The Birth Right: By The Numbers

Here’s part two in the series looking at the social impact of some issues surrounding fertility.

Natasha B. asks: “Why is it men like to lie about how many kids they have? Why are women women still being judged on the number of kids they have, especially if it’s with more than one man?”

Because we still hold women to the higher standard of being the keepers of both the family and chastity.

It’s a given part of being human – the capacity to create life. Now, not everyone who can create life are fit to be parent. It’s an unfortunate fact that is often highlighted in the stories of child abuse that we hear in the news and witness in the community. It is always imperative that kids are in good homes (emotionally, financial and socially) to give them the best chances of survival.

Yet, today’s commentary is about the gamesmanship some parents can play with regards to the disclosure of the number of children that they have. This sutff can get very gendered, very quickly in some cases – depending on that parent’s motives and lived experiences.

Now, the regulars here know I’m pretty supportive of parents, especially single parenting. Where things can get tricky for parents when dating is the disclosure of kids – especially if different parents are involved.

I remember dating an ex who had three kids two different dads from two failed marriages. One day we were talking about children and she shared a comment her brother made. Essentially, her brother (who loves her to death) called me crazy for even dating his sister at the time because she had three kids. That comment struck me because there was so much to unpack in terms of perceptions. Firstly, the fact that his sister was a single parent of three after two failed marriages; the fact that her kids, and more importantly her relationships with their fathers, made her less desirable; and the character of the man who wants to be with her must be off or incapable for finding someone to make his own family with, or is merely exploitating the vulnerability of a single mother.

Constrast those judgements with a man who has multiple children with different women. A famous case is pro football player Anthony Cromartie, aged 33, who is the father of 14 children with multiple mothers. Now the jokes I’ve heard are criminal. Some people have shamed him for being irresponsible, some people have even questioned the women’s role. From what I was made aware, he’s an active participant with his kids (married to his current spouse who has children for him) and even had kids after a vasectomy a few years ago. I grew up of hearing stories of men gathering this many children, some with one mother, others with multiple ones.

Yet the stigma between men and women in this situation while very different has the common overtone of being labeled in a negative light for having “that many children”. It’s almost like society says you should have “a certain number of children and with only one person”. But, as we know, contemporary society is a lot more complicated than this stereotypical unwritten rule.

I suppose it gets messy when people don’t (or aren’t able to) claim responsibility for children made. Some of these stereotypes for men who mutliple children with multiple women arose from how the children were made in the first place. The men in those situations are labeled wild, untamable and lazy (especially if they have difficulty or little interest in supporting the children); the women are seen as idiots, naive and even more irresponsible. But I’ve seen cases where people want to do the right thing but cannot. I had a college friend who was the product of an affair and was barred from building a relationship with her father simply because his wife forced him to cut ties in order to save their marriage.

So there’s lots of shame, guilt and social desirability issues with this topic. Ot can be that much harder for a  male who has multiple children (especially with multiple mothers) to focus on the needs of the new woman on the block. It may take more resources of time, money and patience to be with a woman with multiple children. It’s important for one to be in tune with what you desire in a partner. For me, incompatibility in other areas moreso than parental status/ “baby daddy drama” led to that ex and I going separate ways. It’s just that without being anchored in one’s own interests and desires are, situations such as these can often spin out of control. Part of that is being honest with the other person; at the end of the day, it’s a package deal – no matter how many children one’s claiming that they have.

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