Most helpful positive review
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Very readable, sane take on a controversial topic
on May 13, 2002
In "On Our Own" Melissa Ludtke, a professional journalist, sets out to uncover the experiences of "unmarried mothers" in America for a very personal reason. She is in her late 30s and struggling with the decision to become a mother herself. In a series of alternating chapters, Ludtke discusses the experiences of two disparate groups of unmarried mothers, young, poor women and older, more financially secure women. Three key questions guide the core of this book, why to have a baby, how to raise children and ways to explain the absence or anonymity of "fathers." The book is based on interviews with 30 women with whom Ludtke visited repeatedly over the course of several years. The introductory chapter and the conclusion provide an overview of the status of unmarried motherhood in America and Ludtke deftly interweaves scholarly research about unmarried mothers into her book. However, Ludtke has sidestepped many of the traditional pitfalls in discussing this controversial issue by focusing on individual women who confound ...typical generalizations. Her subjects include a teen mother attending an Ivy League school and an older professional woman whose best-laid plans go awry when she is laid off suddenly.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of this book is how unrelenting difficult unmarried motherhood really is. Dispirited teen mothers and successful professional women alike struggle to fit their families into a society that still assumes the nuclear family is the norm. While these mothers share their travails with divorced custodial parents, they live with the knowledge, and sometimes societal condemnation, that they chose this route. Parenting alone is a best second choice for almost all of the 30 women Ludtke interviewed. While few of the teen mothers desired marriage to the men who impregnated them, they work diligently to include the biological fathers in the lives of their children with varying degrees of success. The knowledge that "father" will be an anonymous sperm donor plagues many of the thirty-something women to such an extent that several have engineered ways to have a known father in their child's life while others have found father substitutes.
Ludtke avoids the question of whether women should pursue unmarried motherhood by compiling a statistical projections that show that by the year 2004, unmarried mothers will reach 50%. So whether society is ready for them or not, it needs to start preparing to meet their needs. She focuses most of her suggestions on young unmarried mothers who may be less able to care for themselves. While this approach may anger those who wish for a more polemical ending, it is very in keeping with Ludtke's balanced approach throughout the book.