Numbers follow us everywhere we go. Our height, our weight, our shoe size, our age. Statistics. They are just numbers. Math with no feelings attached.
Want to hear some numbers?
In 2011, 4.1 million women reported that they had a birth in the last year. Of these women, 35.7 percent were unmarried at the time.
Those numbers are part of the recent findings of something called the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is, according to the United States Census website, an "ongoing Census Bureau survey that samples a small percentage of the population every year."
The report is full of statistics and numbers that represent a trend that our nation has seen for a while: unmarried women are having babies. This study also touches upon something called "characteristics of unmarried women with a recent birth."
I know numbers are numbers and math is math but reading the list of characteristics was disturbing as it painted a portrait of single mothers in this nation that seemed so dismissive. It might as well have read like one of those ridiculous redneck jokes, "You might be a single mother if..."
You are young.
You are uneducated.
You are black.
You are poor.
Here's the real kicker of it all, Rachel M. Shattuck and Rose M. Kreider, the authors of the report, leap with gusto into predicting that the children of these single mothers will be ruined. They prologue the study with, "Births outside of marriage are often associated with disadvantage for both children and their parents. Women and men who have children outside of marriage are younger on average, have less education, and have lower income than married parents. Children who are born to unmarried parents are more likely to live in poverty and to have poor developmental outcomes."
I understand the value of collecting information. I can also see how such surveys could possibly yield more awareness or funding for programs that young mothers might need.
The part that I hate about the release of information like this is when all of the news outlets seize upon it with fervor. One outlet wants to know "Who's Raising Those Single Moms' Babies?" Another outlet is celebrating how the Mormon culture helped Utah have the nation's lowest rate of births to unwed moms.
Somewhere in the mix and jumble of all of this newly released data is me. Well not exactly me as I gave birth to my son in 2009, but certainly there are women like me in the 2011 survey. Single, mid 30's, educated, white. Everyone is lobbed into a cluster of data for no real purpose. Honestly I do not see the purpose of this survey. It seems like the only people who have done anything with the information have done so with pointed and eyebrows raised editorials.
See? See all of those SINGLE WOMEN having babies? Look at them just ruining our nation.
It would be wonderful if there was a way for women and mothers to actually become unified over these numbers. Solidarity. Not everyone made a choice to become an unwed mother like I did. Some women, many women, become single moms through all sorts of trying circumstances. Instead of drop kicking these moms with commentary that pretty much says, "your kid will never amount to anything," try lifting her up.
Here is my advice to a single mom who gave birth in the year 2011. YOU ARE AWESOME. Seriously.
Also? You are not alone. There are so many resources that can help you succeed. Here are a couple of great ones:
We also have some great posts and advice here on BlogHer:
- Advice New Single Mothers Can Use to Build Their Village
- Becoming a Single Mother by Choice
- Single Motherhood: The Truth No One Talks About
Do the released statistics speak your story -- or do you have more to add? Feel free to share your stories, your concerns and any resources you know and love in the comments.
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