The wise say ‘You can lead a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink’. This could also roughly translate to ‘Society can try to pressure couples with a baby on the way to make a go for it ‘for the baby’s sake’, but if the couple are not good together and not meant to be, they will eventually part ways all the same’. Lengthier, but true.
I see it again and again, two people who would otherwise not continue dating past the third month, try to force themselves into continuing something against their will, heart and mind, just because one of them ‘got’ pregnant. Apart from the fact that it only takes only tiny little contraceptive to prevent this, WHY oh WHY cannot family, friends, and long-nosed push-over’s the world over realize that no matter how much you try to manipulate, stress, and bully someone into doing what is, according to you that is, ‘morally and socially acceptable’, this will not work, unless the two people in question are actually really in love in the first place? In which case, they would continue the relationship naturally, take the baby in their stride (though admittedly, this is not an easy thing to do even when a pregnancy is planned), and evolve as a healthy and normal couple without needing anyone’s pressure or solicitations.
The worst case scenario is when the two people try to convince themselves that they actually do feel something more than a passing fancy, or a falling-in-lust period, something permanent – since the child is obviously permanent too. You’d think this would be better, as the two would actually be trying to go along – however what this leads to is usually a prolonged period of agony. Sometimes years pass by, the child starts to grow into a sentient being, and soon realizes that something at home is just not right. His parents are different from his friends’. They are not loving towards each other, hardly touch, hardly even speak civilly. In fact, when one is in a room, the other is most often to be found at the other end of the house, if s/he is at home at all. And this takes place if they both, or singly, have not decided to have one or more extra-marital affairs, which is still yet another kettle of fish. Most people seem to believe that all this takes place ‘for the sake of the child’ – really? Do you think a child growing up in this atmosphere of tense unhappiness would be happy himself/herself?
Others are worried about social benefits, knowing there to be breaches and cases of fraud where people maintain that a child’s father is ‘unkown’, simply to gain a percentage of society’s hard earned cash. Yes, unfortunately it has been known for there to be people who took advantage of the social benefits offered, however does this make it right to put everyone into the same basket? Apart from that, the issue at hand concerns those couples who are forced into a relationship after the beginning of a pregnancy, not those who do not claim parentage.
Why not come out and say it? Single-parenthood, for many, seems to be a shameful smut on the family name, which is why most people simply tell their son/daughter to ‘shut up and take responsibility’. This does not mean ‘pay for your son’s upkeep and schooling and take care of him/her emotionally’, but ‘sacrifice your entire life making yourself and others believe that you love a partner whom you actually wouldn’t spend more than a few minutes with, precluding any chance of happiness with anyone else’. Is this fair? Is this practical? Is this tolerant, understanding and loving? Of course not, and yet, being subconsciously afraid of the stigma, people still do it. Probably I will have to start looking over my shoulder after this article is published – maybe someone will even proclaim that I’m a henchman (or in this case, henchwoman) of endless debaucheries and fornication. Simply put, this is how I see it.
What on earth is wrong with being a single parent? Both parents could have contact with their child, without the need of forcing themselves into enduring years and years of wasted life ‘shared’ with someone who’s less important to them than their favourite pair of socks! There is nothing wrong with a single parent enjoying a healthy relationship with his/her child. Does anyone tell off widowers/widows who take care of their children alone after a loss? No! Everyone considers them to be heroes for being so brave, strong and efficient and tackling the upbringing of a child on their own. So, why isn’t the same measure used for ALL single parents? The issue, once more, has got to do with the sex-taboo prevalent in many societies. Why let an issue which is present mostly due to lack of sexual education and awareness cloud our judgement and influence the life of many people so negatively?
We tiptoe around it, trying not to look, trying not to acknowledge this mentality which, unfortunately, is still here in this day and age. Isn’t it time we looked straight at it and tackled it heads-on?
—- A version of this blog article was published on the online magazine EVE here – http://www.eve.com.mt/2015/07/21/what-is-so-shameful-about-being-a-single-parent/