Quite a while back, I blogged about the subject of older single Orthodox Jewish women being permitted to have children out of wedlock, by a ruling of a rabbi who is, apparently, particularly aware of their plight. Today, I'm bringing this up again, inspired by a post written by A Mom in
Last time I discussed this subject here, I received quite a few comments telling me that as someone who got married at 22 and had her first child at 23, I have no idea what it's like for a woman to be in her late 30's with no perspective of marriage in sight. That is so. I know, however, what it's like to grow up having no idea who your father was.
The detachment between fathers and children, essentially fatherlessness, is one of the greatest tragedies of our generation. Sexual promiscuity and rampant divorce have caused a dramatic rise in the number of children who were either born to mothers who accidentally got pregnant out of wedlock, or to couples who split up before or after marriage. I don't care what wishy-washy PC surveys have to say – a child, doesn't matter if it's a boy or girl, needs the balancing presence of a mother and father. That's how God intended it and that's how things have been in the vast majority of cases throughout history.
How we were raised leaves a lingering impact on our lives, and often, the older we are the more prominent it is. I feel it stronger than ever now that I'm a wife and mother myself and facing the challenge of raising my child (and any day now, God willing, a second baby).
Many of my friends and schoolmates were raised by single mothers, but it's comforting to know they all at least knew who their father was, and most of them visited and kept in touch, too. They had a name, a face, memories, heritage, family on their father's side. It isn't ideal but they didn't have to grow up wondering who they actually were. Even in the tragic circumstance of a father dying before his child is born, there are pictures to look at and stories to tell. I, on the other hand, felt and still and will always feel, as though part of me is missing.
One must also consider the attitude of mothers who choose to become pregnant out of wedlock by artificial insemination or IVF (which supposedly makes it more "kosher" than having a child through unmarried sex). Widows and widowers obviously become single parents through no fault of their own. People who divorce after they have children, however tragic it is, still probably started at some point with the intention of being married for a lifetime. Even those "accidentally" pregnant mothers are putting up with consequences rather than making choices which, put together, comprise a disastrous social phenomenon. But those who say, "I want a child of my own and I will have it, whatever it takes, married or not," are acting out of selfishness. They devalue marriage and family and will pass on a similar message to their children. These children won't just grow up without a father; it's very likely they will receive a "we don't really need men" or "marriage isn't necessary" message.
A rabbi who endorses this view through finding a technical loophole in the Halacha and cynically pointing others to it, doesn't fully realize how he distorts Jewish values and the concept of the Jewish family. I wonder how many children he knows who were born to "single by choice" mothers, and how he dares to brush aside their well-being by saying "the benefit of the child who doesn't exist yet, doesn't hold water." What will he tell in 10, 15, 20 years to children who were born as a result of his ruling, and grew up with a distorted view of family and marriage?
I realize I can only imagine the desperate ticking of a biological clock belonging to a 37-year-old single. But I think what these older single women should realize is that our children aren't really our own. They belong to the Almighty, and we are only stewards of their precious souls. A child is not a trophy, not something you put on your list of achievements. Once we approach the matter through a position of selflessness, the argument of "but I want" is largely eliminated.
And what of adoption? I think that if the matter is being alone and yearning to give, rabbis should rally together to make it easier and more acceptable for older Jewish singles to adopt. There are many children who struggle for years without finding a family; for them, even a single parent would be infinitely better than no family at all. True, it would not allow a woman to have the joyful experience of carrying and nursing her own baby, but it would bring two lonely hearts together, it would give her a chance to open her arms and lavish truly selfless love upon a needy child. That, in my opinion, would be a true win-win situation for all.