Confronting the Stereotypes of a Single Parent

As a single parent I enjoy the privilege of parenting without compromise. This means the choices I make for my teen (academic standards, curfews, ect.) are mine alone. I may not always make the perfect decision, but I would not trade in my parenting ‘status’ for the world. So why do I constantly find the look of pity as a reaction to this fact from a new acquaintance?

For example: I attended an open house at my son’s high school and had a brief conversation with the principle. I thanked him for the evening and he inquired if I lived with my son’s mother. I answered no and he responded with “I see” with a countenance of concern. At the time I accepted his remark as a common one but now I feel like confronting what he ‘saw’. The concern he showed me the result from an old predjudice.

First off let us debunk a common myth about single parents. We are not living in “broken homes”. Speaking for myself, when I got my divorce I saw myself as fixing it. In fact the number of new nuclear families continues to fall while the number for single parent homes continues to rise. The vast majority of these new non traditional homes is by choice – not because of a failed marriage (U.S. Census Bureau).
Next: Children in single-parent families always have deficits, do poorly in school and suffer emotionally and behaviorally. This is the stigma that despite all the contrary evidence and published studies proving otherwise still lingers. At one time during the early 1990s a study appeared that seemed to support this statement but has since been disproved. The study was conducted with funds from religous conservatives and drew all it’s subjects from foster homes and state juvenile institutions, not from single parent households (oft-quoted 10-year study of Judith S. Wallerstein,1993).

If one were to try to generalize the single parent household it would be as accurate as trying to generalize a two parent household. Every family is unique in the sense of who actually does the majority of parenting. In today’s society it is not so rare for the mother to be away on a business trip (or deployed overseas for many months in the armed services) and for the father to stay home and maintain the domestic front.

I look forward to the day when the concept of single parenting versus traditional parenting is gone in the way that classified job ads used to be published as jobs “for men” and jobs “for women”.
There should just be the topic “better parenting”, not who makes for a better parent.
I believe we can all agree that is begins with love and continues with love.

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