The Strength and Consequences of Single Parenting
So far, the 2000’s have brought us smart phones, dating websites, skinny jeans, and well, single parenting.
But before we get into the semantics, offensive language, and ruffled feathers, I want my readers to go ahead and take a serious deep breath, pause, find your center, and exhale those instinctual, defensive, and eye-gouging, maternal protective impulses; don’t cut me, I’m not trying to offend anyone, I just simply want to open up an objective conversation about a serious social trend: Single Parenting.
Alright, now that we’ve all found our Chi, distanced ourselves from the kitchen knives, baseball bats, and 12 gauge shotguns, I want us to take a moment to think about all of those single parents that we know.
Think about their age, their struggle, their love and happiness for their kids. Think about the hard work, sleepless nights, double shifts, and nonstop cleaning, feeding, and caring that they proudly do for their children. Think about their sacrifices, their maturity, their responsibilities, and the smile that awakens their bloodshot, wrinkled, and sleep-deprived face the moment that their child bursts into laughter. Think about these things as we talk about those incredibly tenacious people.
Now, as much as I want this piece to be unbiased, I fear that my single, male perspective will play a large role in these careful words that I’m about to say. After all, the whole reason that I noticed this significant social issue in the first place, is through (shamelessly) searching social media for my future ex-wife, I mean, soul mate.
But I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a slight disappointment as I click on a hotty’s Tinder profile and read those very familiar words, “the proud mother of 1,2,3,4,100 kids, we’re a package deal, they are my world, and they come first.”
Yes, I feel disappointment. And I instantly feel like an asshole for not being more compassionate in that moment of swiping “no” and moving on. It’s selfish, I know. It’s judgmental, I get it. And it’s unflattering to admit, that, I don’t want to date someone else’s kids, I want to date you.
So here lies the issue: there is a stigma that surrounds single parents. Eww, I said iiit, Single Parent, yuck… eww… grooosss.
Some people hear that term and instantly label that person as being irresponsible, a whore, shameful, and beneath them. Some people, without even knowing a thing about them, judge them, feel sorry for them, subjectify them, and completely forget about their own struggles, mistakes, decisions, and moments of weakness. And then, right there in that moment, consider themselves better than that person.
How do I know?
Well, to better understand this evolving epidemic, I sent out a series of 32 questions to 40 different single parents, both men and women, so that I could educate myself about something that I have not personally gone through, so that I could hear and learn their stories.
Honestly, the information that I received was, in part, surprising… and… well… in part expected.
For starters, the majority of the people that I interviewed were in their late teens or early 20’s when they got pregnant. They also say that they were in love at the time, (and a lot of them admitted that they were naïve), they were not married but it was with the person that they were dating (although some say that they got pregnant within the first few months that they were seeing each other).
I discovered that the majority of the pregnancies were not planned, but even so, an abortion was not really considered. Astonishingly, some were even told that they could not have children and were using protection at the time.
Most of the women’s stories involved a man leaving at some point during the pregnancy or a short time thereafter. Which, is really sad in my eyes, as this shows how weak those men are, leaving during the most needed and important time. It also shows how strong women can really be.
I found out that even though the pregnancy was not planned, nearly all of the people interviewed said that they would not change a thing about it, that their child was the best thing that ever happened to them, that their love of their child and unconditional love that their child gives to them, is the best feeling in the world and that they would not give that up for the world.
Their stories talked about the challenges; the no sleep, no free time, losing friends, unpaid bills, late night stress, lack of help and support from the co-parent, and working 2 or 3 jobs and feeling guilty about not spending enough time with their kid while struggling to just barely get by.
A stronger person… I cannot think of.
One striking similarity really grabbed my attention: more than half of those interviewd described their dating life as “non-existent.”
This really hit home as I thought back to my own attractions, turn-ons and preferences while searching out my very own back-scratcher, my full-body-massager, my sex-on-the-loveseat-while-watching-football lover (yes, they do exist… Scorrre!). And I couldn’t help but think about how difficult it must be for them to even find the time to go on a meaningless date (which feels more like an interview, anyway) and hope to discover some mature, grown-up man, who deals well with responsibilities, is compassionate, caring, and able to raise someone else’s kids as his own.
Hell yes, that is difficult. From my own experience on the other side of that, it’s hard as hell to walk into someone else’s life, their bubble, their skeptical, comfortable, no-time-for-nonsense, busy life and know whether or not you can step up to the plate and fill that father figure role.
I’ll tell you, right now, that the expectation of a man stepping into your and your kid’s life, and raising some other man’s kids as his own, is bullshit, and unfair.
I know the difficulties, personally. Those awkward moments of not knowing how to react when their child is acting out; the feeling of wanting to help someone who is so independent and has “made it on her own” for so long that you have no idea when helping out is going to be appreciated or offensive; the disagreeing on the way to raise her kids, and the struggle of wanting to do it differently, but knowing how offensive and personal she may take your ways. Or their father not agreeing with your beliefs and there not being a thing that you can do about it, because ultimately, they are not your kids.
So you force yourself to deal with it. To try to be a responsible “father figure” without the true power to be their father. And it’s a constant battle of beliefs, struggles, second guesses, doubts, and emotions that blur your time of falling in love with this woman.
It’s hard. It’s sleeping in the same bed together, her and the kids, when you really want to be intimate, or cuddle, or just sleeeep, but can’t because there is a toddler laying on you, kicking you, smacking you in the face. It’s giving up your spontaneous, adventurous, fun-loving side, so that you can stay in and watch Despicable Me for the 100th time this week. It’s not being able to build that strong foundation that two people build when they spend months dating, nights alone, and long serious, deep conversations without kids screaming, fighting, and crying every 2 minutes.
It’s joining a family after it has started, trying to gain their trust and love, while also learning who these little people are, trying not to hurt them, and learning how you are going to love them.
Stepping into that “father-figure” role is a true sacrifice that men are “expected” to do.
Socially, having kids was meant to be a mutual decision between two lovers who have prepared their lives for such a monumental, life-changing situation.
But now, it seems that there are more people having kids at a young age, without being ready, without having that solid foundation, and without being able to have a lasting future with their co-parent.
What’s happening here? Is it a lack of responsibility? Is it baby fever? Is it a strong-willed man who refuses to use a condom and a young loving woman who will do whatever it takes to keep her man happy? Is it peer pressure? Is it emptiness in one’s life and the feeling that a child will fulfill whatever it is that is missing?
Is it even a bad thing? Are their negative affects to children who are raised by single parents? I received mixed responses when I asked that question. Personally, after my parents divorced when I was 12, I remember missing my dad in the evenings for backyard football, going fishing, or just having that constant male role model throughout the most influential years of my life.
To make it clear, my dad was a good dad. But he did work a lot, and I lived with mom. I would see him at sporting events, on the weekends, or when I’d go over for dinner. But the truth is, lacking that constant male influence, probably affected me in more than one way. Without a doubt, there was a bigger distance between me and my father because he did not live with us.
(It’s probably why I’m so short.)
There is so much depth to this subject that I feel incompetent in covering it all.
There is a serious flaw in the system when it comes to custodial rights. Fathers have an uphill battle. Historically, the courts have sided with the mother. And if the two are not married, the father may be very limited in his rights to even visit the child.
This whole lopsided treatment adds a whole other layer of difficulty to raising children as single parents. Imagine how discouraged a father must feel when he is limited in the amount of time that he can spend with his child. In some cases, I feel that this is a contributing factor in the reason for some single fathers to just give up on raising their children, all together. I’m not agreeing with that belief, or condoning that irresponsible behavior, but having an influence on your child a mere 20% of the month, I’m sure, makes raising them extremely difficult. Not to mention parents who use their children to get back at the co-parent, when they are angry, by not allowing them to visit during additional hours.
Honestly, the system is flawed.
So, yes, single parents are some of the strongest people that I know. They endure some of the deepest pain, the toughest decisions, and the hardest sacrifices. They struggle mentally, physically, and financially. They want someone to be a good role model in their child’s life, but don’t have the time or energy to put into a new relationship. And when they do find someone who is the “right fit for a package deal,” their expectations are truly a heavy load to carry.
Is single parenting going to be the new normal? Are we going to allow divorce and unprotected sex to continue to rise? Are we going to take a chance on the emotional toll that our children may be exposed to because they lack a strong two parent upbringing? Where does this new trend take modern day relationships? Are we okay with having children and raising them in a “nontraditional way?” Does it do any harm? Can it be a good thing? Where does this take our moral, philosophical, and religious beliefs?
There are so many questions that we must ask ourselves about this issue. We, as a moral people, must evaluate this trend and ask ourselves if we are doing good for society, or if we are doing harm? Will our children grow up with a better, more open view of the world? Or have we unintentionally harmed them, emotionally scarred them, or changed them in some way?
I want you to understand that I believe single parents should be proud of what they have accomplished. I have seen many sacrifice all of the things that they want for the needs of their children. I am in no way, shape, or form saying that you are bad parents. Your strength is inspiring, and honestly, incomprehensible. You amaze me with your ability to stand strong, alone, and give your child what you think is best.
But we have to talk about this social issue. We have to. For the sake of the children that we love. For the sake of our social standards and beliefs. We have to have a serious and open conversation about where we, as a society, stand on relationships, love, parenting, and marriage.
And God forbid, that the choices that we make, harm those that we are trying hardest to protect.
Click on one of these 5 star rated books to read more of Jacob Paul Patchen.