For those of you not attuned to every attention-getting proclamation of Ann Coulter, she recently went on a 3.5-minute rant on The Today Show (Wednesday, January 7) about why single motherhood is the root of evil in society today.
An old argument, defended in an old way. Largely focused on statistics about the pregnant teens, rapists and murderers who were raised by single mothers. Any societal problem, she said, is "really a problem of single mothers." This is not an outrageous statement, she added, but a fact. And it's the exultation of single motherhood in the media and movies, courts destroying the institution of marriage, and children raised without fathers that is filling up our prisons.
One thing you have to say for Ann -- she does provocative bullet-point copy well.
As the moderator of a discussion group with more than 900 single women who are proactively choosing to become mothers without a father in the home, and founder of the ChoiceMoms.org website, I can tell you that the TV clip was passed around quickly in our community.
First, my own soapbox: Obviously it's so easy to think it simply has something to do with how many parents are home -- quantity, not quality -- rather than think any more deeply about what is going on in the home. Why are those mothers single? Why is there no father? (And does Ann even care about the fathers? Interestingly, she didn't mention them as being part of the problem, only the moms.)
I presume Ann hasn't waltzed into a prison lately to ask why those rapists and murderers are there. What does she think it was about the single-mom home that led them astray? Mom working two jobs to make ends meet and not being home to set curfews? A father's rejection and abandonment? A caretaker who was immature, depressed, focused on self to the exclusion of all others? Too much exposure to an alcoholic or abusive parent?
I happen to know, from my own suburban childhood, three people who have been jailed for assault, murder and attempted rape. Each of them came from a stable two-parent home. There's obviously no clear-cut answer to the complexities of a person's psyche.
It might be scary for some to admit, but having specific rules -- one biological father and one biological mother in the home to raise children for 18 years -- is no guarantee of anything.
Second, people who proactively choose to become a parent on their own -- such as the tens of thousands of Choice Moms (a.k.a. single mothers by choice) -- are not doing a disservice to society.
Some of us do struggle financially, especially these days. Some of us do struggle emotionally and logistically with the lack of a partner in our life. But there is a big difference between someone who can "deal" with these struggles, and someone who cannot. We are not victims to any circumstance other than the fact that we didn't have a partner around when it was time to build our family.
A survey of more than 500 Choice Moms, conducted last year and to be officially released in a few months, reveals that a majority of us have postgraduate college degrees. Most of us saved money and found housing in a stronger neighborhood before becoming parents on our own. Most of us don't consider single parenting to be any more difficult than it is for other parents. Most of us consider it very important for our children to have male role models.
More of us are starting families on our own in our 20s -- this surprises me, but it is a trend I'm seeing in my membership.
We argue with each other about everything from home-schooling to breast-feeding - we tend to be strong-minded women with strong values that are not shared by everyone in the community.
We include women like Arlene, the politically conservative Choice Mom of a five-year-old daughter, who shared this with me: "I enjoy reading Ann Coulter since I think she is a gifted writer, has a sharp wit, makes brilliant observations and is not held back by the PC police. One of the issues I agree with her about is her view on the children of single mothers having more problems than their peers. However, Ann is not referring to all kids of single moms -- certainly not to the offspring of mature, intelligent, financially secure women.
"I had a child on my own for one reason: a loudly ticking biological clock and an intense wish (need?) to be a biological mom. I can always get married (at least it's in the realm of possibility), but the clock waits for no one when it comes to childbearing. I do not think it is optimal for a child to be born to a single mom. However, I think a single mom can do a great job of raising a child (as many have in various sets of circumstances through the ages). But I would be in deep denial if I thought the absence of a father will not have an impact on the life of a child.
"I tend to run in conservative circles. However, I have not had one negative comment about my choice. When presented in an honest and forthright manner, who wouldn't understand? Everyone knows that there's a lack of desirable marriage-minded (particularly Jewish) guys, so who can blame us?"
Now that is a reasonable voice I can listen to. Too bad there aren't more non-celebritized voices like Arlene's filling seats with the "liberal" media so that all of us can truly get greater perspectives on "the other side" of issues.
My final point to share is this: Of course all children should be surrounded by people who love them, who protect them, who teach them discipline and respect, who notice when they're struggling. It's great when they have a mother, and a father, and a grandparent, and family friends, and teachers, and other role models to do this. No one should be raised by simply one person, even when that one person is a Choice Mom.
The ChoiceMoms.org website this month, in fact, looks at the amazing support we give and receive from our wider community. Including, in webcast form, the anecdote of how four single women delivered two babies in 24 hours. And, in blog form, the story of a D.C. single mothers by choice group that is rallying around a newborn whose mother unexpectedly died of pregnancy complications. And, in podcast form, the strong women who are learning how to ask for help and reach out to a wider circle to add to their life and that of their children.
There is no detraction here. We are not supposed to be isolated individuals living in cocoons of our own making. We are all, single and married parents and non-parents, supposed to be here for each other.
Hopefully, someday Ann will discover this and write a new book about that.