The questions may sound indelicate to many, but honesty requires them.
Some may also hear racial undertones. It’s true that many of those profiled are women of color.
But single motherhood is now commonplace across the races. Over 1 in 4 white births are to unmarried women.
Look, many of these women work their butts off trying to hold everything together. They’re really trying.
But face it, their problem is a lot bigger than the state of the economy. The reporting ought not to dance around this reality.
The New York Times recently featured a piece that purported to explain why many younger Americans are having a hard time saving for retirement. The headline was “A Struggle for Millennials.”
The piece, centered on “a single mom,” was chock full of details.
It revealed that the woman had established an Airbnb business with her ex-husband. We learned that she had piled much of her $10,000 in savings and $20,000 in credit card debt into the venture.
And unfortunately, they tried to launch the business in the teeth of the COVID-19 pandemic, when travel-related spending had dried up.
This being The Times, much space was devoted to alleged racial inequities (the mother was Black) in programs to help such people. As is often the case, the reporter cited several raw statistics that failed to account for other possibly relevant factors.
But the big questions that many readers were undoubtedly asking themselves were nowhere to be seen.
What, if anything, had the woman’s ex-husband contributed to the business? More importantly, was he helping support his child or children, assuming they were his?
We can buy into the notion that millennials, Americans now 26 to 41 years old, have gone through economic crises that make saving especially hard. But maintaining a family on one small paycheck is a heavy burden, no matter what generation you’re in.
Of course, single motherhood can cover many situations.
Some of the women are widowed. Some are divorced but receiving child support from the fathers. Some were never married but the fathers are doing the manly thing and sending checks for their kids. Some cohabiting singles run what greatly resembles a traditional marriage.
And whatever the circumstances, a humane society provides a basic social safety net. Guaranteed health care and government aid in periods of crisis should be a given.
But pretending that poor families headed by single mothers are just victims of a tough economy absolves the living fathers of all responsibility. That’s what happens when you let the dads disappear from stories of families in financial peril.
This is at bottom sexist. It accepts placing a brutal burden on one set of female shoulders, turning her into a work beast.
“Where are the dads?”
Let’s feel free to ask.