The story could be repeated countless times. Cindy—not her real name—was born to a single mom in Milwaukee; no father in her life. Her mom could have chosen abortion; fortunately she made the right choice and chose life. Mom struggled to make ends meet but was dealing with her own issues in addition to rearing a child by herself. Her grandmother became the strongest and most reliable influence in Cindy’s life—taking her to church, praying with her, in general being there for her. Eventually Cindy wound up in the foster care system and experienced some pretty rough knocks in her teen years and early twenties. Life was rough. She saw a lot of the seamy side of it.
It took some time, but by God’s grace, Cindy was spared some of the worst things that can happen as a result of an upbringing such as hers. She got a college education, found a good job, and took on adult responsibilities. In a recent conversation with her, Cindy said in a completely unsolicited comment, “You know, I think if I had had a father in my life, things would have been different.”
Cindy knows, intuitively or otherwise, that being born to a single mom with no father around put her in a dangerous situation and at a distinct disadvantage to actually grow up and thrive. Today, nearly 40% of babies born in Wisconsin are born to single mothers. In Milwaukee, that number skyrockets to over 80%.
Cindy happens to be biracial but really her race is immaterial. Family matters regardless of one’s race. Children of any race or ethnicity do better when they are brought up by their married moms and dads. Thousands of research studies confirm this. Experience confirms it. But yet we pay little to no attention to this incredible truth.
Our state legislature still is unwilling to grapple with this situation in any kind of meaningful way. Unwed childbirth and divorce, which is nearly as harmful to children as being born to a single mom, cost our state over $737 million each year. I hear every day from sitting officials and candidates that the only issue worth talking about and the only one anyone is interested in is the economy and jobs. Well, how about we deal in some significant way with that $737 million number? How about weaning women off taxpayer-funded handouts that encourage them to keep having children without being married to the father of their children?
How about providing real incentives for men to marry the mothers of their children and to be around for the children they bring into being? How about modifying our divorce laws so that couples with minor children, in marriages where adultery, abuse, and abandonment are absent, are required to attend classes that show the effect of divorce on their children and extending the waiting period before such a divorce is finalized?
How about honestly and aggressively promoting marriage by championing it instead of dismissing it or worse redefining it to ensure that legally some children will never have both a mother and a father?
After all, judges keep telling us that all children need is people who “love” them and provide for them—whatever that may mean to any particular judge. Federal judges around the country have determined they know better than the experts in this area and have decreed children don’t need both their mother and father—they just need people…two men or two women—it’s all the same. Two men or two women can give a child everything he or she needs to grow up to be well-adjusted, healthy, productive, contributing citizens. If nothing else, that’s a denial of reality.
And then there’s the president who campaigned saying he believed marriage is between one man and one woman, and early in his presidency made a point of saying how important fathers are in the lives of their children. Fast forward several years, and we finally get the truth from this man who would be king: he really believes marriage should be redefined to include at the very least two men and two women because, don’t you know, they are in loving and committed relationships—whatever that may mean. By promoting this marriage de-construction, the president was also essentially saying gender and inborn gender differences are meaningless and that fathers really aren’t all that important.
Cindy would not agree. She knows, from very real personal experience, that her life would have likely been considerably different—and much better—if she had had a father involved in her life. And by the way, God, the creator of male and female and the One Who instituted marriage, doesn’t agree either.
For all the Cindys in Wisconsin, we need to get serious about this marriage thing. Mothers and fathers—men and women–really do matter to children. Woe to Wisconsin if we keep ignoring both research and reality.