The average American woman begins the journey of motherhood paying off mountains of debt. One could argue there is indeed a "choice" at play: the hospitals and health insurance companies can choose to stop inflating prices, charging for unwanted procedures, or refusing to cover necessary ones.
But with the health insurance industry facing little accountability, the burden of "choice" reverts back to the mother. The skyrocketing cost of childbirth corresponds with the rise of the homebirth movement, which, while appealling to some women for personal, non-economic reasons, is also a way to try to dodge the hospital bill (for women with complicated deliveries, this "choice" is quickly curtailed).
The normalization of the trashy single mother.
With the exception of widows, single mothers have traditionally faced strong social stigma. Feminists have made removing this stigma a priority as it is essential in order to free women from the reciprocal obligations which traditionally have come with motherhood. Feminism is far more about removing women’s responsibilities than it is about increasing women’s rights, so this is a critical area of focus for feminism.
On the surface feminists have been very successful removing the stigma associated with unwed motherhood. Religious conservatives like Glenn Stanton, Director of Family Formation Studies for Focus On The Family now refer to unwed mothers as heroic, and attribute the explosion in out of wedlock births to the failings of men. Director Stanton explains this in his book on parenting (emphasis mine):
If women can’t find good men to marry, they will instead compromise themselves by merely living with a make-do man or getting babies from him without marriage. Unfortunately, this describes exactly the new shape of family growth in Western nations by exploding margins…Director Stanton’s profoundly modern view of unwed mothers is very common amongst the most socially conservative Christians. Pat Robertson’s 700 Club celebrates a book by and about unwed mothers, while Pastor Mark Driscoll describes the problem very much like Director Stanton does above.
Women want to marry and have daddies for their babies. But if they can’t find good men to commit themselves to, well… Our most pressing social problem today is a man deficit.
Despite the astounding success feminists have had convincing our cultural leaders that unwed motherhood should be seen as only normal (or even heroic), below the surface the stigma still remains. One unwed mother recently complained about the unfairness of it all at babycenter.com
I am so sick of single mom stereotypes, and this articles just tries to justify them all. I’m sick of people thinking I’m any less an awesome mom because I don’t have a husband. I’m sick of people thinking I’m trashy because my kids have different fathers.Another over at Cafe Mom described feeling overwhelmed by the judgment she perceives:
Lately it seems like everywhere I turn, I mean EVERYWHERE, I’m faced with some stereotyping about single moms.The discussion at Cafe Mom went on for 147 comments, and there was wide agreement by the resident unwed mothers that they were indeed perceived as the OP described. Despite the best efforts of conservative Christian leaders, single mothers are still perceived negatively.
I feel so discouraged.
So many people seem to think that I must have been irresponsible, or slutty or stupid or selfish, or a horrible wife.
I’ve even heard someone say single mothers shouldn’t expect some man to pick up the pieces of her bad choices. It makes me feel ashamed that I even want to remarry.
Why do they automatically assume we all made some terrible choices?
And even if some of us did, are we not allowed to make mistakes?
Part of the problem is that real life examples of single mothers and the impact of fatherlessness on children are far too common to ignore, so the perceptions end up being driven by reality instead of opinion leaders. While the average man or woman likely would regurgitate the PC take on single mothers, at a gut level they know something different. This probably explains why single mothers still feel the stigma even though expressing this stigma has itself become taboo.
This will only become worse moving forward, since 40% of all births in the US are now out of wedlock, and those children born in (theoretical) wedlock are still at extremely high risk of having their father expelled from the home. Single mothers are now a massive demographic, and marketers are catering to them.