One way I identify hidden voices is from the comments I receive through my work with Our Eyes Were Opened, Inc. I’ve been told: If they’d stop having children and were responsible for the ones they have, we’d all be better off. This was a recent statement posed as a question in a group I was leading. A slightly different version of this same idea came from a group that wants to help young women have choices about when they begin parenthood. The people I was working with really did not see the need to talk with the males.
One hidden voice is the mother’s. Some people believe that she had that baby just to get more welfare money. If we listened to her, we might learn that yes, the first child might make her eligible for certain services but a second child certainly does not double that stipend. So let’s listen to why some women have babies when, if we were in their circumstances, we certainly would not bring another child into the world with its lifelong financial costs.
In order to prevent pregnancies, a woman has to go to a medical professional to get a prescription or a birth control device. Making and keeping that appointment may in itself be challenging because the medical hours may not align with the work schedule of an hourly worker. Transportation issues may mean that when she is more than 15 minutes late for her appointment she is told she must reschedule. If she takes a birth control pill, that means remembering to take it on schedule which may be impossible when she has other things to think about…things such as food and shelter. Using birth control, unless she uses something such as an IUD, requires a level of commitment that may necessarily be focused elsewhere.
The man may not want to be responsible for preventing pregnancy because he believes that’s the woman’s thing to do or he wants to go, shall we say, au naturelle. So, prevention itself may be a challenge.
Add to that that when she has a baby, she might qualify for subsidized housing—if she can find it— housing that would not be available to her as a young woman alone or even as a childless married couple. But when she has a baby, she can go back to the daddy and say, “You owe me. I had your child.” The baby daddy becomes a kind of insurance policy she hopes she can depend on when necessary.
You may be interested that in South Carolina, about half the babies born are born to single mothers. This does include fathers who readily claim paternity. Many couples today cohabitate without the benefit of marriage. Just look at any celebrity magazine while waiting in line at the grocery store.
The fathers also have a stake in the birth of a son or daughter. I once heard a male say that he was proud that he had a lot of children because his kids proved that he had lived on this earth. He had no expectations of a long life or any kind of legacy other than his kids. His voice has been hidden to us because he sees no validation of his life other than to have had children.
What kind of world are we accepting?