By Tasmin Pepin-Perry:
Whenever I hear people speak of single parents I get a bit frustrated with the misconception of who those individuals are. There is this idea in our culture that most single parents are young (usually in their teens or early 20’s), with children born out-of-wedlock, living off the child support given by the former partner (if the person is still in the picture), and that most of the time they have multiple children by multiple people. Now if you’re like myself and most of society the image that usually comes to mind with that description is the “single mother” not “single parent”. Single fathers are never described that way; if they are ever mentioned at all. They are most often described as the “dead beat dads”. Society very rarely uses the term “single parent” which can be a mother or father. However, the majority of single parents do not come from children born out-of-wedlock, they come from divorce. You would never know that because what is glorified in the media and even on reality TV is the “single mother”. Think about it, one of the most popular reality shows is Teen Mom. A show that follows the lives of teen mothers. If the father is in the picture he makes cameo appearances, but not enough to believe he actually has a hand in raising his child. Those few couples that make it onto the show who are a two parent household aren’t represented very often.
I was raised with both of my parents. Does that make my situation better than those raised with one parent? This is a hard question to answer because if I think in the way in which society has defined the single parent (aka the single mother) than the answer would be yes. But only financially. Because I had both parents I had a two income household which made it easier for my parents to afford the things I asked for or needed. When I was younger I was able to spend time with both of my parents. If one was at work the other wasn’t and vice versa. They worked hard, but they didn’t have to work as hard or as many hours as a single parent would. They didn’t lose much time with us because they weren’t financially constrained. However, if I think about the question looking simply at the statistics than my answer would be different. I’d say no. The fact is most single parents are from divorce and the average range for those parents is between 35 and 40. I personally know a man who has a child from divorce. He provides child support, his son is on his health plan, he has a 50/50 custody agreement (so he gets just as much time and sometimes more with his son than the mother), and his child’s needs have always been met. He is better off financially then my parent’s were with a two income household. Not only that, his son’s mother is successful as well. So statistically speaking with the percentage of single parents that come from divorce, financially, they at times can be better off than those of us who were raised in a two parent household. Not to say that there aren’t situations where they can’t be financially worse or just similar to those of us raised by two parents. But what I am saying is I can’t say for certain that I had a better life financially because I was raised by both my parents.
Some people have said to me “well children raised in a one parent household aren’t as loved” and I don’t believe you can determine if a child is getting more love from a two parent household rather than a one. I understand that sometimes single parents work longer hours to give their child the best life that they can, which in turn can cut down on the time spent with their child. But I don’t believe the time lost amounts to less love. I’ve known some families where both parents resided in the household and the child has felt unloved or been neglected. How many parents you were raised by does not define how much love you receive. Parents are people just like everyone else. And over the years as I have learned people have limitations. Some people are amazing parents and others not so much. It has to do solely with the individual that is raising the child. I believe I was loved by both of my parents. My mother was better at expressing it than my father, but it was there. My Aunt Dalene did a fabulous job with her sons raising them as a single mother. If you asked either of them I don’t think they would ever say they have felt or feel unloved. A child’s emotional state isn’t built on whether or not they have two parents. It’s built on whether or not as a parent you love and guide them. Love does not equal time. It’s what you do with the time you have with your child that counts.
I find it fascinating as a society how when someone talks about how they were raised by a single parent there’s this assumption that they are lacking in some way. As if having only one parent means you can’t be a whole individual. There’s this negative connotation that in some way or another they are underdeveloped. They are “missing” something. I constantly hear people say a woman can’t teach a boy how to be a man and vice versa. While I agree with that statement why do we automatically believe they don’t have a father and or mother figure? “It takes a village” right? Hopefully as a mother or father you have individuals in your life that are helping you raise your child. It could be your parents, a brother, sister, cousin, uncle, or aunt. Out of all those individuals you can’t say that not one of them is a father and/or mother figure to your child. Children look up to those around them so at some point they are learning from a man or a woman that they see routinely. They may not be learning in the conventional way from a father or a mother, but they’re still learning. These individuals that are lacking one parent or another are just as whole and complete as those of us with two. Sometimes I believe even more. We take for granted as a society that just because you see a child being raised by two parents that they won’t need help. We believe that if one parent isn’t available than of course the other one is. We will come together as a community around a single parent and give as much support as possible, and yet, when it comes to a two parent household there isn’t the same sense of support. I don’t care if you were raised by one parent or two it takes a village on either occasion.
I’ll end with this. Whether you were raised by one parent or two there’s no difference in my mind. Neither is better or worse than the other. Children don’t normally associate their family dynamic being out of the norm until society tells them it is. Parenting is trial and error. You won’t get it right the first time and that’s ok. Take it from a child. I am no worse for the mistakes my parents made with me while they were learning. At least they tried. They sacrificed for me and that is the greatest gift you can give your child as a parent. What either situation needs to know is that as long as you RAISE your child that is all that matters. You chose to be a parent. So be one.