I remember a friend of my mother driving drunk to our house.
She got out of her car and the first thing out of her mouth was: "My daughter just had a bastard!"
It took me quite a bit of research to find out why she was upset. I was in junior high and our library consisted of teen romance, teen adventure, the classics, and a weird book I have never been able to forget "Freak Show".
There were no books about unwed mothers, illegitimate children, sex education, or the societal and economic downfalls of unwed mothers.
Nancy Drew didn't prepare me for a lot of things.
Until high school, although I knew where babies came from and how, I really didn't think about unwed mothers.
Then they started showing up all over the place.
Teen hormones raging, lack of common sense dwindling, and mixing boys with girls (not to mention illegally obtaining alcohol) will get you more than a few pregnant girls.
Still, I didn't think much about it. The girls usually disappeared about 6 months into their pregnancy and went off somewhere and got their GED. It wasn't like they were dropping babies in the hallways.
As flat out honest as my mother was about sex education, she ordered me to keep my legs closed or use birth control. I am sure that a lot of mothers did this. My mother just said it a bit more intensely than most.
So a recent comment by someone saying that we should shame unwed mothers really bothered me.
Shame is not rehabilitation. It doesn't correct the behavior. It doesn't put the horse back in the barn after the barn door is closed.
There is really no way around this. For a millennium and more, there have been unwed mothers.
I believe Cleopatra had several illegitimate children. Don't even get me started on the Greeks, the Romans, the Vikings, and
with its ancient plethora of bastard children. William the Bastard being the
most notable of kings. Ptolemy Neos Dionysos Theos Philopator Theos Philadelphos, or Ptolemy XII
Auletes of Ancient Greece, was also very much the son of a union between
Ptolemy XI and an Egyptian woman. England
wrote The Scarlet Letter detailing
the shaming of an unwed mother who was impregnated by a pastor and forced to
wear a scarlet letter in shame of her misdeeds. Hawthorne
right points out, there is more
blame to be carried then that of the mother. Hawthorne
It takes two to make a child.
But even before the child is created, there are obligations that exist at the societal and family level.
I have seen and heard of girls who become pregnant for multiple reasons:
1. Let's face it, there are some that do it for the money. Whether it comes from the father or the government.
2. Lack of education is a big factor. The impersonalization of sex education, with some schools even banning pictures, has a lot to do with this. My school showed us a film. I don't remember the film except for the girl and her period. I remember sitting in the back row, with one of my friends, comparing nail polish.
3. Lack of access to birth control at a younger age. Kids are going to have sex. It's a fact of life that most are closing a blind eye toward.
4. I heard one girl say that she was looking forward to the unconditional love of her child (Lord knows where she got that one!)
5. And finally, Abstinence pledges. I sneer every time I see the words Abstinence pledges. It's not gonna happen. end of subject.
The reality is that the pregnancy of an unwed mother becomes either a burden on society, her parents, or the father. It just costs too damn much to raise a child in the world today!
While the girl is underage, I believe that it should be the responsibility of both sets of parents and the father to pay for the upbringing of the child. This would insure that parents are very much committed to keeping their daughters educated on birth control and what it takes to raise a child.
While some schools meet the burden of teaching children sex education, as well as the burden of having children (carrying around fake babies that cry all the time and need their diaper changed every five minutes), there are other schools that actively encourage abstinence. These schools should have their funds taken away from them and be restructured from the ground up..
But I am still going to go back to the parents. Like my very diligent, tough, and wise mother, parents have an obligation to meet parts of their children's education that can't be done in a classroom.
Parents today drop their kids off at school and pick them up expecting them to be smarter than they were at the beginning of the day. Education doesn't begin or end in school.
My family read to me, and then when I was old enough, I read back to them, even before I started school. My grandfather taught me math by teaching me Cribbage, and was damn tough about it too! (I know where my mother gets it!)
When I was in school, there was always someone there to help me with my homework when I got home.
And then there's birth control. The taboo subject at the dinner table, in the classroom, or in a pharmacy, unless you are of the age of consent.
If you want to stop teen pregnancies, let's start with the fact that their hormones will rage, and we need to recognize this. If we can't put out the fire, we should be able to make sure it doesn't spread.
But more than this, why is it that the unwed mothers should be shamed? Why not the unwed fathers? Or the parents of both? Or even the schools and the churches that dropped the ball with their abstinence pledges?
It takes more than one person to make a child.
Let's have schools put banners on their front lawns saying: We failed to educate our teenagers on sex education and now we are pregnant!
We could paint a scarlet letter on the doors of the parents who don't teach their kids about safe sex.
And then we should paint a big fat A on society's forehead for being dumb enough to make this all about unwed mothers.