The single mother stigma and prejudice has a long history, as we established in Part 1. The presence of a single mother has almost always caused society to defensively bare its teeth and warily back away. However, this has created an imbalance of social mobility for single mothers and their children, as discussed in Part 2.
The effect is a caste system in America, with nuclear families at the top, and single mother families at the bottom as the untouchables of America. However, this can change with a collective change in perspective.
America’s Caste System
The developed American family caste system is something Kay Hymowitz, author of “Marriage and Caste in America”, agrees exists. Single mother households have fallen deeper and deeper into poverty, while nuclear families have maintained and have increased their wealth. The cause of the divide is a world that embraces the nuclear family and ignores single mother households.
Hymowitz attributes the caste system’s development to the radical social shift of the 1960’s. It is during this revolutionary time that many single mother households sprouted, forgoing the perks of a two income household and supposedly destroying American children’s example of life. According to Hymowitz, the broken nuclear family is the root of the caste system’s development, and reuniting the nuclear family is the solution to stopping the increasing divide between the married and rich, and the single and poor.
Once again, I feel the wrong question was asked, and thus the wrong solution was reached. Instead of asking why “illegitimacy” and single motherhood exists, Hymowitz should have been asking why society has shunted single mothers into an impossible situation.
Breaking the Mold
I disagree with Hymowitz’ for what might be lofty reasons. I believe a society should not value or reward one family structure over another; and a society should definitely not predestine a child to struggle in life due to the structure of their family. I believe any family structure should be able to thrive and have equal opportunities available to them. Are these beliefs lofty and naive? Maybe, but so is striving to have a nuclear family.
According to Hymowitz, and many others, the nuclear family dream can only be achieved one way: A person goes to college, gets married, buys a house, has 2.5 children, and lives happily ever after. This is the only blueprint society currently accepts as a good life and as a good family (give or take a family dog named Fido). But buying into the idea that a good life can be achieved by only one route is naivete at it’s most finest.
A Very Decent Proposal
Instead of following the belief that one family structure and one life path is the only way to lead a good life, I propose we demand to appreciate human uniqueness and show some perspective. I do not propose aspiring to take such a moral high ground as to ask people to withhold all judgement forever.
I propose we try to withhold passing judgement on others, which classifies people into stereotypes and creates hierarchy. Applying this to our discussion of single mothers, I ask that America, the world, and society (in the largest sense of the word) stops judging single mothers based on their circumstances; stops classifying children of single mothers as delinquents without a future; and stops subconsciously, or even consciously, holding one life and family structure in greater esteem than another. Let’s create a society that views and values people based on their journeys, instead of their origins. After all, this is the 21st century.