Radioactive content

I’m going to take this from “hot-button” to radioactive. Children deserve a resident father. Women do not deserve to have children simply because they want them. … There’s a difference between what adults want and what children need, and children’s needs trump adults’ wants.

(from Are Fathers Optional?)

In case you hadn’t caught the clue, I’m what most people would call a social conservative in almost the strictest sense of the word. When we make decisions that affect other people, we should consider their needs. When we’re thinking about bringing life into the world, we need to be especially sober. Twelve years ago, Dolly was created and cloning became something that people began to think about as a possibility. Articles were written about the possibility of men and women having themselves cloned so there would be mini-me‘s running around — blatant testaments to their parent’s vanity. Imagine! I could raise my genetic offspring without having to put up with a woman! seemed to be the gist of some of them. But I do not recall the obvious narcissism being discussed. Suppose it is possible in a few years to have a child who shares all my genetic characteristics without the bother of first developing a lasting relationship with someone else — or, for that matter, having much of any interaction with anyone else at all. The narcissism seems so obvious. Perhaps it is because we celebrate narcissism in our culture that this doesn’t bother us. Even many “christian” leaders seem to have discarded the idea that pride is the root of all sin and promoted their face and personality more than they’ve demonstrated humility. I suppose it shouldn’t be any surprise that, here in America, men and women feel the right to pursue their desire to have children, without intending to have any sort of relationship with the child’s other parent. This is, after all, the land of individuality and self expression. Why not buy a child to raise as my own if I can? I don’t think it would be profitable to start legislating my morality — how far would an anti-pride/anti-narcissism ordinance get, and would I be the first one charged? When I read the statistics of how many people are being voluntarily raised by a single parent, whether that parent has 14 children or one, I feel like I am, as Father Stephen writes, standing on the edge of cultural disaster. We’ve been here before and we’ll move on. Life will continue despite a world that seems to be falling apart around us constantly, whether the immanent danger is climate change, abortion, or economic collapse. (Update: The quote that started this post used to include a bit about “stigmatizing women” who choose to have children without fathers. People ended up responding to that, thinking I was directing my ire to women in particular, instead of anything else I said, so, even though I liked the responses, I took it out. I want to make it clear that anyone, man or women, who sets out to have children by themselves, intentionally depriving them from the start of their other parent, is wrong.) Added: No one “deserves” to have children. No one has the right to have children. Parents have an obligation to provide the best household they can for their children. Going into parenting intending to short-change your children by eliminating one parent is not in their best interest and is an avoidable decision.

13 thoughts on “Radioactive content”

  1. Hexmode,

    I think you make two flawed assumptions here.

    The first is that a child is raised solely by their biological parents. I know that your children are home school (we will get to that in a minute) but child rearing, especially when most effective, is a community effort. Sure, the parental influence is the most lasting and significant but they are not the only loving influence in a child’s development.

    Children are influenced by siblings, extended family, friends, teachers, coaches, and other community leaders. Often times lasting bonds develop between these extra-family relationship.

    This brings me to my second problem with your entry; that a child is best served in a two parent home. While the conventional Western nuclear family is two heterosexual parents raising their children into adulthood this is not always been a historical norm. Many cultures have swapped gender roles, the number of wives and/or husbands and while this is no longer the dominant family unit I think it is a dangerous assumption to think this current manifestation of “family” is inherently superior for child rearing.

    I would take objection to the fact that a single parent home is inadequate for raising a child. I would also argue that perhaps one could make a moral arguement for a two parent family as only being fair for a child but you miss the utilitarian issue with is. Is it better for a child not to exist in a loving single parent home than to grow in a loveless, broken dual-parent home, or to not exist at all?

    Would not the splendor and joy at life (with a single loving parent) be better than not existing at all or growing up in a family where a father and mother continue a marriage simple for some ineffable (and arguable) “benefit” for their children?

    As for the vanity of argument. Having children is the primal force in human existence. Humans will sacrifice themselves and their possessions for the possibility of reproduction. This is not an instinct to be downplayed.

    People want children not for vanity but because their biology compels them too. I know all too well as my significant other and I are in no position to have children and yet she _daily_ has the urge to conceive against any and all logic. Her desire for children is not from some vainglorious dream, just simple biology.

    More importantly having children is a benefit to the species as it protects and furthers a rich genetic diversity to help strengthen the resilience of the species.

    That said I wish all children brought into this world were loved unconditionally and their families had the fiscal resources to properly care for them, but that is unrealistic.

    In response I encourage community to step up in place of a father or a mother, in place of government to provide a successful environment for children to flourish.

    Don’t be so harsh on people trying their best. Conditions won’t always be perfect for some people and that shouldn’t disqualify them from knowing the beauty and joy that comes from having children.


    1. Putting a little cool on the heat


      I am the author of the second response to Mark’s blog.

      I agree with most of your comments. You seem to know your history, and you have a compassionate understanding of human needs and life circumstances. You presented very kind and compelling arguments.

      I was a bit disappointed when your response stopped short. I was curious about your thoughts on Mark’s children and their homeschooling – and what relevance it has to do with with his views.


      1. Re: Putting a little cool on the heat


        Well I don’t object to home schooling. I think public education (and far too often private education) is quite lacking in providing a full picture of both the subjects the allege to be teaching as well as the joys of knowledge and personal intellectual discover.

        My objection to home schooling stems solely from the social aspect. I have found from my experience that home school children often lack a deep understand of social norm and popular culture. This makes it very difficult for them to integrate with the rest of American society when they become adults.

        That is really my only objection and I don’t see it being overly terrible as I am not a huge fan of popular culture and social norms and think more rebellion against these things is healthy and necessary.


    2. The first [flawed assumption] is that a child is raised solely by their biological parents…

      I don’t assume that. Go read the original article and you’ll see that these quotes were mostly about mothers who make a conscious, purposeful decision to have a child without a father.

      I think it is a dangerous assumption to think this current manifestation of “family” is inherently superior for child rearing.

      Care to quote some statistics? In fact, all the research says that two parent homes are better for the children than single parent homes (in the States, at least, which is all that matters for the sake of this discussion). The common argument is that a peaceful home is better than one filled with fights, but that isn’t the necessarily the case, either, especially when custody battles are involved.

      Do we live in a perfect world? I hope my last paragraph made it clear that I don’t think we do. I applaud single parents who are just trying to make the best of it.

      But at the same time, I would council any woman who thinks she doesn’t “need” a man but she “needs” to have children, to think, instead, of her children’s needs before she gets pregnant.

      Plan to have the child’s father in his or her life. The best way to do that is to marry the bum.

      1. Hexmode,

        Care to quote some statistics? In fact, all the research says that two parent homes are better for the children than single parent homes (in the States, at least, which is all that matters for the sake of this discussion).

        My point isn’t that a single parent home is superior to a dual parent home but that you are using dangerous logic here. What if research discovered that a polyamorous family was more beneficial than the traditional two parent family. Should or would a loving couple be morally or ethically bound to find another husband or wife to add to their family? For the benefit of their children?

        While your linked argument does support the idea that two parent homes it does also support my objections to your idea.

        “Single parenthood is not the single monolithic cause of children’s problems,” he says. “It’s one of the factors. So many things can go wrong in childhood.”

        This would seem to suggest that while a child has better odds with both parents it is by no means a guarantee a broken childhood.

        “The research shows that a well-functioning two-parent family provides huge benefits, but not all two-parent families are well-functioning.”

        This is my point. That if the woman doesn’t love the man or hasn’t yet met a man she loves (or woman) then marrying “the bum” might be a worse action than raising the child alone.

        “I am certain there are situations where people should not get married,” Brownback says. “But we know from the overall social data that the best place to raise the child is in the bond of man and woman bonded for life.”

  2. You are irking my nerves!

    I understand the message about thinking before having children, but what does stigmatizing women who have children out of wedlock have anything to do with responsible parenting? What about the fathers who abandon their children?

    Stigmatization is a cruelty that belongs to the dark ages. Life is never neat and tidy.

    Take a pound of compassion and liberally sprinkle it around. It makes the whole damn world better.

    1. Re: You are irking my nerves!

      We regularly stigmatize “dead-beat dads”. Mothers have legal recourse against them and they are regularly ridiculed.

      Do you care about dead-beat dads? Should we stigmatize them or not?

      We regularly make decisions as a culture about which direction to go by codifying our stigmatization into law. There are laws that make prosecuting dead-beat dads easier.

      But this isn’t so much about stigmatization. I can’t make people do what I want. I already said I don’t think this is a problem that has a legislative cure. Take the stigma sentence away. What do you think then?

      1. Re: You are irking my nerves!

        Do I care about deadbeat dads? Do I care about deadbeat moms? Yes, I do care about deadbeat dads and moms, because do have legal financial obligations to their children. What they don’t provide for their children is a lopsided burden to the remaining custodial guardian, a burden to society, and most importantly, they reject the importance and value of their children.

        Custodial care is a factor in defining who becomes a deadbeat parent. Most of the dead-beats are men because they walk away from their responsibility, and the woman ends up with the burden of caring for child. As I understand it, deadbeats were originally fathers who skipped out on court decreed child support payments. Mothers lobbied for legislation and laws were passed to help mothers recover unpaid child support payments.

        There are dead-beat moms too. There are wonderful dads who have custodial care of their children, and then it’s the mothers, in that situation, that must pay child support. And when mothers don’t pay, then they do deserve the dead-beat title, and they do suffer the same legal punishments.

        If you are addressing particular people (women or men), like Nadya Suleman, then you should say so. But honestly, a blanket statement that supports stigmatization of women that just want children to raise sounds incredible unkind. I am sure, there is a majority consensus that would agree that Nadya Suleman is out of her mind.

        I think you need to spend time clarify what you are saying and what you intend to say. Right now, your few and simple words are making you sound like a jerk.


        Anything with “radioactive” usually means toxic. I am never one to indulge in toxic and negative energy, so I will now bow out of this discussion.

        1. Re: You are irking my nerves!

          I wasn’t responding to Ms. Suleman. I’m not too familiar with her case except what as been widely reported: that she is on disability, already has 6 children, and decided to have fertility treatments which resulted in 8 more children. All this without a father present.

          You seem to agree that we should stigmatize such behavior (“there is a majority consensus that would agree that Nadya Suleman is out of her mind”).

          This post was mostly triggered by reading the original article I linked to, so to really understand what I’m saying, read the original article.

          But I will give you this summary: No one “deserves” to have children. No one has the right to have children. Parents have an obligation to provide the best household they can for their children. Going into parenting intending to short-change your children by eliminating one parent is not in their best interest and is an avoidable decision.

  3. two different parents

    Interesting how few have commented on the fact that men and women approach life differently. That is the other plus of two parents. The laidback parent and the “I sweat all the small stuff” parent. Which provides a child a better perspective. Just because one of the adults is uptight about getting dirty in the yard doesn’t necessarily mean the other one is … and that allows a child a balance – especially if one parent does not absolutely insist that only their viewpoint matters.
    I watched a DVD of Jon and Kate plus 8 a couple months ago. Perfect example of one parent hyperventilating while the other chills.
    That is just one advantage of having two parents: differing viewpoints.

  4. Okay, here’s a shocker. I, Mr. San Francisco values, am going to go for qualified agreement. But I’m going to do it from a completely different epistemology.

    I don’t necessarily think children need a father. I’m open to all sorts of alternative structures to the two-parent family in raising kids. I’m also quite happy to be one of the males with whom kids hang out to blow stuff up or do other things that single mothers aren’t always comfortable with.

    However, this quote caught me:

    There’s a difference between what adults want and what children need, and children’s needs trump adults’ wants.

    And I think that needs a good strong reinforcing.

    When we have more than about a person per square mile, we can no longer survive simply by foraging. We have to band together, to plan agriculture, to work with each other, in order to survive. If we allow that every person has a right to live, then having children is an act of aggression: More than one per square mile and I need to give up some freedoms for the new mouth.

    Therefore, if you’re gonna have a kid you’d bloody well better be prepared to give that kid every possible advantage, to advance humanity that much more, to offer them every possible hope and dream. Because that mouth is either taking away from me, or that mouth is part of a human being who’s enriching my world and my life.

    My standards at this point are pretty low because… well… all you’ve got to do is be better at raising kids than “the average” to make my culture better than it is, but it’s a pretty good bet that if one is squeezing out 14 kids while taking public assistance to raise them, those kids aren’t going to enrich my life as much as they’ll be a drain on it.

    1. The why of family

      Not surprisingly, Dan, we’re pretty much on the same wavelength. I do think that having both genders modeled in the same household is better than only having one, but other than that, I would say that a homosexual couple would provide a better environment for their child than a single parent.

      From the comments on the original article comes this great quote:

      The Levi-Strauss view of the family as essential building block of structural anthropology remains valid … The structural paradox of the family – that we beget, in order to get rid of, children – requires an opposing pair, one of whom will force the relinquishment of attachment, so that the child may leave and – the ultimate true purpose of Family – create his/her own family in turn, by bonding with the issue of another Family.

      Does this mean children of single parents are somehow less than children who had two parents? Of course not!

      We elected the progeny of single parent as president of the U.S., for goodness sake. But I think it is evident from reading Dreams from My Father that Obama sensed a void in his life. Still he is clearly a successful man. He shows us that what we make of our future isn’t determined by the presence or absence of a father.

      Finally, Dan, I think you grasped what I was trying to say better than I managed to say it. Parents have a responsibility to their children, and, through them, to the rest of us. Having a child should not be seen as a form self expresssion.

  5. Interesting post

    And, I think I agree with all of it. Confused why it caused this heated discussion. Well done!

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