Fixing single motherhood

Michael Brendan Dougherty writes about his experience growing up as the child of a single mother.  His story highlights the ongoing struggle of all single mothers, the challenges of marriage and family more broadly, and the so-called fixes proposed by the sexual revolution.

But his story asks some questions not often asked by the Melinda Gates’ of our day.  What do single women truly want or need?  What indignities do they still suffer that we may not even see?

Specifically, Dougherty wonders whether the social taboos of the past stigmatizing single mothers, now characterized as “retrograde and ugly” by the proponents of the sexual revolution, were actually better for women than the unspoken indignities foisted on single mothers and their children today.


From my perspective the sexual revolution liberated men to abandon the mothers of their children, defining fatherhood down to an alimony payment and maybe state-defined visitation. Women like my mother were expected to raise families entirely on their own emotional and financial resources, however meager. The answers given to the problems that this social revolution caused tend to be curt and unhelpful: contracept better. Or as my mother was ominously told by
some upon my conception, “Just take care of it.” Those seem like the “retrograde and ugly” moral sentiments to me.

Just because I turned out fine doesn’t mean that everything is fine.

His piece reminded me of this excellent new video by HLI challenging Melinda Gates’ recent pledge of $1 billion for contraception around the world.  Are women in the developing world truly better off if they simply learn to contracept better?  What indignities did the sexual revolution force on women that nobody is talking about?



  • Mary

    Respect is empowering. What they seem to be advocating is support for women to care and provide for their children regardless of what choice the men in their lives make. It is a tough road that ultimately impacts every generation that follows.

    The health issues around contraception make it a concerning choice for all of us – not just those contracepting, but we are so focused on the self that I’m afraid we’re missing something much bigger.

    The battle of the sexes separated us. It’s as simple as that. We’ve become more about selfishly advancing our position than respecting the other person (gender) and working toward better outcomes for those who find themselves pregnant, a father with lack of input and ability to care and protect his child, a single parent, the innocent child, or the next generation wondering how we got to where we are.

    I believe that sex is the choice, pregnancy becomes a responsibility, and facing that responsibility builds respect – in the self and from others. We, as the others, should support it.

  • Roger Reilly

    These women get it. They probably lack the education Mrs. Gates has and certainly do not possess her wealth or influence but they understand something she just cannot grasp. It is about RESPECTING women not enabling their further use/abuse. I hope that Mrs. Gates will, in the spirit of charity and humility, change her mind and channel her funding to hospitals, schools, roads, etc rather that contraception. Here’s hoping.

  • Sir Robert

    The solution is not so much in our laws as it is in our hearts and minds. This is a hearts and minds war. Laws that are forced on people do nothing to change minds…they make people bitter. We need to change our innerds…how we think and see. If we were to outlaw “x”, the opponents of the law would simply strike it down the moment they get in power. Change hearts then the laws.

  • Barb

    Don’t you think we could discourage fornication without sending people to prison? Did we not discourage fornication in the past without sending people to prison? Honestly! Those people who did fornicate got married if the woman became pregnant. And those marriages endured without oppressing women. People, choose your mates wisely.

    • Randall

      The public slut-shaming of what’s-her-name, Sandra Fluke, seemed to work pretty well. We need to do this more often with the fornicators in our midst, but probably on a more local level. If Sally the “village bicycle” is actively getting the cold shoulder from a thousand God-fearing Christians in her small town all at once, she’ll either change her ways or live as a pariah.

      • Angela

        Please tell me you are joking? How is it that you think this is only the woman’s fault? Let’s shame the woman, but the man gets of Scott-free? Wow, it’s ignorant people like you that make me glad I left the Church.

        • Maryellen Schroeder

          Dear Angela–of course it takes two to tango. It’s not just Sandra Fluke’s fault, (just as it wasn’t the gospel’s “woman caught in adultery” fault alone–there was a guy with her, you know). But as Sandra discreetly neglected to give us the names of the other individuals in her relationships, it is her name that is bantered about. It is human nature to respond to the evidence at hand. Life is not fair, and calling people “ignorant” (or sluts, as other impolite commenters have noted) won’t make it any more fair. No need to get defensive about the “other guy”. My four children try this tack all the time–one of them gets caught in the act of doing something wrong, and they say, “But so and so did it earlier when you weren’t looking, so why don’t you punish them?” Maybe so and so did do something, but I did not see them doing it, and whether or not they did does not negate the fact that the person caught was CERTAINLY doing it. By the same token, a policeman will hardly be impressed if someone tells them at a traffic stop….”Gee officer, I’ve seen twenty people run this same stop sign over the last week and they didn’t get pulled over. It’s so unfair for you to single me out.” Such arguments do not expunge one’s own guilt. Name calling is not endorsed by the Catholic church, but any gathering or organization of people will have nice folks and not so nice folks. Just because a Catholic might be impolite has nothing to do with the Catholic Church. Just because one employee is an embezzler doesn’t mean an entire company is, and…well I could go on and on. I bet there is impoliteness in any congregation and denomination you choose to examine, including atheists. If we are taling about fairness, it is “unfair” to dismiss an entire entitiy upon the action or words of a few imperfect individuals. Another question, dear…if you left the Church and are glad you did so,you might exercise your free speech by refusing to visit a site concerned with Catholic issues. You are, of course, not the only anti-Catholic person to comment on this site, but the phenomenon is one that has made me curious for some time. Lots of Catholic bashing goes on in the comments here. When something raises my blood pressure and I can avoid it, I do so. I just wonder why those who hate the Catholic Church bother to waste their time Internet trolling sites they obviously despise. There’s lots of other sites they’d like better, I’m sure.

  • Joe

    If gay marriage needs to be remained outlawed because it is immoral, we should just push to outlaw pre-marital sex and divorce to also hold back against that immorality.

    • Michael

      Take the Santorum approach, I say. Imprisonment was endorsed by Santorum for use combating against homosexual intercourse, so why not use it for fornicators and divorcees?

      • JoAnna

        Can you back up your statement with actual facts? Please provide a link where Santorum advocated imprisonment of homosexuals.

      • Randall

        Joe and Michael, I know you’re being sarcastic, but I would LOVE to see this happen. Won’t happen in a Romney presidency, but Santorum is young and 2016/2020 isn’t too far away… a world free of fornicators would be wonderful.



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