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An Unwed Mother for Quayle


Some readers may remember the squall over Dan Quayle and Murphy Brown.

Father Richard John Neuhaus

Some readers may remember the squall over Dan Quayle and Murphy Brown. At that time Maggie Gallagher published anon the op-ed page of the New York Times An Unwed Mother for Quayle, and it deserves not to get lost in the memory hole of yesterday's news. Ms. Gallagher, too, is a journalist and unwed mother, but in the real world. After ten years as an unwed mother, she has some thoughts on what it takes. For women thinking of raising children outside marriage, she says, it helps to:

  1. Have relatively affluent parents who got and stayed married themselves. That way you can rely on their marriage, rather than your own, to give your child the emotional and financial emergency support system he or she needs.

  2. Be able to choose a profession with flexible hours that allow you to take time out and work from home, and be sure to get an Ivy League degree first.

  3. (This one is especially tricky.) Find a boss who doesn't mind if you bring a sick 4-year-old and his dinosaurs to the office, which will happen regularly.

  4. Accept that, even if you make a good living, you are going to have far less money than anyone you know except for other single mothers.

  5. Expect to give up all the advantages of single life freedom, romance, travel and receive none of the advantages of marriage emotional, logistical, and financial support.

  6. Prepare for the nights when your child cries himself to sleep in your arms, wondering why his father doesn't love him. (If your child is allowed to express his real feelings, there will be many such occasions.)

The evidence that marriage is the best social program ever invented for raising children is overwhelming. A single woman with all the resources and assistance available to the privileged will soon discover the pain of a child's awareness of the irreplaceability of a father. Gallagher writes: As Murphy Brown would find out if she were a real person and not a Hollywood fantasy, children not only need a father, they long for one, irrationally, with all the undiluted strength of a child's hopeful heart. To raise one's own child without a father may, at times, be a painful and tragic necessity, but it should never be just another lifestyle option...We have to stop pretending that all choices are equally good that single motherhood is just an alternative family form and that fathers are just another new disposable item in the nursery. St. Augustine somewhere writes about the undiluted longing of a child's hopeful heart with respect to another Father. The two, we suspect, are intimately entangled in ways that surpass our understanding.



Neuhaus, Richard J. Public Square. First Things 29 (January 1993): 59.

Reprinted with permission of First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life, 156 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010. To subscribe to First Things call 1-800-783-4903.

The Author

NeuhausNeuhaus4 Father Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009) was a prominent Catholic priest, Editor-in-Chief of First Things and the author of many books, including As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning, The End of Democracy?: The Celebrated First Things Debate with Arguments Pro and Con and "The Anatomy of a Controversy", Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross, The Second One Thousand Years: Ten People Who Defined a Millennium, Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission, The Best of "The Public Square": Book One, The Best of "The Public Square": Book Two, The Chosen People in an Almost Chosen Nation: Jews and Judaism in America, and The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America.

Copyright © 1993 First Things
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