1. People & Relationships
Cathy Meyer

Are We Criticizing Single Mothers or Just Stating Fact?

By January 4, 2013

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Slate ran an article a few days ago that I found bothersome. The title alone is off-putting, "It's Better to be Raised by a Single Mom." First off, I can't imagine being a father, single or married and reading that title. What's the message, good enough to donate sperm and child-support, not good enough to play a parental role?

The author states, "No single mom wants to fail them--provide less, teach less, support less, be less--but it is in our minds that we might. So we struggle, and over the long term, we impart to our children that struggle can be good. This is something they know intimately."

I'm sorry but I'm of the opinion that no child should know struggle intimately. Our job as a parent is not to share our struggles with our children but to protect our children from our struggles. In best case scenarios we protect our children, not openly choose to expose them to struggle. And we don't live the delusional belief that exposing them was and is good for them.

Studies like Professor Sara McLanahan's ongoing Fragile Families and Paul R. Amato's 2005 paper on changing family structures point out the importance of an intact family to children. Children exposed to a divorce and raised in single family households experience higher levels of instability in all areas of life. Those are the facts, not a criticism of single mothers but the facts of what happens to children when a stable family fractures.

Single mothers are feeling condemned and publications like Slate are giving them a voice and in doing so romanticizing a situation that is anything but ideal for children. It isn't better to be raised by a single mother or, father for that matter. It is best for our children to be raised by two parents in a stable environment in which they flourish emotionally, physically and intellectually.

McLanahan and Amato didn't do studies with the intent of blaming single mothers. They did studies and shared the results as a way of distributing information. It is our job as parents to take that information, incorporate it into our lives and, live in a way that best serves our children.

It is not our job as parents to take the information and twist it to mean something it doesn't. To become defensive and self-focused, to start arguing the opposite because you feel slighted is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater...literally. Us single mothers aren't the focus of the study. The focus is children, as mothers we owe it to our children to take the information shared in the studies and use it to do our best for our children.

Although I wasn't able to do so myself I suggest, if you are considering become a parent based on the study you owe it to a child to not bring him/her into the world until you are in a loving, stable relationship or marriage and willing to work your ass off to keep that relationship or marriage together. For the sake of your child!

Comments
January 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm
(1) Percy Ricketts says:

As a father and a psychotherapist, who works daily with children of divorce and I see firsthand the damage that divorce inflicts on them, oftentimes throughout their lives, I am concerned about the number of mothers in our society, who, for one reason or another, continue to feel that they alone can choose to be the only parental influence in their children’s lives, and that it issomewhat okay to do so, while characterizing fathers negatively. It is one thing if a father is dead or if he chooses not to be a major influence in his child’d life. However, numerous studies do consistently affirm the significant benefits to children when both parents (mother and father) are present in their lives and they are actively involved. Surely, there are situations in which that is notthe case and other arrangements must suffice. However, in the absence of any unusual situation, for anyone to suggest that any other arrangement is just as good, especially with the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is both dangerous and irresponsible and can be no way beneficial to any child. Moreover, what is the message here for our boys when they grow up – donate your sperm and leave; the mother alone can raise them? Come on, it’s 2013, for God’s sake!

January 14, 2013 at 2:38 pm
(2) sam galler says:

Based on the divorce I just went through, as far as the gov’t is concerned, pay your child support and you are a good dad. Apparently being a dad is obsolete. Pretty soon we won’t even have to provide sperm…… but then who will pay???

January 14, 2013 at 8:58 pm
(3) Kay says:

Perhaps in an ideal world, the two parent family is a good thing. But in some situations, it really IS better to have a single parent. I am in the process of ending a fifteen year marriage to a man who, while he paid the bills, has NEVER been there for his kids in any meaningful way. Having him “around but not available” shred their confidence almost as much as his need to control and dominate the entire family. Unfortunately, he has some mental health issues that I am hoping will NOT be passed down.
I am trying to do this in as positive a manner as possible for the kids, facilitating visits even when we’re up in the air about whether he will actually be there at the appointed time, trying to make sure that the kids aren’t dealing with any “loyalty” issues, that they understand that their relationship with their father is independent of their relationship with me, and that I would love for them to have a positive relationship with both of us. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case for years. :( Since we moved out, the kids have THRIVED in school, have improved in health, and have become MUCH more relaxed. They seem happier, smile more, and while they have had to step up a little in responsibility as far as tasks like getting themselves ready for school (they are in middle school, so that’s a good thing anyway!) they have done a great job, and all in all, I know we’re doing what needs to be done.
My point is that EVERY situation is different. There are times when it may not be possible for children to be raised by two parents (like when one parent dies) and there may be times when they shouldn’t be raised by two parents. We each do what we can with what we’re given.

January 17, 2013 at 5:55 am
(4) bob says:

KaY…..whilst u have a point as to all relationships are different, just REREAD what was just said…..
…. and then I just want to add that you said that he was a provider so when he came home at the end of the night or the end of the day, what was your attitude towards him, and the children see this…. and most importantly what a man needs…( and we both know what that is, and perhaps this is why you are calling him mentally ill, ) ( maybe he should have divorced you for not putting out, but it sounds as if he did not. he stuck it out he put up with you but you decided not to put up with him,) as the article states above… although it doesn’t seem to be wanting to cast blame,
when 2 people marry its for all the best reasons however when children are born into this world out goes the window on quitting… to take it upon yourself I hope you’re happy, because you failed to mention that you were…
yes the children might seem happy now, but again the above article above mentions that inin the future and their abilities to cope with quitting you have given them the window that quitting is great because now, along with the family court system you can see why the world is in the situation it is because women have the ability to “QUIT” when things get tough instead of doing with Grandma used to do….and that was fix the PROBLEM, KNOT eliminate the problem… AMEN……have a nice day…

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