It’s Time to Talk About the Fathers of the Children Born Out-of-Wedlock

The Situation

It’s easy to jump on the women who have out-of-wedlock babies with losers who don’t pay child support and have no intention on ever marrying the mother’s of their children. And it’s easy to jump on women because at the end of the day it’s the women who have the finaly say on whether or not a child will be born and into what circumstances. Birth control is readily available and subsidized by the state for poor women; abortion is legal and the cost is also subsidized by the states through the Medicaid program. The only reason a woman in the USA gives birth is because she has made the conscious decision to give birth–‘giving it up to Jesus/God/the Holy Spirit’ is still a choice; to not decide is still a decision.

DeNILE Is Not in Egypt

In a New York Times article profiling two white women who are mothers, investigative journalist Jason DeParle points to the stark divide in quality of life between those who give birth while married and those who do not. One white woman–her name is Chris Faulkner–is married, has a college degree, and has plenty of help from her husband with taking care of their children. The result is that the children of this first woman live a comfortable middle class lifestyle with plenty of activities on the weekend. The second woman, Jessica Schairer, dropped out of college after becoming pregnant by her African-American boyfriend, who told her that they would get married when they could afford a big wedding and an extravagant dress for their nuptials. Years later, the wedding never happened and she found herself at 25 with 3 kids to raise on her own. Not surprisingly, the woman raising children on her own is stressed out, surviving with the help of food stamps, and her children are not in a bunch of extracurricular activities every weekend.

The woman who is struggling with 3 children is honest enough to admit that she made very bad choices. But where is the man who fathered her three children, a man she ‘barely’ talks to? Why isn’t he helping to raise the children he fathered?

Erin Gloria Ryan of Jezebel asks some obvious questions about just how much to blame the women who have children with absent fathers. What about the men?:

The Times piece also makes a few more points about how it sure sucks for low-income women when men act like scumbags without actually coming out and saying that men in at least some of these scenarios must be acting like scumbags — women without college degrees are more likely to have children with multiple men (or, alternately, men are more likely to bail on women without college degrees after they have kids with them), low-education women tend to have an unstable male presence in their home (or unstable men are more likely to glom on to low-educated women with kids), and children with absent fathers are more likely to get into trouble (or fathers who abandon their families are more likely to end up messing up their kids).

What Can Be Done

It’s easy to look at women Jessica Schairer and pile on–how could she be so stupid? Why did she keep having children with a man when she knew that they had relationship problems? Why didn’t Ms. Schairer think that getting married before giving birth was the ‘right’ thing to do, especially since she and her boyfriend planned on staying together for the long-term? But at this point, those types of question are neither here nor there. The children are born and Ms. Schairer is left to sleep in the bed that she made for herself.

Now is the time to wonder about men like the one who left Ms. Schairer holding the bag. These men have to be held responsible for the women they impregnanted and left; they have to be held responsible for the children they fathered and then abandoned. Children need their fathers; women need the men who impregnate them to help raise the babies that arrive after the sex act is over–after the thrill is gone.

I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps the only way to help lower income women is to help lower income men. You see, it seems that no matter what, women will have children with whomever is available for them to have children with. And if the only men in the neighborhood are the type of men who dream of becoming rappers and/or already have a baby mamma or two ’round the way, then those are the men that those women will procreate with.

Our society is increasingly being stratified based on class. Upper-class men are partnering with their upper-class female counterparts, i.e., those who graduate from college are having kids with–and getting married to–other people who graduated from college. After the college educated men partner up with the college educated women, the college dropouts are partnering with the college dropouts. The wannabe rapper will partner up with girls who are still left in the neighborhood after the smart girls have gone off to college. Water seeks its own level.

If we want to ensure that more children are born within wedlock then something will have to be done to turn more lower class men into marriage material. Lower class men clearly want sex; lower class men clearly like kids. But lower class men don’t always have stable jobs to take care of the women who make the babies. So he says that he’ll marry the girl when he gets a good job and some money in his pocket, only the good job never arrives–he dropped out of college, remember? Or perhaps he never even went to college–and now he can’t take of the family that he helped to create. So he leaves. Abandoning the family you created may be less stressful than staying in a household where you can’t pay the bills and you don’t feel like a man because you can’t get or keep a job.

Men need help to become good husbands and fathers. In order to start lowering the out-of-wedlock birth rate and the poverty rate for black children, something is going to have to be done to help the men.