Single Moms, Divorced Moms, Widows . . . One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

As Dalrock recently pointed out, feminists claim precedent for “non-traditional family structures” (single moms and same-sex parents) by pointing to widowed families. “After all,” they protest, “what about kids being raised by widows or widowers? They do just fine! Are you going to tell them they’re permanently scarred just because they didn’t have a parent of each sex?”

Dalrock argues that widowed families are an exception that become unsustainable if they become too widespread: “what is possible as an exception isn’t something we can build a society on.” However, I would also argue that the daily reality of widowed families is radically different than that of families made incomplete by divorce, illegitimacy, sperm donation, etc.

Take the example of a family that loses the father to tragic, early death. From what I’ve observed of these families, a widow with children usually ensures her late husband’s continued influence on the household. She hangs his picture on the wall, shares his life story with the children (if they never knew him), and often implores the children to respect his memory through making proper life choices. She usually tries to remain on good terms with his family so that the children will have access to the other half of their heritage. Often, the children also gain material resources from their father’s family, which prevents them from needing extensive government welfare.

In contrast, the woman who divorces or never marries her children’s father does not instill respect for him in the children. Even if the children can visit their father (usually every weekend, or every other weekend, in “joint custody” arrangements), he has been deprived of his unique paternal role through being deprived of their respect. They may also be able to visit their paternal relatives, but their holidays and vacations are already filled with visits to their mother’s and stepfather’s families. They probably receive “child support” from their father, but since maintaining two households is more costly than maintaining one, it may not be enough to meet all their needs, thus necessitating more demand for free government-paid health care, college tuition, etc.

But such comparisons between widowed and broken homes shouldn’t even be necessary, because it should be obvious that there is a tragedy at the root of every widowed family. I think that most families who have lost a parent to death would be the first to admit that their situation is not ideal. If they could bring their lost member back from the dead, they would. Therefore, adopting their situation as normative is a bit like saying that, because some people manage to live fulfilling lives after losing a leg, we ought to forcibly amputate everyone’s leg. If our society can’t understand that widowhood is a tragedy, then we are already lost.


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