Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Um, I'll Have Two Babies Please...Hold the Daddy.



I'm a little miffed, and I'm not exactly sure why.

Just checked out this article from the New York Times and it just rubbed me the wrong way. The article discusses the lifestyles of college-educated single mothers who elect not to seek out male companionship. These women are heterosexual, but they just don't want men around as they try to raise their children.

Something about that is bothering me.

The more cynical of you readers would probably say "Well, you're bothered because you see the future of families and you're not included." Or, some of you might wonder if I'm bothered because these women are asserting their independence from the societal norms that men have established. Finally, some of y'all might just think I'm a busybody, looking for something to get bent out of shape about.

Those are all interesting theories, but I don't know if they are correct.

A friend of mine once said that whenever he hears about single women adopting children he wonders when men became an optional accessory in child rearing. I'm not talking about all the women with children who want a man and who want to raise their families in a two parent household. I'm talking about the lovely ladies who figure that a man only adds stress and difficulty to a situation they are managing just fine.

Yeah, those ladies.

It's a touchy subject. Who am I to tell a woman she doesn't have the right to adopt a baby because she isn't attached to someone with a penis? (I'm focusing on women because few single men adopt children. In fact, I doubt that most agencies would allow a single man to adopt a child.) Do I honestly believe that it's impossible for a woman to raise a child, male or female, without a man there eating Cheetos and drinking beer?

I used those over-the-top stereotypes because it seems like that's what most women think men add to a relationship. While women, particularly black women, have complained for years about men abdicating their responsibilities in families, sometimes I get the feeling that a large subset of women figure men aren't really good for much more than a paycheck and occasional romp in the sack. In fact, I sometimes wonder if women think that men bring anything to the table when it comes to raising children, particularly if those children happen to be female.

As a man, particularly as a man with offspring, I find this saddening and, honestly, a little insulting. I think there is something about my role role as a parent that cannot be duplicated by a woman, no matter how hard she works. In my heart of hearts, I feel like I'm special and my children need that special something that only I, as a man, can provide. Besides, if men started claiming that women weren't really necessary to raise children, how long do you think that dog would hunt?

I guess, I am being overly sensitive. It's not like these women prevented me from marrying a wonderful woman and procreating. Hell, it's obvious that these women are only a small minority in the world considering all the thirsty females I've seen practically begging a man to live with them and raise babies. And, since it's not economically feasible for most single women to easily raise multiple children, it's unlikely that this trend will spread very far.

But, I still can't shake the feeling that something is wrong about this whole set-up. For some reason, I still feel diminished as a man by some of the things these single women have said about the role of men in families. I guess it's my own issue.

I just don't like being optional.

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15 comments:

The Ink said...

No one wants to be optional.

The bottom line is that in this society, the idea of a man playing an active role in child rearing (especially during the formative years, aka the hard part) is fairly new.

When i first had children, my (now ex) wife's friends used to marvel at the fact that she felt free to leave the child at home with me for long stretches of time, saying that they couldnt trust their husbands with their babies.

This was something that always intrigued me.

In circumstances like that, men are pretty optional.

My current wife wouldnt DREAM of not having me around...in fact the primary reason we are having children at all is because she feels comfortable that she will not have to raise our son alone.

MacDaddy said...

"I get the feeling that a large subset of women figure men aren't really good for much more than a paycheck and occasional romp in the sack. In fact, I sometimes wonder if women think that men bring anything to the table when it comes to raising children, particularly if those children happen to be female."
Big Man, Thank you for being so honest on this post. This is something women and men need to talk about. I think both women and men stereotype each other based on real experiences but also highlighted experience of white media. Many black women have experienced irresponsible men, so-called "players" who think having a "bitch" in every project is manly. On the other hand, and especially since the 90'
s many brothers have been lived up to their role as responsible husbands and fathers, even if they didn't always work out in the relationship. But that large group of us who do the right thing, who do see that the lights stay on and the kids get fed, who share responsibilities with the kids get no props or airplay. What does are the seemingly endless tale of thuggish black men who do split, who break into houses, who murder, maim, rob and steel. And just as black men stereotype black women, black women stereotype black men from these sorry black guys they see on the evening news plus the couple of bad men with whom they had bad relatins.

In the future, we owe it to our partners and the black community to give props to women and men who take care of business with families, who hold it down and stay positive, no matter how bad the economy. In the future, we should speak up when people make sweeping generalization about either black women or black men. When a black says, "them crazy black bitches," we should call em out quick and ask, "What crazy black bitches you talking bout! My wife ain't no crazy bitch. And what you're saying. You're talking about someboy's daughter."

When women say "These sorry black men," correct her and say, "Some sorry black men" and add " I know a lot of good men who work just as hard as you or harder."

Big Man, it's up to aware brothers and sisters to set the record straight: it's lots of good brothers and sisters out here; and this idea by a small few who think that black men are just are waste of time is nothing but the outcome of stereotype and half-truths. Blessings, my brother.

Deacon Blue said...

Mrs. Blue spends a fair amount of time on parenting boards (in fact, she is a moderator on one) geared toward mothers, and I am amazed at how many of the more "alternative/natural" mothers seem to be of the opinion that their opinion is the only one that matters and pretty much that the husband can do things THEIR way or get out. The child becomes the sole focus and the husband becomes an accessory/tool and it's maddening.

All the more so because the ones that choose to be full time moms will frequenlty complain that the dude doesn't do enough around the house even while ALSO complaining he doesn't bring in enough money. And God forbid he works extra hours to make more money because then he gets knocked even more for not doing more chores.

And God forbid, in some of these relationships, if the guy wants sex occasionally...then the woman complain she's "touched out" from being with the kid(s) all day and accuses him of being insensitive.

Granted, a minority of mothers, but they are a particularly vocal and annoying one that pisses me off to no end.

Big Man said...

MacDaddy
Thanks for the eloquent addition to my post. I have tried in my own life to check both men and women who make sweeping generalizations because it's so ridiculous. I think that there is definitely a problem with the way men and women of all colors interact today, but it has reached a real crisis level in our community, or so it seems. I think some of that is because we have devalued what men bring to families. Traditionally, men have been seen as a paycheck, but as women have begun to earn more money, they are no longer as dependent on that paycheck. Since most people do not believe that men add much more to a household, it's easy to see why so many folks are comfortable with them just staying away.

Deac

I hear you, I hear you. The most vocal folks always dominate message boards and often they can indoctrinate other people who would typically be more sensible. I've talked to women like the ones you described and I know how frustrating it can be.

MCBias said...

Good stuff, Big Man--I think that even not having a female or male sibling is a disadvantage for a child, let alone only being exposed to one parenting style.

There's just something about having two parents to learn from that is very helpful. The more parents and parent-type figures, the better in my book. Yes, I get the argument too from kids raised by single parents that they wouldn't change a thing...but quite frankly, I think they are lying or being overly nostalgic/protective of their one parent.

Big Man said...

What happened to all the ladies today?

Lisa J said...

I could be wrong but it looks like only men have commented here and these comments are making me a little angry. First off, to MacDaddy, I don't think men should get props for taking care of their kids. Plenty of Moms don't get props either except on Mother's day. Taking care of your kids is what you are supposed to do if you decide to have children regardless of gender, period dot.

Bigman, I know I am new and it seems like you are trying to think this through honestly and in an open minded way but I'm feeling a whiff of sexism here from you and your other commenters. As you point out, this is a small subset of well-to-do women with good incomes who can do this themselves because they can. Yes, there are some men who get pushed out of their kids lives by jealous angry wives/girlfriends, etc but most men who aren't there aren't there by choice. The women highlighted here are older, their biological clock has rung or is about to ring some of them adopted and some squeezed in under the deadline by having sperm donations. The likelihood of them finding some late 40's early 50 something single men to marry them and care for their kids is pretty slim. Sometimes people just stop looking for someone when the search seems hopeless.

I am a single woman who doesn't have a guy and none in sight, and I'm in my 30's and sometimes I think about having a kid on my own because I really want to be a parent and I don't want to do it alone but if that is what happens so be it. I grew up in a single parent household and my Dad didn't come around a lot and I know it is super hard and I did miss my Dad but it is possible to have a kid and raise them well with one parent. So I'm supposed to sit around and never have kids b/c you guys who take care of your kids feel left out by my choices and think that me and women like me are emasculating them? That isn't fair. Plus there are plenty of ladies, just like the ones who are in this article who are the same age and are single parents to older kids b/c their husbands left them and some see no need to find another guy, my Mom didn't. I don't think these women are looking at men as an extra paycheck or a hinderance, it just didn't happen for them. Why exactly does this need to be about you or about men at all?

I'm not articulating myself well because this is making me really angry and I'm having a day, and though I love your blog and your insights, today I'm not feeling you at all.

Big Man said...

Lisa
Thanks for adding a female voice. We needed it. And it's cool if you're not feeling me, I don't mind. Just don't stop reading.

As to your points, I tried my best to articulate my feelings without being sexist, but I'm sure I failed some. To be honest, a female friend of mine also had a negative reaction to the blog.

I wasn't saying that most single parents don't want a man. I understand this is an isolated thing.

But, the fact that it was in the NY Times and given such a prominent position bothered me. I still can't explain why exactly, but it felt like these women were saying that men were only problem starters and not problems solvers in relationships. And, while I think it's sad when women desperately seek to find a man, ANY man, to live with them, I think going to the other extreme and deeming men to much of a hassle when trying to raise kids is wrong as well.

Few women may have gone to the extremes of these women, but I have seen a disturbing trend where women seem to only see the financial benefits that men bring to relationships. Not in a gold-digging way, but in a minimizing way as far as what a male presence means in a household. Like I said, most folks would never look at a child without a mother and say he or she wasn't really missing that much from their lives, but I hear that sentiment expressed far too often when it comes to men.

I know I'm not explaining myself perfectly, but I can't seem to find the exact words.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

I think that both parents are instrumental and sometimes feel the presence of a man may be more needed than the presence of woman, depending on the child and the personality of the woman.

I think what happened is there were some women who waited for the man and he never came and they figured why not adopt or have a child with out a man here. I think if you do that you need to be very sure there are still positive father figures around in that child's later, because I think a paternal presence is MOST necessary in child raising.

Sure it can be done with out, but really its a lot harder. I take my mother for instance. My brother and I are products of two different marriages. My father was in my life, not as much as he should have been, but we had a strong bond mostly because I lived with him when I was 3 to almost 5 and again during my junior high years. My brother's father disappeared off the face of the map until a few years ago.

Many times as I watch my brother I see the result of a mother babying and still babying her son. A lot of times I think he needed a man in his life to kick his azz those pivotal moments and make a man out of him.

His behavior is that of boy, and that is mostly because my mom has been so busy mothering him she has failed to let him fall on his face and get the character and perseverance needed to become a man.

ANYWAY I get why you're a little miffed Big Man.

-OG

WNG said...

When my oldest sister found out that she was pregnant with her son she told his father that she wanted the baby and that he could be as involved or not as he wanted but that she did not want to get married. Ever. In fact she has since ended a couple of relationships because the man wanted to get married and she didn't.
A lot of that has to do with Papa G (the rolling stone) but some of it was just personal preference. The father you had in your life (or didn't) can color a lot of your future choices. That John Mayer song really wasn't a joke.

Anyway, now my nephew is 25 and he is a great man. His father has been involved in his life, but was not a daily influence. He has had a crazy amount of uncles, cousins and grand fathers as male role models in his life - as have I. He has been loved, hugged, ordered around, cheered on and gotten the necessary butt kickings.

My sister did what was best for her and has always done the very best she could for her son.
I don't know if I can really understand where you're coming from because I'll never be in your shoes.
But - as I am getting older and there is no man in sight for me, what I once thought of as a crazy choice that my sister made is becoming more and more reasonable to me. I can see myself (once I'm a little more financially stable) deciding to have a child on my own and not wait for a man to create a nuclear family with.
Articles tend to oversimplify, but something that I've seen in my life is that I have a finite amount of time to become a mother, men have a LOT longer to decide that they are interested in fatherhood.
You - as a father - are very much wanted, but I'm sorry, you are optional.

MacDaddy said...

Lisa, I was talking fulfilling their roles in the black community and as citizens. Don't just isolate it to children. Because this society discriminates and dehumanizes black men, because they're viewed as the worse folks in America, hell yes I think they should be given props for fulfilling their roles and doing the right thing. They should be put up as role models so the young brothers coming behind them will have a clearer guidance of what it means to be a real man. Same for Sisters.

Southland Diva said...

I am forty-something and I am single. I have always wanted to be married. Always. I have always wanted children. Always. I was raised by a single mom who did a more than outstanding job with me and my brothers.

My brothers are not involved in any form, shape, or fashion with the prison industrial complex. I have no children. We are all gainfully (or more than gainfully) employed. Two of us have recieved a college education. I say this to negate the stereotypes regarding what happens to children from a single-parent home.

My desire to become a parent has not diminished over the years. I am not currently in a relationship, I have not been for a while. With no prospects for a committed relationship in sight, adopting a child, sans father, is my only viable option. Yes, yes, yes, I would love to have a husband to co-parent with, but it just isn't happening. I am educated, attractive, healthly, blah, blah, blah....and I have yet to make that connection.

I did not get the impression from the article the ladies felt men were optional. I read it as men are not always available for whatever reason. Non-availability is certainly what is happening in my case. Does that mean I have to give up on having children? I don't think so! To me adopting a child and providing a stable loving home meets a need for me and for the child.

Again I would love to have a man in my life, but since I don't....what's a woman to do?

Further, what recommendations do you have for a woman who is in her forties and is emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially, etc. able to have a child but does not yet have a husband/partner in her life? (This question is not asked in a snarkey manner, rather b/c I'd like your honest opinion.) Peace

Big Man said...

Southland

I think a woman who really wants a child has two choices.

1. Find a decent man who may not be her ideal and settle with him. You know, settle on something that's not what you would really want in your dreams, but is something you can live with.

2. Have a baby by herself through adoption or naturally.

I can't say which one is the RIGHT way to do things. Every person has their own cross to bear and only they know the load they can handle.

But, if a woman chooses the single mother route, I would hope that she would never adopt the idea that she wasn't trying to find a man anymore because it was too much work and she didn't need or want a man intruding on she or her child's life. That just seems to go to far. Deciding to have a child without having a man in your life is understable. Deciding that a man has no place in the rearing of your child is not. I don't mean just a male friend who helps out. I mean a man who helps raise your child.
If I lost my wife because of death or desertion, I would wnat to bring a woman into my children's lives to provide that special something that only mother's can provide. I would have to cede some decision making authority to that woman to allow her to fill that role. I felt like the women in the article were very much against that idea.

Southland Diva said...

BigMan,

For me settling is not an option when it comes to a life mate. I mean what guy wants to be the one a woman settles for?

What I am looking for is less about material things and more about spiritual connection. I don't know how to settle for something less than that. Which may be why I am single and why I am contemplating single motherhood.

Speaking of optional, I wish the men who walk away from the children they bring into the world didn't believe a father is optional. That is the other side of the 'father-optional' issue.

Peace

Fry said...

I think what makes this more insulting is not that we men are optional, it is the idea that we are incapable.

The argument of being optional becomes moot because of all the spectacular single parents (women and men) out there. Plus, quite frankly, I know that if worse comes to worse, I could raise my kids on my own, just as my wife could. Some elements would be missing for sure, but with family and friends as support networks, it's doable.

You are right to feel slighted by the idea that, as a man, you'd be doing more harm than good for your children. Too much that I see on TV and especially in advertising, for the sake of a quick laugh, show most men being dullards utterly unable to handle themselves in any situation, let alone being in charge of something. Couple that with a long-standing view that moms are the only ones really doing any raising of children in a home and you wind up with those folks believing it to be true.

I think there is also a deeper level of manhood being lost in our culture. The idea of being a good parent as an integral part of being a man either broke somewhere in the past or has yet to be established, I cannot figure out which.

I know parenthood isn't for everyone, and I can respect that. But I do find that not being a parent is missing out on a big piece of humanity. I also know for certain that I wouldn't be the man I am today had I not had my kids.

Raving Black Lunatic