Things we can learn…

from single mothers and their views on marriage.
via Washington Post…
Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas’s new book, “Promises I Can Keep,” explains — in their subjects’ own words — why so many poor women opt for single motherhood.
It’s not that they don’t believe in marriage, or don’t want it for themselves. They “delay” marriage until they think they have a reasonable shot at making it work. What Edin and Kefalas, both Philadelphia sociologists, found in their five-year study of 162 poor black, white and Puerto Rican single mothers is a near total disconnect between marriage and motherhood.

Break it down sisters. This is not to say that the experience of single motherhood is easy or glamorous, but it is complicated. It is also a clear rebellion to norms of hetersexual union/motherhood.
The article doesn’t paint this picture so much as get at the notion that the hopes of these women are “magic” in that they are detached from the reality they live. You can’t really make an essential statement about this, but most of my single mother friends are quite aware of the condition they are living in. What do you think?
Has anyone read the book?

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6 Comments

  1. LauraCGrow
    Posted September 29, 2005 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read the book, butMaria Kefalas is actually a professor at my undergrad (Saint Joseph’s University), and I heard her speak on the book. It’s quite interesting: many of these women, and the people around them, view divorce as a worse stigma, socially, than single motherhood.
    If you get pregnant, it’s a mistake, but you can in turn find fulfillment (the only source of it for many girls) and become known as a good mother (one of the highest compliments).
    On the other hand, divorce is just considered flat-out failure.

  2. JesusJonesSuperstar
    Posted September 29, 2005 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    My understanding is that for poor to middle class women today, the “dissconect” has been created because of government support programs. So, they can support their brood in some decent contidition without the hastle of living with another person and putting in effort to socalled “make it work” Essentially via taxes they can live off men and the rest of society without the hassels of marriage. these women are wed to the state. The man contributes his jizz and has tax dollars forced from his pocket. that to me seems the bottom line.

  3. Posted September 29, 2005 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    JJS, that would make sense if welfare could contribute as much to a family as a welcome mate and his or her income could. Welfare seems attractive to very few, but I imagine that it seems more attractive (though, I think a better word would be “feasible”) to many women than being married to a man they don’t want to be married to for whatever reason.

  4. Posted September 30, 2005 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Samhita, I highly recommend this post by Ampersand about teen motherhood and poverty. Basically, he makes the case that teen motherhood is a rational, and often the best, choice for young women with few prospects of good marriage or good jobs, if they want to be mothers. The major benefit to delaying childbirth is so that you’re old enough to be in a good marriage and/or so that you can get established in your career. Without those possibilities, there’s no reason for women not to reap the benefits of having pliable teenage bodies and younger mothers and grandmothers around to help.
    Conservatives who push marriage on single mothers or wannabe single mothers have their heads so far up their asses, it’s pathetic. Most straight women want to marry a man, but if there’s no one worth marrying, then that’s just not an option. Period. If they want more women to get married, they need to take a good, long look at social policies that are making increasing numbers of men unmarriageable, especially those policies the send men to jail for petty drug crimes and those policies that deliberately keep unemployment high and those policies that make the jobs that are there not worth having.

  5. idgie
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    ok. marriage doesn’t work for lower class women for a whole host of reasons. many of them mentioned by edin and kefalas. i haven’t read the book in question, though i’ve read an earlier edin book (making ends meet) which she work with a woman named lein (?) that i really respect, and is well respected within the feminist liberal critique of welfare. amanda makes a good point about conservatives and pro-marriage policies. i should also point out that most of these policies are fairly isolated and not really intruding on that many people’s lives. however, it is a climate. one problem is that people haven’t really figured out how to “encourage marriage” in any effective way, are we surprised by this? not really.
    the other thing is the fatherhood issue. i wrote my undergrad thesis on this so could go on for much longer than most people will have the patience for so i will try to keep it short. marriage has been hailed as the way to cure the ‘radical fatherless’ problem (as wade f. horn calls it). the issue with this is that there is no clear evidence that married men are actually more involved fathers once you control for a host of things (race, age, education, income level, etc).
    additionally, (and this point was made (partially) by amanda) and is a major thesis of edin’s earlier book, these women have other resources that they are drawing on. if we think about the sociological work of someone like patricia hill-collins who writes about extensive social networks within the black community that sustain and nurture female-headed households through community/neighborhood ties. this “other-mother” system may be what folks are working with.
    also, i’m unclear as to the original poster’s thinking, but i think that these women are very much aware of how they are living and may still be profoundly disconnected from marriage… without any magic being involved whatsoever. that said. i don’t know if it’s a rejection of the norms of motherhood… it is certainly a rejection of the norms of “family” in the modern white middle class sort of way. but there is also a norm that says that the way to fulfill your life, the way to be happy, the way to whole and complete, and a true woman is to have a baby. and i’m not sure that single mothers are always or even usually operating outside of the constraints of that norm.
    clearly i need to find this book in the public library. ok. marriage doesn’t work for lower class women for a whole host of reasons. many of them mentioned by edin and kefalas. i haven’t read the book in question, though i’ve read an earlier edin book (making ends meet) which she work with a woman named lein (?) that i really respect, and is well respected within the feminist liberal critique of welfare. amanda makes a good point about conservatives and pro-marriage policies. i should also point out that most of these policies are fairly isolated and not really intruding on that many people’s lives. however, it is a climate. one problem is that people haven’t really figured out how to “encourage marriage” in any effective way, are we surprised by this? not really.
    the other thing is the fatherhood issue. i wrote my undergrad thesis on this so could go on for much longer than most people will have the patience for so i will try to keep it short. marriage has been hailed as the way to cure the ‘radical fatherless’ problem (as wade f. horn calls it). the issue with this is that there is no clear evidence that married men are actually more involved fathers once you control for a host of things (race, age, education, income level, etc).
    additionally, (and this point was made (partially) by amanda) and is a major thesis of edin’s earlier book, these women have other resources that they are drawing on. if we think about the sociological work of someone like patricia hill-collins who writes about extensive social networks within the black community that sustain and nurture female-headed households through community/neighborhood ties. this “other-mother” system may be what folks are working with.
    also, i’m unclear as to the original poster’s thinking, but i think that these women are very much aware of how they are living and may still be profoundly disconnected from marriage… without any magic being involved whatsoever. that said. i don’t know if it’s a rejection of the norms of motherhood… it is certainly a rejection of the norms of “family” in the modern white middle class sort of way. but there is also a norm that says that the way to fulfill your life, the way to be happy, the way to whole and complete, and a true woman is to have a baby. and i’m not sure that single mothers are always or even usually operating outside of the constraints of that norm.
    clearly i need to find this book in the public library.

  6. idgie
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    aaaah. i’m sorry i just posted that a million times. i’m new. and hate technology. except when i love it.

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