Wednesday 16 February 2022

Squires: Children will pay the cost if Van Jones and ‘conscious co-parents’ get their way

 CNN political analyst Van Jones recently announced that he is now a father of three. Jones divorced his wife in 2018, so the announcement was something of a surprise. Here is what Jones told TMZ:

"After the COVID lockdown, I got clear that I wanted another kid. I discovered that my friend Noemi also wanted a baby. So, we decided to join forces and become conscious co-parents. It’s a concept that I hope more people will explore and consider."

Jones claimed that he and the baby’s mother, Noemi Zamacona, made their decision to “consciously co-parent” over a meal — a perfect reflection of the narcissistic approach to parenting that is all too common in America today.

Jones’ decision is bad enough, but his suggestion that other people should do the same is even worse.

Over the past 50 years, marriage has steadily become a luxury good, concentrated among the college-educated and upwardly mobile. The decline in marriage among low-income and working-class adults is a source of great concern for social scientists who track the consequences of family instability and father absence. If it starts to erode among the most financially stable Americans, then family life in this country will be changed forever. 

Children are being squeezed on all sides. Low-income children often have parents who themselves have a history of chaotic family life. These children are born into environments in which marriage is not even a consideration for their parents. They often have multiple half-siblings because both mom and dad have children with other people. Resources are scarce, and reliance on the government for basic needs is common.

There are also the children of divorce who have seen the good, bad, and ugly of marriage up close. Society used to see these children as the collateral damage of unions that fell apart. That perception made kids sympathetic figures in a culture that valued family stability. Now their feelings are rarely even acknowledged in the genre of essays and books from female authors about how divorce made their lives better.

One Atlantic essay entitled “How I Demolished My Life” details the author’s decision to divorce her husband and upend the lives of her children. It was a quest to “find herself” and gain meaning outside her family.

This is increasingly becoming the norm in American culture – self-indulgent and narcissistic pursuits framed as acts of liberation and self-actualization.

Jones and Zamacona are no different. Our culture’s tendency to decouple marriage and child-rearing has effectively turned a relationship buffet — with marriage being the price of entry to lifelong companionship and parenthood — into an a la carte arrangement, where people who are afraid of a lifetime connection to each other willingly decide to have children together.

I don’t use the language of entitlement often, but children deserve to be raised by loving parents committed to one another and the well-being of their offspring.

People who reflexively oppose that position typically subscribe to a worldview that sees sex as a recreational, rather than reproductive, act. They focus on pleasure for adults rather than the type of relationship that gives children the best chance to live healthy, secure, productive lives.

This is the ultimate time frame error. The prospect of creating a family should make us think in terms of generations, not fleeting moments.

The inability — or unwillingness — to think about what’s best for our progeny is why the breakdown of the natural family unit is the biggest social issue facing the country today. That challenge presents a unique opportunity, because nonmarital birth rates have gone up for every ethnic group over the last 50 years. 

The decision to marry before having children is ultimately a matter of values and priorities. This is the case whether we are evaluating the behavior of low-income couples in the heartland or high-powered couples in Hollywood. That means efforts to reverse that trend can be built on a diverse coalition that spans race, class, and political affiliation.

The goal is to raise a generation of children who know what it is to feel loved, safe, and secure. Children deserve better than having uncommitted adults deciding to create a life over wings and fries at the local Applebee's.

Children who see fathers and mothers love and respect one another develop a template for fulfilling family life for their children. That is the message Van Jones should want more people to consider.

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