First and foremost, Happy Mothers' Day to all mothers everywhere.
Second but no less important, reflect upon the courage required by that occupation.
Third, and equally important, ponder the damage done by those who take it lightly.
I grew up in the Fifties and Sixties: turbulent decades, during which many of the old certainties of American life were roughly questioned, and which large numbers of persons -- mostly young persons -- rejected. One of those old certainties, which remains under great pressure today, is the bond that links motherhood with marriage.
Unwed motherhood is a common thing today. Its ranks swell every day, often to the fanfare of trumpets. Those who approve it are disdainful of marriage and casual in their dismissals of "men" as "unimportant" or "disposable." The damage it does goes unremarked except by a tragically shrunken corps of the clear-sighted.
Allow me to be brutally clear about it: A woman who denies her children the active, ongoing presence of their father has committed a terrible offense, against them and her society. There's no statute to that effect. No one stands ready to prosecute offenders. The penalties are set and enforced, for mother and child both, not by any legislature, but by the laws of nature.
Natural law is automatic, impersonal, and efficient. It cannot be set aside by human will. One aspect of natural law is that no one individual, however devoted or well-intentioned, can properly raise a child. Indeed, a single mother is the worst possible guardian for a minor child. Yet contemporary women, uninterested in marriage but avid for "the experience of childbirth and motherhood," have striven to deny this with a desperation born of fury.
That desperation has given rise to some of the worst social pathologies we know. Ann Coulter, in her book Guilty, cites the terrifying consequences:
By 1996, 70 percent of inmates in state juvenile detention centers serving long-term sentences were raised by single mothers. Seventy-two percent of juvenile murderers and 60 percent of rapists come from single-mother homes. Seventy percent of teenage births, dropouts, suicides, runaways, juvenile delinquents, and child murderers involve children raised by single mothers. Girls raised without fathers are more sexually promiscuous and more likely to end up divorced. A 1990 study by the Progressive Policy Institute showed that after controlling for single motherhood, the difference between black and white crime rates disappeared.
Various studies come up with slightly different numbers, but all the figures are grim. According to the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, children from single-parent families account for 63 percent of all youth suicides, 70 percent of all teenage pregnancies, 71 percent of all adolescent chemical substance abuse, 80 percent of all prison inmates, and 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children.
A study cited in the Village Voice produced similar numbers. It found that children brought up in single-mother homes "are five times more likely to commit suicide, nine times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 14 times more likely to commit rape (for the boys), 20 times more likely to end up in prison, and 32 times more likely to run away from home."
Coulter's conclusion: "Single motherhood is like a farm team for future criminals and social outcasts."
Yet women who have no excuse for not knowing and doing better, given the cheapness of contraception and the ease of its use, elect to become single mothers each and every day.
Today it's a rare American who doesn't number one or more single mothers among his acquaintances. We're almost all rather gentle with them. We tend to focus on who they are -- their personalities and characters -- rather than what they are -- persons who have inflicted terrible chances on their progeny. That doesn't make the consequences of their decision to bring a child into the world lacking the support and attention of a father go away.
Time was, such women would have been the targets of criticism barely less harsh than that awarded to actual felons. Time was, they were expected to repent of their deeds and seek help for their children. Time was, a "repeat offender" would be shunned as an enemy of society, too neglectful of her responsibilities to deserve anything but contempt.
The stigma has been removed from this most antisocial of nominally legal decisions. That's partly a consequence of the "sexual revolution," the only revolution known to history in which everybody lost. But it's as least as much the result of today's far greater reluctance to pass judgment. We strain to find possible excuses: "Maybe she didn't know any better." "Maybe the diaphragm slipped." "Maybe he deceived her, took advantage of her, and left her to struggle on alone."
Maybe. But the probability of any of those exculpations being accurate was far better fifty years ago than today.
The laws of nature have clauses that politicians are forever trying to defy. One of them pertains to costs and behavior: If you reduce the costs of a particular act, you'll get more of it.
American welfare law has subsidized single-motherhood to an unbelievable extent. The consequences are as Miss Coulter enumerated them above. The statistics are available to everyone. For those disinclined to trust statistics, a sojourn through a welfare neighborhood or two will bring the realities home vividly enough.
But what do we hear from the Left, which has adopted the single mother as one of its iconic figures? More! More! More! Government-funded and government-run day care! Laws that impose expensive obligations on the employer of the single mother! A statutory floor under the income of the single mother! How can you protest? Don't you know it's for the children, you heartless Neanderthal of a conservative?
But it's not, is it?
This is probably the most painful subject directly relevant to Mothers' Day. That's why I chose it. No one else is likely to address it in the hoopla of the day...yet it brings home most vividly the primary obligation of the mother-to-be, and the unique cost a woman who desires children ought to be compelled, by social convention and opprobrium if in no other way, to pay for that privilege:
Provide your baby with a father.
Vow to stay with the father lifelong and faithfully, and extract the reciprocal vow from him.
Make whatever personal sacrifices and compromises are required to see to that.
Happy Mothers' Day.