Janine Latus: You should be a model!

Janine Latus: You should be a model!

“We need rites of passage in this world that don’t include having babies. We need girls to stop feeling like women because they have babies and boys to stop feeling like men because they’ve spread their seed.”

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I’m going to take heat for this but there’s something wrong with what we consider normal these days, that a girl feels she matters more because she’s had a baby even though she’s planning to support that baby on welfare, no daddy in sight, because that has become the norm in some subsets of our culture. A generation ago programs like public housing and food stamps and WIC were meant to help people out for a couple of years while they found a way to go to school or get a job or somehow dig out of hard times. Now we’re talking about grandparents and parents and kids thinking public housing is where they live, where they should live, where they want to raise their babies so that those babies think it’s where they should raise their babies, and that is just not
right.

Right is waiting until you finish school and have married someone who is going to stick around and help raise those children. Right is insisting that men man up and support their families. Right is giving your children the example of getting out of public housing and off public assistance and going out and doing something big in the world.  See the effects of modeling?

I’m a single mother because of divorce, but I became a single mother well after I’d graduated from college, and my daughter’s dad is involved in her life both financially and emotionally. Even so, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t sacrifice something I want to do so I can supervise homework or drive carpool or sit and listen while my daughter worries about this or that. It is hard daily, and I chose this. I one hundred percent said, okey dokey, I will give up all kinds of stuff so I can be her mother.

Are you choosing that? Or are you saying that having a baby will finally make me
important, or having a baby will make me an adult, or maybe just if I give him sex he’ll love me?

Yes, having a baby equals love for a long time. Yes it means more money from the
government, which may mean your own apartment and your own world and no longer putting up with trash talk or smacks upside the head or being made to feel crappy by your father or boyfriend. That money may seem big now, but it doesn’t get bigger and it will never be enough. Being poor with a child is hard, especially when the baby daddy is out there crowing about how many women he’s bred while he’s not giving you a shiny dime to help that baby grow, let alone doing the tedious day-to-day stuff of parenting. And if he does come by, if he does tote the baby, people treat him like he’s some kind of saint.

That’s not how they’ll be treating you.

A man-friend of mine who is black and a cop and a dad talked to me today about how much political will it’s going to take for this to no longer be our norm. It’s going to take young people in the heat of lordy lordy to decide to use a condom. It’s going to take mothers and fathers – fathers! – to set the example of finishing high school and going to college, of moving out of poverty and doing things that make the world better.

We need rites of passage in this world that don’t include having babies. We need girls to stop feeling like women because they have babies and boys to stop feeling like men because they’ve spread their seed. That’s not working for the mothers, who give up the opportunity to do and be anything they want. It’s not working for the fathers, who don’t get the pride that comes from doing the right thing. And it’s not working for the children, who are going to grow up believing they don’t deserve better.

About Janine Latus

Janine Latus is best known as the author of the international bestseller If I Am Missing or Dead: a sister’s story of love, murder and liberation, which has made both the New York Times and Sunday Times (of London) bestseller lists. She is a compelling teacher and speaker, and spokeswoman for Amy’s Courage Fund, which gives money directly to women who need out of abusive relationships.

As a magazine writer she has busked on the streets of Chicago to write about what it’s like to sing for your supper. She has galloped the beaches of the Dominican Republic, eaten her way through Kansas City and danced herself into a frenzy, all to gather the kind of you-are-there details that make a story sing. She has coaxed women to tell her how much they weigh and why, and couples to admit how much they earn, how they spend their money and what they’d like to do differently. She has cried along with women as they described surviving mastectomies, and wept with their family members when they did not.

Her work has appeared in O, the Oprah magazine, More, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Parents, All You, American Baby and the inflight magazines for US Air, American Airlines, Continental and TWA. She has written for WomensWallStreet.com and MSN Money. Her commentaries have aired on Public Radio International’s Marketplace, and she routinely speaks at conferences, workshops and press events on things as far apart as domestic violence and the joy of selecting the perfect verb. She has taught at the Missouri School of Journalism and at East Carolina University, and and at writing workshops at universities in Missouri, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

No Wedding No Womb needs your help! We are in urgent need for seed money for the “Map Your Future” campaign, the first online, remoter mentorship platform for at-risk teens and young adults. Please help us meet our minimum goals to build the digital platform by clicking here.

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User Comments


  1. Jenny
    September 22, 2011

    Great post! It’s rather discouraging how public assistance has transitioned from a temporary fix to a permanent lifestyle. I’m not for returning to a time when widowed and abandoned women were desperate to find men to support their families, but something has to be said for their recognition that a lifetime on charity wasn’t a viable option.

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