Sexual double standards are obsolete and allow women to have children with different people

“One minute you’re the new Einstein and the next you’re sitting in an apartment as a single mother.” I read this headline, above a column by Daniela Hooghiemstra in this newspaper, as a single mother of a baby. My situation was not what society or I expected. When a neighbor repeatedly asked me where my husband was, I at first sheepishly responded, “At work.”

A romantic relationship with a child as the crowning glory of love is our cultural ideal. The ended relationship has ‘failed’. Single-parent families – even though they are increasingly numerous – are still considered deviant, “broken.” As if everyone wants to find a partner at home.

About the Author
Lotte Houwink ten CateHe is a historian. He received his doctorate from Columbia University in New York on second-wave feminism. In June she is a guest columnist at volkkrant.nl/opinie.
Columnists are free to express their opinions and do not have to adhere to journalistic rules of objectivity. Read more about our policy here.
Previous contributions to this discussion can be found at the end of this article.

Because people don’t seem to realize that motherhood also has great advantages outside of the traditional family form. We mentioned: autonomy, freedom, not arguing, whining and routine. And a sex life with men with whom there is no need to fight over caring responsibilities. It is hard work. But so do many married mothers.

Couples with children separate more often today than in the past, and US research shows that around 70 per cent of divorces are filed by the woman. It’s surprising that men often don’t see it coming. The women’s decision can be seen as social progress, as a sign that emancipated women expect more from men. Those who are financially independent can, and usually do, raise the bar.

That’s why it’s notable that Hooghiemstra raises single motherhood as an example of how “life, once you’re an adult, is often disappointing.” Her expression “quiet in an apartment” primarily expresses classism and an overt disdain for poverty.

The demonization of the single mother is eternal. Her story moves between the feminine archetypes of the Mother and the Whore. For centuries she was a fallen woman, a sign of moral degeneration. In the book Mothers at a distance Christel Don describes how many thousands of single women were forced to give up their children well into the 20th century. While men chose the well-trodden path, the shame of an “illegitimate” child fell on women.

The percentage of single mothers is still considered a measure of social unrest. But when single parenthood has a negative impact on children, it is mainly due to socioeconomic inequality. Single mothers are the largest group at risk of living in poverty and are more likely to experience stigma and lack of social support. Therefore, single parents and their children only benefit from concrete help, and not from comments from third parties about how “difficult” and “lonely” it must be.

Creating flourishing conditions for single-parent families is also a feminist opportunity. The birth rate is falling and it is not because women do not want to have children. There are more and more women who postpone their desire to have children due to the lack of an equal partner. We hear little about why men often don’t want to have children and want to wait so long. Delay carries an increasing risk of failure. And this, even for men, by definition entails a loss in the number of years he shares life with his child.

There is no lack of seeds. Just try to find someone who is willing to carry a child for nine months and take on most of the care for the next eighteen years. Therefore, the dissociation of reproduction and the desire for romantic love gives women a position of relative power. To achieve this, it is crucial that sexual double standards be put to an end. And it is increasingly normal for women, like men, to have children with different people.

The German feminist Teresa Bücker recently gave the floor to a woman in her 80s in her newsletter: ‘It was always my dream to have three children by three men. Unfortunately, only two sons of two men made it.’ Getting off the patriarchal path: With the right social support, it’s not about lazing around, but about living an independent life.

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