I’m really late on blogging on this. An article ran in the NY Times a few weeks ago about the plight of single mothers in South Korea. I think most of us would agree that being a single mother might not be the most ideal situation. Parenting is tough, tough work and I wouldn’t really WANT to be doing it on my own. BUT, if it came down to it, if that is the direction my life had taken, I could do it. I would personally muster up the strength to do it. I would go to work full time. My family would help as much as they could. Life would go on.
This would not be the case in South Korea. If an single woman becomes pregnant, she could find herself pressured by her very own family to have an abortion (in fact, nearly 96% of unwed mothers in S. Korea choose abortion. 96 percent.). Consider this quote from the article: “Once you become an unwed mom, you’re branded as immoral and a failure. People treat you as if you had committed a crime. You fall to the bottom rung of society.” Can you imagine your own family changing their phone number in order to keep you from finding them? I cannot imagine doing anything so horrible that my family would do this.
Here is a small excerpt from the article:
Families whose unmarried daughters become pregnant sometimes move to conceal the pregnancy. Unwed mothers often lie about their marital status for fear they will be evicted by landlords and their children ostracized at school. Only about a quarter of South Koreans are willing to have a close relationship with an unwed mother as a coworker or neighbor, according to a recent survey by the government-financed Korean Women’s Development Institute.
“I was turned down eight times in job applications,” Ms. Lee said. “Each time a company learned that I was an unwed mom, it accused me of dishonesty.”
I wanted to shed some light on this because the intensity of this problem was news to me. I think a lot of people see a birthmother’s decision to relinquish her child as a “shiny, happy, I love you so much, I’m doing this for you, oh how sweet” kind of thing. More and more I am beginning to realize that this is almost always NOT the case.
Sometimes it is more about “I love you, but because of our situation and our culture, if I keep you, our entire family will shun us forever. By the simple act of being your mother, I may never be able to secure housing or employment. We will both be looked upon as the lowest of the low for the rest of our lives, and you may not have any opportunity in your life.” That does not give me the adoption warm fuzzies. But it is the truth. It does not mean these mothers didn’t want or love their children. It means that they were among the brave 4%. The 4% who didn’t choose abortion. They didn’t succumb to pressure from family, friends, society. They valued the life they carried and made the only decision that their lives (as they knew it) allowed.
There are a few small groups coming around who are seeking to defend the rights of unwed mothers to raise their own children. I hope they grow, and I hope change does come around. I do believe that the best place for a child is with their original family in almost every situation. Single mothers or not.
Jason and I were both raised by single mothers, as both of our parents were divorced when we were very young. No, I don’t believe it was the most ideal situation we could have ever been in. However, I don’t think a solution would have been to send us to a foreign country away from our language and culture while cutting all ties with our birth family…..just so we could be raised by a mom AND a dad. There’s got to be a better way.