise of the women's movement) that it has been acceptable for a man to have a wife who works. It was done before that, sure, but it was not considered a traditional family.

I also don't agree, as the editorial states, that the cultural norm is children with mothers and fathers who share parenting. The idea that fathers should share equally in the parenting of children is a relatively new concept, one that has grown along with the women's movement. The father of the 50s (the era in which I grew up) was a silent figure, concerned with work outside the home. Bringing up the children was mother's job.

The BDN, in its new policy on leaves of absence, allows for child-care leave for the new mother, but does not mention child-care leave for the father, a fact I pointed out to the hierarchy when the new policy was announced. So much for the tradition of sharing parenting.

Abby was simply explaining that a movement seems to be afoot among older, and wiser, women who are willing to shoulder total responsibility for raising children, and who don't happen to want or need the help of a man. I have known such women, and I can find no fault with their decision – or their children.

The editorial was far too angry for the content of Abby's column. I think it makes some men nervous when some women decide they can do without them.

– Bangor Daily News


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