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Jewish World Review April 1, 2003 / 28 Adar II, 5763

Betsy Hart

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Consumer Reports

The right to kids -- when and how -- I want them | The 1970s hit situation comedy, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," had a breakthrough premise: a career woman who was thirtyish - and single. It was only barely ahead of its time.

Fast forward 30 years, and today the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" producers would likely think about adding an adopted child to the picture.

And that theme wouldn't be ahead of its time at all.

Last year, according to the Christian Science Monitor, an astonishing one-third of adoptive parents in the United States were single women. Most in their 30s and 40s.

Meanwhile, some of the "older sisters" of these women, both married and single, have been in the news of late for going to extraordinary lengths to bear children into their fifties and even their sixties.

Former morning show host Joan Lunden, age 52, hired a surrogate mom to bear a child, in this case twins, for her and her husband. (She has three grown daughters from a previous marriage.)

In so many ways, this makes a lot of sense. No matter what our feminist foremothers told us - "home and family be darned, pursue a career, that's what will make you happy" - no matter how much they tried to socially reengineer us, the truth remains that most women want children most of all.

But now that profound and deep "want" has been mixed with baby boomer self-obsession to produce "I have a RIGHT to kids - when and how I want them."

Some women are stunned to find that they waited until they were too old to have kids, sometimes way too old, even when Mr. Right was in the picture. Other women, for a variety of reasons, didn't find Mr. Right at the right time, or they didn't find him at all. But no matter what the history, today it seems almost scandalous to suggest that women don't have an innate "right" to have children on their terms and their terms alone.

Melissa Ludtke, author of "On Our Own," a book about single women who choose to adopt or bear children, offered this advice in the Monitor: "I'd ask. . .Has she (the prospective mom) ever gone out and priced quality day care, whatever she can afford? Also look into after-school care."

But this is not a pet we're talking about. And in fact, many of the same single women who wouldn't dare adopt a dog because of their long working hours or other obligations are, apparently, willing to adopt or bear a child. (Yes, many married working moms do the same thing, but that's a subject for another column.)

On the other hand, many of these single adoptive moms surely do provide loving homes.

And some have even rescued children with special needs or from overseas.

What's consistent is that in all these stories it's typically the woman's priorities and desires alone which are taken into account. Any implications for the child, if considered at all, are considered irrelevant. (It should be obvious that this is the flip-side of our abortion culture, but that's another column too.) In the entire, lengthy news article on these moms in the Monitor, there was not one mention of how single motherhood might affect the child.

Nor was there any suggestion that even trying to first find a worthy mate would be a noble goal.

It's not about the fact that the best situation, in every way, is for a child to be raised by a mom and dad who are married (nor is it even about the reality that this isn't always possible). Today everybody, including single moms-to-be who trot off to the adoption agency, or the sperm bank for that matter, pays lip service to the best-case scenario of two parents raising kids. This is about the fact that over and over again, these women are saying that their "right" or "need" to be a mom on their terms, even one single or elderly, overrides consideration of the child's best interests.

As one single mom put it, essentially summing up the Monitor piece, "it's been glorious to have a child in my life. . ."

Welcome to the world of "it's all about what's best for me me me."

But single or married, a "me-mom" is not giving her child her best.

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JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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