05/01/2013 02:25 pm ET Updated Jul 01, 2013

Who's Raising Those Single Moms' Babies?


Increasingly more unmarried 20-somethings are having babies, the U.S. Census Bureau tells us. What the U.S. Census Bureau doesn't tell us is who is supporting and raising those kids. Here's one not-so-crazy thought: A lot of midlifers are getting pressed into service to help raise their grandchildren.

As of 2011, a full 62 percent of women age 20 to 24 who gave birth in the previous 12 months weren't married, according to the just released Census report.

But the Census did not ask where these moms and their babies called home, acknowledges Rose Kreider, a family demographer with the Census Bureau and one of the report's authors. She told The Huffington Post that she thinks many of them live either independently or with their babies' fathers -- but added that she really wasn't sure because the Census didn't ask. She pointed us in the direction of a CDC study about premarital cohabitation for some more specifics.

Here's what we learned over there:
** From 2006-2010, 55 percent of women had cohabited by age 25.
** 40 percent of couples living together for the first time got married within three years; that means 60 percent did not.
** Nearly one in five women got pregnant during the first year of living together.
** 23 percent of recent births among women aged 15-44 occurred while living with someone they weren't married to -- up from 14 percent in 2002.

And here's what we didn't learn over there:
Where did the other 77 percent of the women go when they had their babies? My guess is they went home to their parents, where they likely rely on family to help care for and pay for their children.

AARP bears out my suspicions. Two years ago, it report that 4.9 million children under 18 in America -- 7 percent -- live in grandparent-headed households. That was an increase from 4.5 million ten years earlier. At the time, many blamed it on the economy forcing adult children and their families to move home. But 20 percent of those kids -- almost a million -- had neither parent living in the household and the grandparents were completely responsible for their basic needs.

I'm not preaching morality here. What I fear is happening is that more young women are moving home with their babies and handing mom and dad a bag of diapers instead of brochures for retirement cruises. Perhaps some midlifers welcome it. I'm sure it's a challenge for at least an equal number.

Personally, I live in the It Takes A Village camp of raising kids. I believe that in an ideal world, every child would have at least four parents -- more if they were colicky. I always thought the old Israeli kibbutz system of communal child care had some definite high notes.

Raising kids is a 24/7 job. It is relentless, requires deep vats of patience that few humans possess, and to do it well you need a multitude of skills -- again, skills that are rarely all possessed by the same person.

The idea that a child can be raised by one single person who works at a full-time job (after all, you need money if you hope to feed your child and everyone -- including babies -- needs health coverage), while admirable, is just not ideal.

Yes, life isn't perfect and some people do a pretty good job of single parenting, but why not wait until you can actually share the responsibility -- and joys -- with someone other than your parents?

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Tips For Living With Adult Children