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A Shotgun Wedding Invitation? | Psychology Today Canada

Carrie Knowles

What does a newborn baby need? Are we ready to take on the responsibility of providing for that child?

Source: Carrie Knowles

I was thinking about Texas this morning, wondering if there was going to be a resurgence of shotgun weddings. There’s nothing quite like a wedding planned and executed by the parents of the bride, encouraging the young man who got his daughter into trouble to marry her so as not bring shame to their family.

A quick shotgun wedding, before things begin to show and neighbors begin to talk, allows the family of the bride to avoid scandal and shame. With their daughter married, the family is now absolved of having to provide for their daughter and her unborn child.

If the daughter refuses to marry the biological father, she risks the stigma of being labeled “that kind of girl” and will most likely be shamed and shunned by her family and the community. So, she moves out of her parents’ home, drops out of high school or college, or leaves her job when the baby comes due. In short, she loses whatever promise of financial independence she once had.

Even if the woman is willing to get married, the biological father often walks away after the baby arrives. Who is responsible then?

Some would argue that every unborn child has a right to life. I would argue they have the right to a decent life and we, as a society, have an obligation and a responsibility to ensure that every mother and child is cared for and protected.

The first thing we need to do is change the way we label women who are facing an unwanted pregnancy. They are not sluts, loose women, lazy, or welfare takers and should not be shamed or blamed for their circumstances. Some unwanted pregnancies are the result of passion, but many are the result of violence.

Any woman who carries a baby to term is a warrior. They sacrifice sleep, endure pain, and forgo their own dreams for the sake of their unborn child. They are not to be messed with.

If they don’t have support from their families or the fathers of their children, they need laws and programs in place to help them raise their children. It’s impossible to do it alone, no matter who you are or what your circumstances.

The average cost of childcare in the U.S. is $1,300 a month or $16,000 a year. In urban areas, childcare can cost as much as $1,500-$2,000 a month, or $18,000-$24,000 a year. Given our current lack of free daycare and preschool programs, professional childcare is a financial burden most single mothers face for a minimum of five years, or, $80,000 to $120,000 per child until kindergarten.

If the mother has a high school education or even a couple years of college and is lucky enough to land a full-time job paying $15 an hour, she could have an annual income of about $30,000. With $16,000 a year childcare expenses, not much would be left for housing, food, transportation, healthcare, utility bills, or clothing. If she can only find a job that pays minimum wage at $7.25 an hour and can get full-time employment, her gross salary would be about $14,500 a year, not enough to cover even childcare costs, let alone housing, food, etc.

On the issue of childcare alone, it’s clear that taking on the life and well-being of a child is a big and expensive task. But childcare is just one piece of what is needed: there’s food, shelter, and healthcare as well.

What about the life of the mother? Are we not responsible for helping that woman get a full range of health care, including counseling, from the first heartbeat of the unborn child? What about education that will make it possible for her to get a better job? Or the down payment on a home for her and her child?

It’s easy to quote inspiring ideas, such as, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s quite another to make that village a responsible player in the mother and child’s lives.

I doubt that shotgun weddings are the answer. They never were. Neither is holding a biological father’s feet to the legal fire for child support. Ask any single mom who has had to go to court again and again to get those payments.

If we expect women to carry a child to term because we believe every child has a right to life, then we must be prepared to embrace that mother and child as full members of society’s greater family and take on the real responsibility of helping both mother and child flourish.

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