Why teen pregnancy, even when followed by marriage, is a tragedy; and why parents are responsible

Laura W. wrote:

Palin has not just forced Republicans into the uncomfortable position of indulging her decadent brand of liberalism, she has put her family in a very embarrassing spotlight. Selfish and ruthless are the adjectives that come to mind. These are not the actions of a “pro-family conservative,” no matter how widely she opposes abortion. For the record, supervised teenagers rarely become pregnant.

LA to Laura W.:

“For the record, supervised teenagers rarely become pregnant.”

That’s a dynamite statement. If you’d care to expand on it, that would be great.

Laura W. replies

The utopian dream of a cost-free feminism has gripped “conservatives” almost as deeply as it has liberals and nowhere has this dream exhibited its ugly consequences more alarmingly than in the nomination of Sarah Palin. The idea that women can ascend the highest pinnacles of public achievement, not to mention enter the grinding work life of ordinary careers, without hurting the weak and vulnerable is a myth, a bloated, beautiful, materialistic, intoxicating myth.

One of the enduring facets of childhood is its powerlessness. Children make up a vast and silent political constituency. This constituency does not speak for itself and never will, but if it could in this day and age, adults would be appalled at its indignation. No children in history have been so spoiled and yet so neglected. A thinly-disguised parental neglect that surrounds itself with all the material prizes of two successful careers prevails in millions of homes, a neglect that sanctions a starker, everyday deprivation in less fortunate homes. It pampers children with things; drugs them with constant oral and visual stimulation; provides them with a thousand activities a day and yet deprives them of the spiritual goods any viable civilization owes to the young and of the steady, unyielding, constantly-correcting presence of a maternal protector.

Children can’t describe this neglect, but they do show it in a hundred ways. And, one of the ways is teen pregnancy.

For the record, it’s important to remember that even without the horror of abortion, a teen pregnancy typically is a tragedy. That it might end in a sudden and unexpected wedding is no great triumph over circumstances. Few teenagers possess the judgment to pick a spouse; the financial ability to maintain a home; and the maturity to care for an infant. They are generally not enthused for any of these things and this lack of enthusiasm stunts their futures. “Bristol—and lots of other girls out there—are going to be just fine,” said a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. That’s a brazen lie used to soothe adults into self-satisfaction and excuse them of their neglect. Pregnant teens can expect a future that involves divorce, interrupted education, haphazard careers, lower incomes, and troubled offspring. A highly-visible, publicly sanctioned teen pregnancy is likely to increase the incidence of all these things among less fortunate teens influenced by example.

A teen pregnancy is always, and unequivocally, the failure of adults. This was a widely-held view in the past, when teenagers regularly were provided with adult chaperones and constant supervision. They were also provided with a strong disincentive to have sex: the social stigma of illegitimacy. This social stigma came from the adult world and was one of its greatest gifts to the young.

It was common knowledge in former times that teens were too impulsive to be left alone with the opposite sex. Brain research has since confirmed that the make-up of the adolescent brain favors impulse, over forethought. In other words, teenagers are wired to be indifferent about the future. The latest brain research and centuries of common sense have not reached parents today, some of whom are, like the Palins, quite affluent and educated, and many of whom possess more modest skills and far greater obstacles to the glowing future envisioned by the Palin’s neighbor. It is common practice today, in rich and poor homes, to permit teenagers unsupervised time in cars and private homes with the opposite sex. Why is it common practice? Because it makes life easier for adults. The teenage birth rate in the United States is the highest in the developed world. This rate has declined in recent years due to the use of contraceptives, abortion and abstinence programs, but remains alarmingly high, at 53 per 1,000 teens between the ages of 15 and 19. In the white, working-class neighborhood of Fishtown, Philadelphia, no one bats an eye anymore when a twelve-year-old shows up in maternity clothes. So many of the teens have become pregnant in the local middle school that a doctoral candidate who works as an 8th grade teacher is doing her thesis on the mysterious attraction toward early pregnancy among her students. She might look for the reason for the phenomenon not in the minds of the girls, but in the complete lack of social stigma attached to illegitimacy and the absence of adult supervision during the hours after school.

This unsupervised life comes at a time when teens are sexualized as never before in history, exposed to a steady diet of sex on television and, most especially, in popular music. A teenager walking down the street with Ipod plugs in her ears is most likely listening to orgasmic longing translated into chords and childish lyrics.

So here we have it: it’s no surprise that Bristol Palin is pregnant. No surprise at all. What is a surprise is that anyone, anywhere would see anything good in this development. It is shameful, deeply shameful, a disgrace on the Palin family and a disgrace for America at large. America worships energy. The energy of millions of women earning a living in the world, whether out of “necessity” or out of the desire for personal fulfillment, is a god Americans worship on bended knee. That god exacts sacrifices. It expects children and adolescents to be placed every day on its altar.

LA replies:
I’ve just posted this magnificent statement. Please accept my highest admiration for this. You “own” this issue as no one else does.

Laura replies:

Thank you. I’ve seen the gruesome face of barbarism in a world of glistening prosperity, and it has chilled me to the bone.

- end of initial entry -

Alan Roebuck writes:

Laura’s magnificent essay reminds me of what’s at stake in the life of my four-year-old son. I know that he will need lots of supervision, and, more importantly, my wife and I will have to fight against the forces, now well established, that will try to drive a wedge between him and his parents.

One of the first conservative concepts that I formed for myself many years ago was the “Teenage Fashion Industry,” by which I mean not just the companies that deal in teenage fashions, but in the whole apparatus dedicated to spreading the idea that teenagers are an independent breed. This idea was pioneered by liberal intellectuals who wanted a better way to insert their ideas into society by creating a clientele that would be shut off from parental authority and the traditions of the ages.

Today’s (white, at least) teenagers typically think of themselves as spiritually independent of their parents and the traditions of their people. And there is only one way for a parent to deal with this view: attack it head on. Tell your children that they are not independent, that they have a obligation to learn the ways of their people and to listen to the wisdom of their parents.

I’d like to say more, but it’s time for me to go to work. The work, that is, that enables me to do my real work: taking care of my family.

Ben W. writes:

There is something significant from the Christian culture that has gone unnoticed and unnoted about the Palins. According to the writings of the apostles Peter and Paul, the man is the head of the household, the authority figure, But in both Sarah’s and Bristol’s life, the men are secondary figures.

Sarah Palin’s husband Todd Palin is undistinguished and has seemingly shown no parental authority in his own family. He styles himself in Alaska as “the first dude.” A “dude?” When I look at his picture, I see a man who is lesser than his wife and quite frankly an unshaven embarrassment to have in the circle of the vice-presidency.

The Palins are definitely a feminist outgrowth; the woman emphasized as accomplished, the man undistinguished in the background.

Mark Jaws writes:

I think Laura W is way, way, way over the top. Anyone who has raised teenagers would know just how—dare I say it?—judgmental she sounds. Teen pregnancy happened all the time in the old days—in cases of marriage and out of wedlock. For example, Mother Jaws and her two best friends, Doris and Angie, were married and bearing children by ages 18, 17 and 15. Now, since society has “progressed,” we expect our children to postpone marriage and childbearing until their mid twenties, all the while asking them to somehow keep tap on their bountiful hormones. Laura should remember that Nature intended for adolescents to have sex and to procreate. It is society that has changed and not Nature. I applaud the Palins for standing by their daughter. To me this is no disgrace but a profile in courage. Furthermore, I am glad McCain picked her.

Laura W. replies:

With respect for Mark Jaws, I think he displays a terrific insensitivity to the realities of teen pregnancy, realities that are documented in countless studies. Check out the Wikipedia entry on teen pregnancy in America and it lists some of the many disastrous consequences, including divorce and fatherlessness.

We don’t live in yesteryear, a time when pregnant teens got married and were surrounded by stable communities which helped them through the worst. In previous periods, people often got married at 13 and 14. Does Mark think that would work today? If he talked to some of the many young adults who grew up recently in “homes” that started with a teen pregnancy, he might think differently. I think he’d find they’d disagree with his glowing assessment.

Let’s say, however, for the sake of argument, that all turns out well for a teen like Bristol, who has a strong and loving family. (I emphatically believe, and studies show, things do not turn out well for even them.) What ever happened to the power of example? Isn’t it cruel to give urban teens the impression that they can weather the worst too? Cruel to them and cruel to society at large, which must pay the abundantly- documented costs of unwed teen pregnancy.

Laura continues:

Also, regarding Mark Jaws’s statement, I have a teenager, and have raised another. So his comment, “Anyone who has raised teenagers would know just how judgmental she sounds,” is inaccurate.

LA replies:

One of the most objectionable things about this is the people who say, “Bristol will turn out fine.” Maybe she will. Maybe even her child will turn out fine. But things will not turn out fine for the millions of people living in a society degraded by the notion—now being spread by conservatives!!!—that illegitimacy itself is fine and not to be judged.

Mark Jaws with his glandular celebration of teenage sex seems wholly unaware of the devastating human damage that has been caused in our society by massive fatherlessness. How can a society in which even the “conservatives” are touting illegitimacy have any hope of reversing this plague?

Hannon writes:

Laura W. certainly makes the better argument here on a pragmatic level, but Mark Jaws goes to a deeper point and I agree with his sentiment. The problem is not teen pregnancy per se but the norms of the receiving society. It seems a peculiar contradiction that young women in the West are biologically prepared to bear children when they are but children themselves yet they are mostly unable to form viable family units to complete the process. If a lack of parental guidance is to blame for such an outcome, can we expect those same parents to provide for the subsequent needs of the new parent or parents? The tragedy here is the family and society that is unprepared to support and guide young mothers and fathers. We need not celebrate these pregnancies, but neither should we act horrified that nature has taken its course without the blessing of adults.

The sexualization of teenagers (and society as a whole) is but one symptom of a culture where amoral materialism has displaced more traditional standards. By now it is a vicious generational cycle. Following their parents, the media and their peers, what do kids aspire to? Is pregnancy more of a distraction or a way to get attention? As Diana West indicates, too often they aspire to adolescence rather than adulthood, and perversely many adults seem to have similar regressive tendencies.

The condemnation of “children having children” is understandable at some level but it also can be construed as part of the general regard for reproduction as being antithetical to personal happiness and prosperity. I’m not accusing Laura W. of this stance. But this idea does ultimately contribute to the suicidal decline of most European populations.

Emily B. writes:

This will be a quick comment as I have five young ones to attend to. I am mostly okay with Palin as VP; the news of the teen pregnancy did take the wind out of my sails, I’m still sorting through it, and it is a teachable moment. I agree with Laura W. that the lesson is that teens shouldn’t be left alone. I would qualify that to say that no unmarried couple should be left alone, especially teens.

Before the Bristol news broke, I felt 95 percent okay with Palin because her other qualities were so wonderful. I believe that flaws are to be expected, but most importantly, our reaction should be to say we accept candidate X, even with the flaws and reiterate why they are indeed flaws, and not defend them. It’s an absurd spectacle that everything often is accepted about a candidate we like. Anyways, the number one thing that concerned me about Palin as Veep was that it sent the message that men can supervise children as well as women. They usually cannot. And, sure enough, we now hear that Bristol Palin is pregnant.

I disagree with Laura that times have changed so much and we must adapt. Mark Jaws is right. Throughout human history, teens were considered adults and Bristol would have already been married were we in a different age. The philosophy that my husband and I adhere to is that adolescence is a mostly new and bankrupt construct, and we fight it. I homeschool our children with the hopes that their primary education will be compete by ages 12-14; had a parochial school provided this, we would have sent our children to it. Our biology has not changed, and it is a hard, and painful, thing to fight.

Gintas writes:

I don’t presume to know much about raising teenagers (my oldest is 13), but culturally the fix is in. Laura W. shows fighting spirit needed to get the task done. But is Mark Jaws not spinning round and round in a maelstrom of moral torpor?

Kevin S. writes:

First let me state that I wholeheartedly agree that Gov. Palin needs to withdraw for the reasons you state. Also, her selection by McCain is indeed a master stroke, but one consciously made as yet another attack on his mortal enemy—traditional conservatism. Yet, in all the discussions going on even here on VFR, nothing has been written specifically about the teenage girl herself.

Yes, there are large issues here which can impact our whole society at the heart of various conversations. Let us step away from those for just a moment. What is best for the girl? Perhaps more importantly, what is best for the unborn child? As Laura W. has pointed out, numerous studies on teen illegitimate pregnancy indicate realities that are now unmentionable given this GOP running mate selection. Even if the girl received tremendous support from her family (highly doubtful), the prospects for her and the child are grim. If we look for just a moment at the individual human aspect of this, the best advice for Bristol is probably the same as for those whose mother is not running for VPOTUS: put the child up for adoption to a very carefully selected home and do NOT get married to the father.

We should not focus exclusively on the “larger issues” at stake to the exclusion of the humanity of the individuals involved. Sarah Palin’s decision effectively to abandon her newborn son and expose her daughter to the public like this is truly monstrous and reveals all I will ever need to know about her. It would appear that she is after all a well matched running mate for the likes of McCain.

Laura W. writes:

Kevin S. makes such an important point. Let me say, I personally have done some research into the peculiar world of the pregnant teen. I’ve interviewed black, teenage mothers in the tragic city of Camden, N.J. and stared at the bleary-eyed, snot-covered faces of their toddlers. I remember one girl, 15 or 16 years old, who told me, while her child wandered the room in a diaper, that she intended to be a pop singer when she grew up. She said she didn’t think her child would prevent her from fulfilling her dream. I wonder sometimes whatever became of him, and of her.

I’ve also done some research into the lives of affluent, white pregnant teens. I vividly recall what the world looks like from the mind of a pregnant girl, a stunned wayfarer in the bewildering world of adults, a cursed soul condemned prematurely to a deserved and private hell who wants only one thing: to go backward, to return to the haven of childhood. This will never change as long as this sad world lasts, no matter how much movie stars make it all cool and glamorous.

Richard P. writes:

The argument being made, as I understand it, is that women who work outside the home while also having small children at home is a direct consequence of feminism. You objected to her running a state and running for VP while having a five month old baby at home. Laura went further, saying that the full-time mother is “the best working model for a well-functioning society.” Adela pushed forward the same argument, calling Palin “a gun-totin” feminist.”

My view, based in part on my ancestors’ pioneer experience in America, is that this isn’t really the case. The full-time mother is a historical anomaly. Prior to World War II it was uncommon outside of the moderately wealthy and some insular religious sects. Child rearing was not seen as a full-time all encompassing activity. Children generally weren’t made into responsible citizens by omnipresent mothers who molded and shaped them. They became responsible citizens because they were given responsibility and independence early.

This is no longer possible as a matter of law, which I think drives many women to become full-time mothers. A child that has an accident outside their parent’s sight can end up being removed by the state. The parents can be charged with neglect. What was normal a couple of generations ago is now verboten. A man in north Texas is currently facing felony child abandonment charges for leaving his 11 year old son at a restaurant three blocks from his home. An 11 year old! At age ten I regularly left the house from sunrise to sunset with a dog (and rifle!) and often traveled miles from home. This wasn’t some ancient time and place, it was America in 1980. To do so now would lead to a parent’s imprisonment. My parents rarely feared for my safety, but I know modern mothers who would never allow their ten year olds to play alone in a park down the street. What kind of men will these boys become? We’ve created a stigma surrounding independent children. Remember the term “latch-key kid”? It was considered a failure of the parents. I would rather hire a former “latch-key kid” any day than the product of an over-involved mother. [LA replies: Of course. When I was growng up in Union Township, New Jersey in the ’50s and ’60s, starting from a young age, I spent a great deal of time outside, on my own, playing in the neighborhood, exploring the woods behind our house bordering on a private golf course. But that was a safe neighborhood in a different world, where we never locked our house, where the thought of danger didn’t even occur to anyone.]

The full-time mother of 2008 is often the result of a lack of options. The sick doctrines of our family law combined with the fragmentation of extended families leave them little choice. If they want or need to work, then they must leave their children with day-care running strangers or turn them over to the state and its bizarre public school system. So they often choose to stay at home with the kids when they can. They then watch the kids like hawks, giving them little autonomy, because the culture and law tell them they must. Our modern family law almost seems like a feminist plot to make motherhood as difficult and unpleasant as possible in order to discourage it. It’s no wonder many modern women don’t want children, or very few. Who wants to be a 24 hour-a-day nurse and warden?

As for Palin, working while having a small infant does not strike me at all as feminist or untraditional. It harkens back to an earlier time when most mothers worked in some form. I don’t agree that Governor or VP is significantly more difficult than many other jobs mothers have held. Is the argument really about her working and her dedication to family, or about women wielding political power in high office? Those seem like very different arguments.

I’m not sure if this mail makes my case effectively. I confess I haven’t given much deep thought to these matters until this discussion, and still need to flesh out and refine my thoughts here. I don’t have any objections to the stay-at-home mom either. My wife is one. But it is because of the lack of options I mentioned before. We do not wish to turn our son over to the leviathan state and its values. And I fear for the type of man he will become. How will he ever appreciate freedom and responsibility when he hasn’t experienced either?

Greg F. writes:

“I have also said that given her family situation it is wrong for her to run for VP.”

What family situation is RIGHT for a VP? I have never been a women’s rights type of person as I think they are biologically suited for motherhood and staying home with the kids as their prime role. I believe that Mrs. Palin described herself as a “hockey mom” before entering into politics. I do believe it is possible to accomplish many great things in a lifetime and still be a good parent. I can’t say I know what it’s like at the Palin household and if Mr. Palin stays home with the kids, but I am inclined to think that he does not need to work. I believe the mother also said the her daughter is engaged to the young lad who impregnated her.

I was in the Army when I was 17, which made me legally free of my parents. There were many times before that when I had to act like an adult and make decisions because my dad was deployed and my mother taking my little sister to this and that. The point is that a 17 year old is not helpless, nor do I blame Sarah Palin for the acts her daughter and this young lad performed to conceive a child. [LA replies: have you seen the photo of Levi, the father of Bristol’s child? He’s a boy.]

If you are referring to the fact that this woman has five children, and one a newborn, then I contend that the father and other children would help raise the soon-to-be two infants. That is what families do, especially the European stock.

The average age of an infantry squad leader in my Marine Corps is 19 years old. That 19 year old is in charge of 12 men’s lives when it comes to conducting a patrol through the streets of whatever town they are in. I do not find this young lady, who is engaged, in too much of a predicament to prevent her mother from being the VP.

(Granted, if it were up to me, we would have mandatory military service as a pre-requisite for citizenship (though everyone is entitled to the Bill of Rights), and an individual would have to be disabled to be on welfare. I would get cut funding for Planned Parenthood and the Department of Education’s funding as they are currently a waste of taxpayers dollars. We would stop sending any aid to foreign countries and secure our borders without letting any other refugees in unless they were of European stock (to me that includes Israelis). I send this last bit so that you know how conservative I am. However, I can only play the cards I am dealt.)

Mark Jaws writes:

For crying out loud, how can anyone say that I am pooh poohing teenage illegitimacy? I grew up in the projects and I could very well see FIRST HAND the havoc wreaked by rampant promiscuity and fatherlessness.

In this case with the Palins, however, there is a father, an intact family, and a young man who is willing to meet his responsibilities. [LA replies: Oh, the heart strings! How do we know that he’s willing to meet his responsibilities? Has HE said he’s going to marry Bristol? He’s a 17 year old jock starting his senior year of high school, who wrote in his own website that he was in a relationship but didn’t want to have children.] I know of several families started by teenage parents, even with a birth or two out of wedlock. The parents stayed together and are happy and intact today. Greg F is right. You cannot compare the Palin family with that of the typical dysfunctional inner city brood. I will stand by Sara Palin until she proves otherwise unworthy of my support.

LA replies:

Mark is missing the larger point that by approving this situation, by having no judgmentalness against this situation, by telling the rest of us we must have no judgmentalness against this situation, the “conservatives” are sending out the message to the whole country that illegitimacy is ok. Mark says he disapproves of illegitimacy when dark people in the projects do it. But when white people in the sticks do it, somehow it will all work out.

There is a deeper agenda at work here, which is explicit in the comments of many Palin supporters. They don’t have a problem with out of wedlock pregnancy, because it’s all just part of the great life-affirming flow that distinguishes the “real” people from the rest of us. Read the comments at Lucianne.com repeatedly praising the Palins as “REAL PEOPLE.” Meaning that if your life is messy, you’re real. And that if your life is not messy, if you get married at 23 and then have children, instead of becoming pregnant out of wedlock at 17, then you’re not real. So, personalism having become our entire politics, they identify with Palen as one of their own, and support her to the end.

Adela G. writes:

Richard P. wrote: The argument being made, as I understand it, is that women who work outside the home while also having small children at home is a direct consequence of feminism. You objected to her running a state and running for VP while having a five month old baby at home. Laura went further, saying that the full-time mother is “the best working model for a well-functioning society.” Adela pushed forward the same argument, calling Palin “a gun-totin” feminist.”

I didn’t actually push forward the same argument. I believe that for those who are mothers of young children, being a full-time homemaker and mother is the best working model for a well-functioning society.

Richard goes on to argue that full-time motherhood is a relatively new occupation and that traditionally mothers have worked and children have led more independent lives than they do now. I totally agree with him. My point, which I failed to make sufficiently clear, is that the type of work mothers now do outside the home is different than it was during more traditional eras.

For generations, stay-at-home moms stayed at home not to raise children but with children in tow, to do all the work needed to keep their households going: cooking, baking, canning, growing vegetables, sewing and laundering clothes, etc. (For example, I learned to bake bread watching my mother do it and later as a teen, doing it myself once she did go back to work.) Mothers who worked outside the home did so from economic necessity, and not infrequently took jobs that allowed them to bring their small children to work with them. Basically, only mothers who did clerical or factory work left their children at home in the care of older siblings or at someone else’s home. School teachers were required to be single and childless.

So while in earlier times, mothers did focus on their work in the home and/or work outside the home rather than on child-rearing, they did not work in executive positions totally divorced from it. That’s the difference between mothers who worked outside the home in earlier generations and those of today. Women did not work in the jobs traditionally thought of as “men’s work” and mothers did not “climb the corporate ladder” or rail against the “glass ceiling”. They worked hard but by all accounts, their children were more fully integrated into their daily lives.

As for children, the older siblings were expected to care for the younger ones and help around the house. All of them were expected to go outside and “find something to do” when their mothers did not want them underfoot. So children did indeed have greater independence. A

When I grew up in the 60’s, all the mothers in my childhood neighborhood told their kids in summertime to “go outside and play”. We were not expected to come back indoors except to get drinks of water, use the bathroom or eat lunch. My mother was cautious yet I roamed around in woods and near a creek with no adult supervision (indeed against adult wishes) in a way that would horrify parents of today.

The affluent stay-at-home moms I’ve known “outsource” nearly all their jobs. The one job they’ve retained is a relatively new one: chauffeur. They send out much if not most of the family laundry, they pick up meals at the deli dept. or have special dinners catered, they have house-cleaners and yard men for house and property maintenance. Their children are in school and after-school activities and in summer, at sleep-away camps. Often, such mothers are at their clubs or meetings in the afternoons so though they don’t need to work, their kids are nevertheless “latch-key” kids. Their kids get no more genuine maternal attention than the kids of mothers who work from necessity. And mothers who work for “self fulfillment” have much the same routine as affluent stay-at-homes. Mothers who could spend great chunks of time with their children choose instead to spend it elsewhere, to the detriment of children who are otherwise coddled and indulged. Is any of this starting to sound topical?

I was trying (evidently without much success) to make the case for mothers of preteens staying at home or if they must work outside the home, “doing a job”, not “having a career”. When mothers work at tasks other than childcare, let them do so in front of their children, when possible, so those children grow up learning necessary life skills.

Yes, this means no women with children the ages of Sarah Palin’s children running for and occupying political office. Time enough for that when the children are raised—notice I say “raised”, not “grown”.

Laura writes:

In the many astute comments made by your readers yesterday, Hannon and another contributor objected to my statement that a teen pregnancy is typically a tragedy and said that I was falling into the familiar trap of denigrating life, as would a pro-abortion liberal. This is a very good point and I would like to qualify what I said in response.

No pregnancy is essentially a tragedy. Without exception, a human life from the first moments of conception is sacred, the highest manifestation in this world of divine wisdom and love. No life is a mistake. No life is mis-timed. No pregnancy is bungled.

We do, however, live in a fallen world, and, as a result, the circumstances surrounding and resulting from some pregnancies are tragic. We are not brutes. We don’t breed like flies. When a pregnancy occurs after a casual, impulsive encounter between two adolescents, rather than in a marriage between two adults, it is still a manifestation of divine love, but not of human love.Unmarried adolescents may very well possess the feeling of love when they conceive a child, of course. I’m not talking about the feeling of love. I mean the institution of love, the invisible structure that houses both the parents and the child for years and protects them during the trials of life.

Some adolescents conceive, quickly marry and carry on a normal and healthy life with their offspring. This is rare, especially today, but it is no great misfortune. Some children conceived by adolescents are adopted by infertile couples and, though they may later mourn their biological parents and be mourned by their biological parents, they benefit from that same kind of powerful human love. This is a triumph over potentially tragic circumstances. Very often, however, a child conceived by a teen, when not aborted, never experiences that invisible institution in its highest form, and is in harm’s way. He is unprotected, often fatherless. This is every bit as much a tragedy as a congenital physical handicap. It can be overcome, and sometimes is. But it is something that, out of humility before God and gratitude for the miracle of conception, society and individuals should do their very best to prevent. Those in positions of authority and public visibility carry a special responsibility.

September 3

Laura writes (written Sept. 2, posted Sept. 3):

Richard P. says, “My view, based in part on my ancestors’ pioneer experience in America, is that this isn’t really the case. The full-time mother is a historical anomaly.”

I’m sorry to say but this is another myth. Mothers worked in bygone days, but they were always in close physical proximity to their children. The difference between a mother weaving in the next room or hoeing in the garden and the mother who travels 45 miles one way to work, or even a couple of miles, is immense.

Also, families of bygone eras were also often poor and somehow got through. The idea that mothers must work today is a widely-touted exaggeration. Think of those pioneers and how hard they lived, and then think of us.

LA to Laura:

Isn’t it amazing how intelligent people keep making these obviously falacious arguments? As though a woman working in her house and farm were the equivalent of a woman going to the office!

Laura replies:

I’m so glad you say that. Really, I’m so glad, because I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard very decent and smart people state this flawed argument. As Adela mentioned yesterday, a woman’s life was once “integrated” with her children’s life.

Can I take this opportunity to mention another heavily flawed, constantly repeated argument on this subject? People often say that with the invention of modern gadgetry, such as dishwashers and clothes dryers, women no longer have any manual labor to do in the home. Gimme a break. This patent lie has led to more divorces than adultery. Two-income couples struggle to accomplish the physical tasks of home equitably and adequately, and then turn on each other in rage when the reality is impossible. Running a home today remains a physically demanding job for all but the well-off and for those who take the short-cuts of processed food, unmade beds, and shabby clothes for the kids. Running a home is like running a small hotel.

Fortunately for women, these physical tasks are spiritually rewarding, contrary to the lie (another one!) that women despise them. The kitchen broom and the garden hoe: they are ancient tools of enlightenment. The very universe comes to our door. The dust on the tables drifts in from foreign, intriguing planets and distant highways. How could anyone but the unimaginative not find this all fascinating?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 02, 2008 07:40 AM | Send

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