If it is one thing I really hate about teen pregnancy Stigma’s its the obsessively used terms “babymama” and “baby daddy”. I just cannot come to terms with associating myself as one. I hate the slang of it as well as the common usage. When someone says that, it makes them sound uneducated and ignorant. When someone says that to me, it makes me feel like I am uneducated and disrespected. I am a woman. A mother. An unwed female with a child. And you sir/madam are a genius because it did in fact take two people to make my child. I did have to reproduce in order to become pregnant. I also have biological attachment to my child, as well as the sperm which made my child. But in no way. No way. Do I want to be referred to or asked about any “Baby mama drama”.
This culture and time period I am growing up in has a lack of understanding or appreciation of parenthood. At all ages, women are degraded and judged for their unwed mothering. The slang terms and stigmas associated with the younger ages are the worst because both imply age with ignorance. I am not a dumb person. I am not a slut. Or a poor case. I do not act “crazy” or make up stories to egg on custody battles. What other things can you all think of? What does a baby mama do?
Am I not considered one because I am earning my degree and independent? If I were living in my parents basement and harboring unhealthy feelings for my ex, would I make the par for that term? Would I need to talk like I am uneducated and dress like I am a stripper? Or does a baby mama have to dress great, have tattoos and spend all the child support money on things she can’t afford in order to spite the ex? I have heard so many different aspects of the term from the media, TV dramas and the mouths of my own peers.
Is being a baby daddy as simple as being the sperm of a child’s conception? Does the “daddy” part only imply an involved father or is it a deadbeat? Does this man have to be a jerk and horrible parent or just a parent who is not engaged, committed to or married to the mother of the child? With all of the contradicting definitions, it is quite hard to keep up. To make the bar. Do I even want to be in those categories?
I am sick of being looked at or thought of as a jerry springer case. As irresponsible or reckless. As someone who is not considered a good mother or a balanced mother because of my age. Why is it that women who are married aren’t called baby mamas? Are they referred to as more than just the biological mother because they have the capability to be what society thinks is a prepared parent? I got news for everyone. No parent is a fully prepared parent. Not at first. Maybe not even after the second or third. No one has every detail planned AND executed perfectly. A wedding ring does not mean a woman is qualified to be a mother. What the problem really is, to be blunt, is that its no ones right to classify a woman and her parenting capability. Its no ones business. But hers.
Now that I have ranted about that, I need to tackle some interesting comparisons between males and females in unwed parenthood. As it seems, from my experiences, the woman will always get the grief and judgement full force. While the males seem to skid by and get a social “pass” for not being ready or making a mistake. I do not make this stuff up. I’ve seen it and lived it. I have studied it. And now, I’m speaking out about it.
So what makes a man a father? What makes a male qualified to parent his child? What makes him unqualified? And really think about this… do the laws and regulations of custody/Childsupport really abide by societies standards or what is actually best for a child? No matter what state you live in, it is good to research and understand the laws which your society follows.
In New York state, once paternity is established, the father has the obligation to pay 17% for their first child of support. After one child, the percentage is divided up amongst what is left after the first portion. If the father makes children with different women, each child gets money according to the birth order. In the year 2013, it is a fact that 40% of children are born out of wedlock. Think of how busy the child support bureau must be!
When a young man has children with more than one woman, whether by affair or new relationships, he is required to provide care doe each child. Quite often, teen parents become pregnant again within the first two years of their child’s life. That being said, many couples do not make it through the trials and tribulations of early parenthood. They find new partners and start family planning with them. In the community I live, when a man has more than one woman and children from each, he still does not get as much slack as the women. Even if he cheats. Society says that he will just have to pay the support, pay his dues, and no further action is required. It is not acceptable but also ignored if a man fathers many kids. From a biological perspective, he is just spreading his seed. Taking a deeper look from a sociological perspective, he is just trying to find the right partner. Or a better partner. If you examine different species, you will see it can even be quite common for animals to populate with multiple partners to ensure surviving kin. Healthy kin. So I want to know, are we really more evolved than animals in our reproductive traditions? Are some men hard wired to behave out of instinct? Are some women? What makes sex so irresistible that humans find having sex with multiple people is sometimes more satisfying than finding one mate for the rest of their lives? Is this biological? Is it a way of survival? Or is it that sexual drives hold value for some more than establishing a family? One family.
I ask these questions not to be funny but to make everyone think. If we are more evolved than animals and have a deep, intellectual understanding of the world, then why do we sometimes act on pure animal instinct? I certainly do not think its completely natural for the human species to populate with multiple partners, or else that is how we would evolve. There is an importance to picking out the right partner. There is an actual science to it. On how we select our mates and how males/females select their life partners.
This has a lot to do with the terms baby mama and baby daddy. I want you to think about why it becomes a social phenomenon of having unwed and single parents. A lot of factors play into why relationships do not always work out. Economics, religion, education etc. What are the standards in american culture for choosing a mate and does it vary based on gender? Do females have different preferences in their mates, either choosing men for just sex or men to be fathers and partners? They sure do.
What makes me think about my own life is how harshly I have been judged in the past for having a child unwed and too young. For being considered foolish. When my ex left, when I was left with all of the responsibility, why was he not expected by society let alone his family, to be responsible? Why was I questioned and blamed for being abandoned and expected to pick up the slack? Why are most girls expected to when they are not married? Is it punishment for us choosing the wrong person to father our children? Furthermore, if a woman knows a man had a child but did not stick around, then why would she choose him to father a child with? What makes females think that a man can be changed? Or want to father one child over another?
The answers to my own personal position are that I did not think long term how the man I chose to be sexually active with would be as a father. I did not fully weigh the fact that he did not think about being a father either. I was given the choice to abort or not. I was given the bills. The pregnancy. The responsibilities. As expected because I was perceived as the one who chose to make a mess. So I had to clean it up. And when it became clear that I would be a single mother, not one thing was done to ensure the man would not continue to have sex and make children elsewhere. I was harassed about being put on the pill. The shot. Anything to keep me from “doing it again”. No one asked if the father would be safe. What form of birth control he would use after. If he would make wiser choices. Or be a fulltime parent. In fact, when your a “baby daddy”, society mostly assumes you will be a check.
I have not chosen to label myself based on those terms. I have also decided to put thought and time into finding the right man. Through my maturity and experiences, I have began to understand what it means and takes to be a parent. I made my child and birthed her. But that is not what makes me a mother. What makes me a mother are my daily sacrifices and obstacles that I choose to overcome for my child. I did not anticipate having a child at 17 but I knew what sex led to. I do everything in my power to be there for everything. To raise her with morals, values and an understanding of the world around her. That’s what a mother does.
A father is not defined by the money they send through a check or the fake stories they tell people. If you receive a card once a year from the man who made you, guess what? He’s not a father. A sperm does not equal a parent. What makes a father is a man who is willing and able to put his time into his child. His sacrifices and his love are constant. His efforts are not begged for. His time is not precious but rather a gift for the child. He makes choices to benefit his child. Helps with the work and the obstacles that comes with parenthood. Whether a couple stays together or not, a father is someone who does not abandon the child. For anything.
What is hard to swallow is that people still judge me for being young and impulsive. It is wrong to judge anyone. It is also wrong to push high standards on women over men. To not put any standards on men who make children without putting in the work. That’s proof of patriarchy at its finest. For it to be acceptable for males to not sacrifice the same as the female they made a child with should be a crime. But in most states it isn’t. And in fact, family court values parenting as nothing more than a sperm and egg. Even if you are unmarried, a single mother is not protected fully by law. Nor is she supported when the father is abusive or a “deadbeat” aka not involved. It is all black and white. No shades of gray to protect the child. That’s the sad truth.
What I do wish to impart on my peers is the importance of self worth. Of choosing a partner that is both trustworthy and intelligent. Compassionate and raised with morals. When you choose a partner to father children with, do it wisely. No matter what type of union you are in, either straight, gay, married or unmarried know the importance of mate selection. Know how to protect yourself when being sexually active. Most importantly, research and know all of your rights. Understand your responsibilities before bringing children into the world. Something so intimate and special should be one of the most important choices you will ever make. Parenthood should never be taken lightheartedly.