Category: Thinking Out Loud

The benefits of being a single mom.

The marriage debate continues…it’s not just about same-sex couples. It’s about whether people, especially women, should even be married in the first place. Banish the image of the tired, stressed,…

The marriage debate continues…it’s not just about same-sex couples. It’s about whether people, especially women, should even be married in the first place.

Banish the image of the tired, stressed, single mom who’s trying to make ends meet. Now, some are suggesting that they prefer their status as single moms and some married women are saying that it would be easier to be on their own. You can read about it here. Some of the findings of a recent study:

A recent survey by Babytalk Magazine found many married women feel it might sometimes be easier to go the mommy route alone.

Of these women, 76 percent liked the idea of not fighting with a partner over the best way to raise a child. Other pros to being single were not having the chore of keeping up a healthy marriage (69 percent) and not dealing with in-laws (30 percent).

And single moms agree.

Almost two-thirds of the unmarried moms felt it would be harder to be a parent if there were a man in the house. Of the single women, 55 percent said they feel relieved to not have to worry about working on a marriage, too, and 38 percent said they feel freer to follow their own dreams.

In all fairness, comment should be made on this part: I already have a bossy little girl who demands I sing the Tigger song 100 times a day and who regularly bullies me out of my breakfast. The last thing I need is a man who needs … well, anything that takes effort on my part.

As an outsider looking in, I’ve noticed that two parent families do a lot to balance each parent. When one parent gives in too much, like being bullied out of one’s breakfast, the other parent is there as sort of a reality check. Our abortion tolerant culture ironically fixates on small children, making them the center of everything, often to their own detriment. It’s easy enough for a two parent family to be caught up in this, but it seems it could be even more challenging for a single parent family simply because there’s no one to turn to for support. I recall an interview with Madonna after her first child was born. She said that she sometimes wished she had a husband, someone to turn to who could be asked, “What do you think?”

Here’s Helen Alvare’s piece on the increase in single moms. Upwards of 40 percent of all children in the US are now born to single moms. Is this simply a “life style choice” or is it indicative of something greater? I’m inclined to think that it demonstrates the lack of good families. Prof. Alvare refers to a recent study which suggests that most of these women did not get pregnant unexpectedly, but rather at least somewhat intentionally. It makes sense when you think that if a woman is missing the experience of love in her own family or in a relationship with a significant other that she will continue to look for it. To desire love is completely human and natural. The children of single moms are not only an extension of themselves, but sort of a guarantee of someone who will love them. If you’ve read C.S. Lewis’s Four Loves, you might recall his discussion of the most basic form of love – need love. It’s largely one-sided, most evident in the relationship between a parent (especially a mother) and child. The parent gives and the child receives. The child gives affection and love in return for what the parent gives. But it’s hardly an equal relationship. Yet, sometimes this is the only experience that people can hope for: the experience of the love that one receives because one is needed.
Guess what. John Paul II had it right. In his letter on the family, Familiaris Consortio, he emphasized the role and importance of the family. The family is the first church, the first school, the first society, the first everything. The experiences in the family should prepare the child for experiences with people outside of the family and in society at large, ultimately preparing them for their vocation with a natural or supernatural spouse in most cases. The family is the first place where people experience love and are taught how to balance their own needs and interests with those of others. When we eliminate or reduce this first “school”, we leave people unprepared for the real world. How can people be prepared for relations with others, especially intimate relations, when they haven’t experienced it in their own lives? It’s sort of like taking someone to the top of the most difficult ski slope without having given them some time on the bunny slope.

If people can’t find the support they need in marriage, the answer is not to get rid of marriage. We should be focusing on how we can make marriages stronger. Marriage exists for a reason – namely, that we all need it and are better when it works. In many ways, we’re still working through the fallout of the sexual revolution and the dramatic change in women’s lifestyles, especially those who work outside the home. There’s no doubt that we have problems, but we need to focus on fixing them, not abandoning the entire institution of marriage.

The benefits of being a single mom.
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President Obama Promotes Fatherhood

While I am at odds with certain policy positions of the President, especially those relating to the life issues, I was really pleased to see the talk that he gave…

While I am at odds with certain policy positions of the President, especially those relating to the life issues, I was really pleased to see the talk that he gave on fatherhood last weekend. We need more of this type of discourse.

For a long time, women, e.g. various strands of feminism, claimed that they got no recognition for their work in the home/family. As a result, many women entered the workplace to gain the recognition they desired. But it’s debatable that that recognition did anything to draw attention to their roles as mothers. Nevertheless, there continues to be a great deal of focus on women to the extent that it’s often to the exclusion of men. If you think mothers are unrecognized, fathers are even more neglected. In fact, they’ve come to be considered as sort of optional or disposable; witness the growing number of single moms.

The President’s speech here could be a step to correcting that neglect. Some highlights:

And I say this as someone who grew up without a father in my own life. I had a heroic mom and wonderful grandparents who helped raise me and my sister, and it’s because of them that I’m able to stand here today. But despite all their extraordinary love and attention, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel my father’s absence. That’s something that leaves a hole in a child’s heart that a government can’t fill.

Our government can build the best schools with the best teachers on Earth, but we still need fathers to ensure that the kids are coming home and doing their homework, and having a book instead of the TV remote every once in a while. Government can put more cops on the streets, but only fathers can make sure that those kids aren’t on the streets in the first place. Government can create good jobs, but we need fathers to train for these jobs and hold down these jobs and provide for their families.

If we want our children to succeed in life, we need fathers to step up. We need fathers to understand that their work doesn’t end with conception — that what truly makes a man a father is the ability to raise a child and invest in that child.

We need fathers to be involved in their kids’ lives not just when it’s easy — not just during the afternoons in the park or at the zoo, when it’s all fun and games — but when it’s hard, when young people are struggling, and there aren’t any quick fixes or easy answers, and that’s when young people need compassion and patience, as well as a little bit of tough love.

Now, this is a challenge even in good times. And it can be especially tough during times like these, when parents have a lot on their minds — they’re worrying about keeping their jobs, or keeping their homes or their health care, paying their bills, trying to give their children the same opportunities that they had. And so it’s understandable that parents get concerned, some fathers who feel they can’t support their families, get distracted. And even those who are more fortunate may be physically present, but emotionally absent.

Let’s be clear: Just because your own father wasn’t there for you, that’s not an excuse for you to be absent also — it’s all the more reason for you to be present. There’s no rule that says that you have to repeat your father’s mistakes. Just the opposite — you have an obligation to break the cycle and to learn from those mistakes, and to rise up where your own fathers fell short and to do better than they did with your own children.

Last Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mark 4, 35-41 also got me thinking about fatherhood and motherhood:

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
“Let us cross to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,”Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

It seems to me that the child’s experience of both parents helps to shape her experience of God. For example, in families where the father is absent or otherwise out of the picture, the children often have a difficult time understanding God as Father. After all, if we don’t know it on a natural level, how can we know it on a supernatural level?

Children, especially small children, often get upset and frightened by things that they don’t understand or are beyond their control. The above Gospel passage reminded me of how children can be frightened by a storm and, in turn, run to their parents bed for comfort. The parents comfort the child, saying that there’s nothing to worry about, that everything is ok. And the child relaxes and settles in for the rest of the night (or until a parent gently restores the child to its proper bed). But the fear is gone and everything seems all right. Even if the storm hasn’t passed, there’s something about being with the parents that makes seem as if no harm can come.

Which got me wondering if this isn’t another example of how parents teach their children about God. Sure, the parents don’t control the “wind and the sea”, but it can certainly seem that way to a small child looking for comfort in the middle of a night storm. And that experience could be preparing the child for that lesson that we spend our whole life learning: that there is one ultimate source of calm and refuge. Parents can and should be the first to teach this lesson even by their very presence.

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Is there anyone out there besides me?

‘The NYT recently ran a piece about a grad student’s decision to have an abortion. I was so stunned by the article that I’m only now able to articulate some…

‘The NYT recently ran a piece about a grad student’s decision to have an abortion. I was so stunned by the article that I’m only now able to articulate some semblance of a response.

This section of my website is called “Thinking Out Loud…” because I don’t make any pretenses that the thoughts are polished and perfect. I treat this as a type of blog, getting some ideas out there. Although I don’t have this set up for responses to the direct post, I can be contacted through my website or through Facebook.

So getting back to the article…you can read it here. Initially I was stunned. Not only is the article incredibly personal, it is very poignant. When I read something like this, I want to cry for the person; I want to be able to comfort them; I want to be able to offer them some sort of support because their situation seems so tragic that it appears there must have been a lot of missteps made long before this. But then there’s part of me that’s also shocked by disbelief.

The young woman in this story, Emmie, is 22-years-old, recently accepted to a demanding, presumably elite/prestigious graduate program. In other words, she has a lot going for her. Yet, she was in a sexual relationship with a man and didn’t seem at all prepared for the possibility of a pregnancy. I could understand the situation better if she didn’t appear to be one of the elite. By elite, I mean those privileged with education, talent, the ability to develop that talent, etc. But Emmie isn’t a young teenager who has no idea about anything. She’s a smart woman.

Along comes the baby, or the pregnancy if you prefer. Emmie decides to have the abortion because:

…a baby is too precious and wonderful to not plan for — I owe the children I have a better head start.


Sure she didn’t “plan” for it, but when are we all going to grow up and realize that we are somehow planning for a baby when we engage in sexual intercourse, even if we take “precautions” to not have a baby. I’ve often made the point that our age is one that seems much less intelligent than past ages. Despite all our education and technological advancements, many of us struggle with the reality that sex can lead to a baby. Every other culture in the history of the world has understood this, but we don’t…

Emmie talks about how the professors in her program are reputed (she has no actual experience of her own) to be harsh on pregnant students. Hmmm…wasn’t this one of the gains of feminism? Women aren’t supposed to be discriminated against for things like gender and pregnancy. There are laws that many people worked very hard to put in place. Why not use those laws for her own good?

There are also numerous pregnancy resource centers throughout the country that are prepared to help women facing difficult pregnancies with all sort of resources, not just medical. You can reach many/most of them here.
Emmie explains her decision in part:

Something had to give when it became clear that nothing was coming my way — not from the university, my family, my friends, or the father.

I guess I could understand this sentiment if she were writing this 50 years ago, but women have many more possibilities and opportunities than they did before. They don’t need to rely on “daddy” or a husband for everything. In part, I feel embarrassed for her because she neglects to realize the fact that even if things don’t come from others, they can come from her. I’ve known many single moms who made things happen for themselves because if they didn’t no one else was going to. These women took matters into their hands and they made a go of it. I’m honored to know these women and consider them an inspiration.

But then I wonder if my frustration is misplaced?

Describing her mother’s reaction, Emmie writes:

I talked to my mom yesterday and, even though she isn’t a very tender person, she said something that really stuck with me. I could tell she was really upset when she said, “Honey, this isn’t what I imagined for you. Being pregnant is such a wonderful experience and I wanted you to be surrounded by family and friends. Not like this.” I don’t think my mom has ever really told me what kind of life she’s envisioned for me, she’s always let me wander along. Of all the conversations I’ve had lately, that statement really hit me hard.

Sorry, but I have to wonder what sort of parent just lets their child “wander along”? Parents exist so that they can guide their children and help them to become healthy, functioning adults. Sure, not everything is within their control, but they do have a necessary role and they should be stepping up to the plate. Maybe Emmie didn’t get the parenting she needed as a child…

Speaking of stepping up to the plate, you may be wondering where the father of the baby is in all this discussion:
One good thing that came out of this is that the father of this child stepped up to the plate —– not financially, maybe, but emotionally. I wasn’t expecting him to because, after knowing each other for 12 years, I thought I had him figured out. But he has surprised me. Even though he agrees that terminating the pregnancy is the best option for both of us (he’s broke and I’m going to school), he’s trying desperately to do the right thing. He is scared out of his mind but still managed to offer me a ride to the doctor.

Again, I’m boggled. Where do I start? Is it a sign of progress when stepping up to the plate means giving the mother of your child a ride to the abortion facility? It’s not clear what their relationship is except that they’ve known each other for 12 years and “may not keep in touch after this ordeal.” I truly believe that feminism has brought about many advances for women. (I don’t include abortion as one of the advances.) But I’d like to know just what sort of progress we’ve achieved if men can’t be expected to do much more than offer a ride to a clinic or doctor’s office? On the other hand, maybe our abortion laws have reduced our expectations of women so that we no longer expect them to step up to the plate either.

I raise these questions because I think we ought to be able to have discussions about tough issues, even if we have our various disagreements. These discussions are not taking place. Instead, when abortion comes up, we hear about the “hard cases.” (I think every instance of abortion is difficult and not to be passed over lightly.) When are we going to start talking about individual responsibility? It’s hard to fathom that an educated young woman wouldn’t know that sex can lead to pregnancy or that contraception fails. The latter is written on the instructions that accompany every form of manufactured contraception.

Emmie concludes the explanation of her decision:

In some ways, I feel like I’ve given up. I didn’t want to go down without a fight, I wanted to be a tough mother who braved the world for her child. But maybe that’s the truly selfish decision, to expect my baby to understand why there’s no father and no money and no time to spend with mom. How could I raise a confident child under those circumstances? I know it’s been done but I want to do better — that’s the future I envision for myself.

It’s often been said that the perfect is the enemy of the good. I think we all have plans for the future that don’t turn out exactly how we want. But part of being an adult is rising to the challenge of coming up with new, maybe even better plans, not giving up when things don’t go as planned. If the present involves a human being that we brought into existence, the future can no longer be about ourselves. With regard to single moms, I don’t think being a single mom is what most of them envisioned for themselves. I doubt it’s what President Obama’s mother envisioned for herself…

So, my heart goes out to Emmie. I pity her the circumstances that led to this decision. But I also think that it might not hurt to have a discussion about what it means to be an adult. For one thing, it often means putting aside our plans and desires for others. Being an adult means that we realize that the world involves many more people than just ourselves and sometimes we might have to put ourselves aside for someone else’s good.

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Getting Back To Nature

Professor Janet Smith has a new piece in Our Sunday Visitor discussing the always sensitive topic of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. There appears to be growing acceptance of homosexual behaviors,…

Professor Janet Smith has a new piece in Our Sunday Visitor discussing the always sensitive topic of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

There appears to be growing acceptance of homosexual behaviors, to the point that they are becoming normative. I recall a conversation about one of the California initiatives on same-sex marriage. A friend was leading a petition drive to collect signatures. Her daughter, about 16-years-old, told us that the petition was a sign of homophobia. In fact, it’s one thing to disparage or denigrate those with homosexual desires. It’s another to say that we’re not in favor of changing the legal concept of marriage. We have a similar discussion about marriage every time the media gets hold of a story about some wayward Mormons practicing polygamy.

Professor Smith makes the case against same-sex marriage based on natural law. In other words, this isn’t a “religious” matter per se. In fact, every civilization up to now has reached the same conclusion. Her thoughtful piece certainly deserves careful consideration. It could even be good material for a discussion group. You can read it here.

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Dirty Old Man?

It’s no secret that comedian David Letterman has a political bias towards the left. Yet, his recent comments about Governor Palin and 14-year-old daughter leave one thinking that if he…

It’s no secret that comedian David Letterman has a political bias towards the left. Yet, his recent comments about Governor Palin and 14-year-old daughter leave one thinking that if he himself is not a lech, he’s certainly contributing to the abusive notions of women that are widely held in our society.

For a quick news article on the situation, click here. Basically, Letterman commented on his show that the governor looked like a “slutty flight attendant.” He went on to bash women in other working-class professions. (I think this particular attack illustrates just how uncomfortable some people/elites are with Governor Palin’s working class appeal.) And he capped it off with a comment about Palin’s 14-year-old daughter getting knocked up at the baseball game they attended. Michelle Malkin has a good response here. The govenor was on the Today Show and you can see her interview here.

I agree with the governor and Malkin that these comments are degrading to women and girls. He tried to backtrack and say that the comment referred to the governor’s 18-year-old daughter (who, btw, wasn’t at the baseball game in question). That isn’t much of a save. The reality is that we do have a problem with dirty old men, or at least older men, going after young girls. Professor Teresa Collett from the University of St. Thomas Law School has written about and testified on the startling trend that men age 25 or older father more births among school aged girls than do boys under 18. So either, boys under 18 are remarkably better at using contraception (highly doubtful) or men over age 18 are having more sex with girls under 18. That’s disturbing no matter how you look at it. You can read a sample of Professor Collett’s testimony here. Here’s the quote to which I am referring:

National studies reveal “[a]lmost two thirds of adolescent mothers have partners older than 20 years of age.” In a study of over 46,000 pregnancies by school-age girls in California, researchers found that “71%, or over 33,000, were fathered by adult post-high-school men whose mean age was 22.6 years, an average of 5 years older than the mothers. . . . Even among junior high school mothers aged 15 or younger, most births are fathered by adult men 6-7 years their senior. Men aged 25 or older father more births among California school-age girls than do boys under age 18.” Other studies have found that most teenage pregnancies are the result of predatory practices by men who are substantially older.

In the recent coverage of abortionist Dr. Tiller’s murder, I was amazed that the media continued to talk about the hard stories where he aborted the unborn children of girls as young as 10 or 13. He was celebrated for his role in “helping” them, but no one asked how a girl that young managed to become pregnant. There wasn’t even the slightest cry of outrage. This is precisely what was at issue in Kansas when then AG Phil Klein prosecuted Dr. Tiller for failing to report sexual crimes to the relevant authorities. Regardless of what one thinks of Dr. Tiller’s role as an abortionist, the fact remains that when he was presented with these young pregnant patients, he was face to face with a crime scene, so to speak.  And there is no record that he reported them or that any prosecutions followed. Was he helping the young girls or was he helping a sex offender go free?

Admittedly, these discussions deserve more time and space than I have here. But my larger point is that there should be outrage about Letterman’s statements. It doesn’t matter whose daughter he was talking about, even if he thinks that the children of conservative politicians are not off limits. We do have a statutory rape problem in this country. Girls are being sexualized and exploited at younger and younger ages. (Pole dance kits for little girls, thong underwear for 8-year-olds, “bras” for 5 and 6-year-olds, and so on ad nauseam. Literally, ad nauseam.) A look at MTV or VH1 or almost any music video will quickly demonstrate that we have a media/entertainment culture that considers women and girls “empowered” only in so far as they are able to gratify men. If that’s advancement for women and girls, I think most of us would rather opt out.

UPDATE: Letterman apologized and Palin accepted. You can read more about it here.

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Walking Between Raindrops

How do you build relationships between cultures that have traditionally been opposed to each other? Fr. Peter Banks “walks between the raindrops” to integrate his Latino and Black parish in…

How do you build relationships between cultures that have traditionally been opposed to each other? Fr. Peter Banks “walks between the raindrops” to integrate his Latino and Black parish in Watts.

The LA Times has this story about Fr. Banks, an Irish transplant to the US, who has been working to integrate his parish in Watts which is made up of two communities that have a history of not trusting each other. As the story points out, it hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t happened quickly. But it is happening.

From what I can tell, he’s doing his best to introduce each culture to the other, incorporating customs from each culture into the community while at the same time reminding everyone that we all “have the same heart.”

Typically, change doesn’t happen overnight, hence the saying “festina lente” (make haste slowly). But I do think that these types of changes will probably be lasting changes which will make things better for everyone. And it’s fantastic to see the Church as the instrument that is bringing about the necessary changes.

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Bad idea. Bad timing.

Not only was Dr. Tiller’s murder unequivocally wrong, it may even set back the pro-life movement in many ways.’,’ Our Sunday Visitor has this excellent editorial showing just how much…

Not only was Dr. Tiller’s murder unequivocally wrong, it may even set back the pro-life movement in many ways.’,’
Our Sunday Visitor has this excellent editorial showing just how much Dr. Tiller’s murder not only contradicts the pro-life message but also thwarts the work of the pro-life community. Here’s a clip:

Mainstream pro-life groups, who were quick to condemn Roeder’s action, are justified in worrying about a chilling effect. After anti-abortion violence in Boston in 1995, the city’s top Catholic leader called for a five-month moratorium even on peaceful and prayerful protests at abortion clinics because tensions were running so high.

Pro-lifers cannot be held responsible for every wacko with a gun. But they can determinedly eschew the heated rhetoric that may embolden them. And they can emphasize the broad range of legitimate activity to advance the cause, from prayer rallies to civil disobedience.

Tiller’s death was a tragic crime. It’s up to us to resuscitate the pro-life movement.

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