Thursday, September 20, 2012

Two Parents Not Always Better Than One

I've talked about why I love being single this National Unmarried and Singles Week. Now I have to talk about the challenges, particularly as a single parent.

It's not about not having help, or not having a second income, or any of the other advantages one might believe makes being a single parent harder. Not to say that those aren't challenges, but for the most part, we've overcome and/or accepted them.

No, the real challenge is in somehow having to prove my worthiness as a parent because I'm single. 

Particularly during campaign season, politicians and pundits love to talk about how two parents are better than one. And unlike me, they never feel the need to add disclaimers to that statement. Always, no matter what, two are better than one.

Now, why get worked up over it, you might ask? Why do I have a problem with government funding going to promote marriage? Why do I take issue with politicians and pundits and bumper stickers that say that all research supports that?

Because I have two daughters who live in this same world.

Because I have two girls who shouldn't feel the need to defend me, their dad, or their life because I happen to be single.

Just like it would be wrong to blame a child for being born, it's wrong to make a child feel less than because of their parent's marital status.

My daughters do not need to see a bumper sticker or poster promoting mothers to wed their child's father. They don't need to hear that our family is a "drain" or a "tragedy" or some other negative connotation. They don't even need a sympathetic (one might say condescending) look from a teacher for not having a dad around.

And it's simply incorrect to say that our family is a drain on the system. I am not on welfare or any other government program. I pay my rent, my utilities, and even their school lunches at full price.

That was not true when I was married. We were a drain when I was married, thanks to my X constantly emptying my bank account and landing in jail. And while it did take a few months of government help, we weren't in the "system" for even a year. It did exactly what it was supposed to do; helped us get on our feet again.

My daughters have been through a lot, absolutely. I won't deny that the first few years were rough for all of us. I will say that the last few years with X were harder, though. And I will say that the girls absolutely believe that we are all better off now than ever before.

And while I do try to brush off all those pundits and politicians because I know their words do not apply to our family, I do remember when they really did make me feel less than, when they felt like salt on a fresh wound, and it made it that much harder for me to build my strength to be the best mother possible to my girls. And I wonder how many single parents, still in their "surviving" mode, it hurts today. I wonder how many sons and daughters feel like victims to their family's "single" status.

I want to wrap my arms around every single one of them and shield them from that kind of hurt and helpless feeling as these talking heads bash them with their oh-so-smug superiority. They know single parents and children living with single parents exist, but they seem to think none of us can hear them.

We hear you. And while you might hurt us for a while, in the end, we are the ones who are superior in our compassion for our fellow parents and students, in our ability to overcome challenges, and in our hope for the future and our children's near limitless options. Because we won't let our children become sorry statistics. Because we won't let our marital status stand in their way. And neither will they.

I know some might find this heartbreaking or appalling, but single parents and our children are here to stay. And every day, more and more of us cross the threshold from surviving to thriving. I find it breathtaking. In a very good way.


Missy June said...

When my children get the sense that they are different or somehow 'less than' two-parent homes, a phrase I often repeat is that, "Our family works best THIS way."

Like you, we were on government assistance for less than a year and no longer use any services (even the discounted school lunch, thank you very much now I pack three lunches each day).

There are different kinds of families and we all function best in different ways. Being a single, thriving mama is WORLDS better than the chaos and unpredictibility of my former married life.

Thank you for promoting that we all get to choose the course which works best for US!

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