Katie Roiphe wrote an apologia for single motherhood that displays a distinctly different tone from what we might have seen a few years ago, when they were lionized as the true heroes that will bring forth a better world.
First, she admits that she, herself, is a single mother:
I happen to have two children with two different fathers, neither of whom I live with, and both of whom we are close to. I am lucky enough to be living in financially stable, relatively privileged circumstances, and to have had the education that allows me to do so. I am not the “typical” single mother, but then there is no typical single mother any more than there is a typical mother. It is, in fact, our fantasies and crude stereotypes of this “typical single mother” that get in the way of a more rational, open-minded understanding of the variety and richness of different kinds of families.
It’s all well and good that Mizz Roiphe can partake of the sperm buffet, fertilizing her eggs with multiple men, and still write for the Times and keep her job as a journalism professor at NYU. But it isn’t as much of an accomplishment as some might think. There’s a kind of socialism for cultural elites in cities like NY and San Francisco, largely pioneered by “alternative lifestyle” proponents (lesbians), that keeps these scribblers in decent digs while they do Bohemian work. The vast majority – and I mean VAST – of the US has no access to the subsidized daycare, student housing and flexible hours that characterize these people’s lives.
Perhaps this is why she denies the existence of the “typical single mother,” who is actually very, very real. There’s a slim sort of difference between Roiphe and the ghetto mamas if you take into account public benefits, and in this matter women like Roiphe probably make out better than their dimmer counterparts, but the behavior of their respective progeny tends to be different. Where Roiphe can probably expect that her children will at least make the lower middle class (although probably not much better statistically speaking), the typical single mother is raising future inhabitants of our overpopulated penitentiaries.
Yes, there is a “typical single mother,” and she’s a very common breed. Roiphe can try as she will to erase the stigma, but that bloody spot just won’t wash out.
Furthermore, she claims that she’s creating a family of sorts. Her son, she says, has started to identify with his half-sister’s father (to whom she is not married):
At 2, my son, Leo, started to call his sister’s father, Harry, “my Harry.” When he glimpsed Harry’s chocolate-brown 1980s car coming down our block he would say, “My Harry’s car!” To me this unorthodox use of “my” gets at the spirit of what we’re doing: inventing a family from scratch. There are no words for what Harry is to him, but he is definitely his Harry.
The other day Leo brushed his mop of blond hair in front of the mirror and announced, “Now I look like Harry.” People are quick to tell me that this is not the real thing. But is it necessarily worse than “the real thing”? Is the physical presence of a man in the home truly as transfiguring, magical and unadulteratedly essential as people seem to think? One could argue that a well-loved child is a well-loved child.
How sweet… A fatherless child is identifying with some dude who comes around every now and then for a quickie with his mother. We all know the good that does for little boys. According to Roiphe, this is how you “invent” a family. I used to sometimes visit friends in the projects when I was a kid, and there was a lot of “invention” going on there, if you want to call it that.
Roiphe says that the studies pointing to poor outcomes for children of single mothers are really worthless after all. Feminists have long relied on (questionable) studies to prove a lot of things. For example, that fathers are unnecessary. That lesbian couples make better parents. And so on and so forth. Problem is, as empirical research catches up to feminist fabrication, these earlier studies are falling like soldiers at Stalingrad.
So what’s a single mama to do? Why, dismiss the studies, of course:
Studies like those done by the Princeton sociologist Sara S. McLanahan, who is one of the foremost authorities on single motherhood and its impact on children, show that conditions like poverty and instability, which frequently accompany single-mother households, increase the chances that the children involved will experience alcoholism, mental illness, academic failure and other troubles. But there is no conclusive evidence that, absent those conditions, the pure, pared-down state of single motherhood is itself dangerous to children.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a “pure, pared-down state of single motherhood” — least of all “pure.” It’s more like a filthy, welfare-bloated state of single motherhood.
But never fear, Roiphe tells us what the real problem is:
Attention should be paid to the serious underlying economic inequities, without the colorful surface distraction of concerned or judgmental prurience. Let’s abandon the fundamentally frothy question of who is wearing a ring. Young men need jobs so they can pay child support and contribute more meaningfully to the households they are living in.
That’s it, fellas. If only the guys could fork over more child support, single motherhood would be a dream.