All right, fair warning. I’m going to have a soapbox-kind of moment.
A story broke recently out of Tennessee about a man who is asking his county and state for help to pay for the support of his children. That is because 33-year-old Desmond Hatchett has 30 children with 11 different women. All I could think when I first saw this was, “Wow, someone didn’t pay attention in health class.”
Back in 2009, Hatchett held the county record for having the most kids. He had 21 children at the time and said in an interview he didn’t plan to have any more. If you ask me, not a lot of forethought went into the ones he had already fathered. Alas, the best-laid plans sometimes go awry, because he had nine more kids in the next three years or so. Do the math, and you’ll almost be impressed if you weren’t too busy being outraged.
He still holds the record, and there are no laws against fathering a gaggle of babies. Hatchett admitted to a reporter recently he had twice over the past few years had four children in the same year. Seriously, that’s not parenting – that is collecting. There’s a huge difference between having a large family – I know several people who have a family of 10 or more – and having a collection of illegitimate kids.
Now, you have to wonder what would possess a woman to look at this guy who had already fathered a couple kids from her and think to herself, “Yep, I’m going to hang out with him some more.” It isn’t like his litter of kids is a secret to any of them once they have participated once or twice in his lack of family planning.
I know pregnancy can be unexpected. In this case, I would think after the 16th or 17th child, unexpected is not the right word. “Likely” or “presumed” seems more fitting.
I wonder when the mothers of some of his children first started getting dismayed over the fact he was still adding to the herd. Did it take the one who rounded things up to an even dozen? The one who brought the number up to 20? Did those women ever look around the room at their children and think, “You know, I really ought to keep birth control on hand” or maybe occur to them to not sleep with him again? After all, the guy works a minimum wage job and turns half of it over to the birth mothers because the state says he has to. Some get less than $2 a month per child.
Think about the people who can’t have children, but would give everything they own to have a baby to love.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the dynamics of family are changing, and that the word “family” isn’t automatically defined as a man, woman and child living together in perfect harmony. Families come in many shapes and sizes, and even people who have a baby but decide not to live as a couple can do a wonderful job at giving the child a safe, secure and loving environment. Single parents do a wonderful job at the same thing, and non-traditional families thrive all over the world. But a situation like this makes a mockery out of so much.
It also brings up something that bugs me. I really dislike the terms “baby daddy” and “baby mommy,” because I think having those titles accepted by society gives people a way to take a step back from the responsibility of being true parents, or being part of a true family. Blithely referring to a parent as a baby mommy or baby daddy like it is no big deal to unintentionally whip out a kid now and then seems irreverent and shallow. Like there was no love involved, just irresponsible gratification.
To be blunt, I think that people need to stop treating sex along the same lines they would treat a handshake. It isn’t an icebreaker or a way to get to know a person you’ve just met. It isn’t a greeting. There’s a responsibility that comes with it, just like there is for driving a car or holding a job. Would a prospective employer hire someone who had been fired 30 times? Would the state laws look away if a person caused 30 fatal accidents?
Some people may disagree, but I think when it became the norm for young women to run around having several kids by several young men without any kind of emotional commitment between the two, a lot of little lives are affected. There are 30 in Tennessee who seem to have come into the world with the odds stacked against them, simply because the two people who created them didn’t take personal responsibility for what they were doing.
Many people say having a baby is never an accident, and in this case, it certainly couldn’t be termed a surprise after Hatchett leapt over double digits as a father. Babies are a joyous thing, and I would imagine the one man and 11 women involved in creating these 30 kids have feelings for their children. Still, that doesn’t make it right.