I was reading a post this morning by Kerri Zane in which she argues that there are “five solid reasons why it’s better to be a single mom or dad then [sic] half of a parenting pair.”
I read her entire post to my husband to see if it was just me, and then I started typing up this post. He commented on how fast my fingers were flying across the keyboard. I said, “I have a lot to say!” He said, “you read a ton of articles every day, and I’m sure plenty of them get you fired up. What’s got you so bugged by this one?” The answer is I don’t really know; it just rubs me the wrong way.
Before I go any further, let me be very clear: I have no problem with single parents. I know a lot of them. I know a lot of them who do a really good job–many who, in fact, do a better job than two-parent households. And there are many situations in which children are better off when their parents separate (i.e. one parent is abusive, has a drug addiction, a gambling problem, etc.). It’s better to have a single parent than to be stuck in a home with two parents, one (or both) of whom is abusive. I am not arguing that single parents can’t be or aren’t effective. I would never argue that single parents are deficient in some way or that their children are going to be somehow scarred for life for want of a second parent in the home.
So what am I arguing? My issue is with Zane’s argument. I don’t think that’s effective. Let me break it down for you.
- According to Zane, the first reason single-parenting is better than team parenting is that no negotiations are necessary. Your word is law. You don’t have to debate about child-rearing decisions. Am I the only person who has a problem with this? Because it seems to me that there are several reasons for which such negotiations in parenting are a plus. After all, compromises are borne of listening to alternative points of view and opening your mind to the possibility that there is more than one way to do something. In many cases, compromises actually yield better or more effective options than you might have originally considered. Further, Zane continues her argument by pointing out that “a child’s behavior can be negatively affected by adult arguing. It will either leave them crying their eyes out or running for cover.” This assumes that two parents cannot engage in civil discourse about what is best for their children, that every disagreement or debate will lead to yelling and shouting and throwing things, and will thereby permanently scar your child. And that’s just absurd. And let’s not forget that unless your child’s other parent is completely out of the picture, you’re still going to be having discussions about child-rearing choices with him/her. Divorcing an adult doesn’t automatically mean divorcing the children and stepping entirely out of their lives. Finally, children who observe their parents working through conflict in healthy and effective ways are learning valuable life skills for success–the ability to negotiate compromise is incredibly important. How better to teach it than letting them see it in action?
- Zane’s second point is that as a single parent you provide your child with a “stellar independent role model.” She further explains that as a single parent, you “embody the the idea that it’s better to “want” to be in a relationship because there is a loving bond rather than you “need” to be in a relationship because there is stuff to be done or procured.” She gives the example of a mom changing a light bulb by herself (yay!)–what an excellent show of strength for her daughter! This is just flat-out ridiculous. I know a lot of married moms who can and do change light bulbs–and fix the plumbing under their sinks, mow the lawn, capture mice, and so on–they don’t need their husbands to do those things. Puh-lease. On the flip side, I know plenty of dads who lovingly brush their little girls’ hair and wash the dishes. But I’m not done: Zane’s position implies that married people are only married to get something–not because they love one another. I take exception to this. I didn’t marry my husband, so he could change light bulbs. I didn’t get married until I was in my thirties, had already bought my own car, house, and pretty much proven I didn’t need a man to make it in this world. There’s more than one good way to illustrate to your daughters that they don’t need a man to “complete them” or just to survive. Zane finishes up this section by declaring, “When your child sees you as a completely whole and independent adult, they will learn to emulate your healthy behaviors.” Excuse me? Am I not a completely whole and independent adult just because I’m married? Psh.
- Zane’s third point is that “relationship options vary.” This paragraph seems to hint at the idea that children of single parents learn through experience that traditional marriage isn’t the only option. Fine. After all, there’s no one right way to do things (refer back to point 1 about compromise).
- In her 4th point, she mostly focuses on herself: she can have a better sex life as a single parent! She can have the bed all to herself whenever she’s not opting to share it with a partner. This is a “solid reason” single parenthood is better than joint parenthood? It sounds more like a reason to be single and not have kids to me, but whatever.
- Her final point–I kid you not!–is that you’ll be skinnier. Married women get fat! But as a divorced woman, you’ll be incredibly attractive. I want to throw up. Also, this has nothing to do with parenting. Again, it only has to do with marital status.
I don’t have children (I do work with them as a GAL and I used to be one). And I don’t claim to know the first thing about rearing them correctly (although my own experiences have given me a rather long list of “what not to do”). But here’s what I do know: this woman claims to have “5 solid reasons” single parenting is better than team parenting. And that’s bogus. There are not 5 solid reasons here. I could have bought her argument if she’d actually given me something I could buy into. For example, she might have argued that single parents and their children have a unique and special bond and gone on to prove it. One woman on twitter said what she loved best about being a single parent is “the closeness with my children that fighting for survival and a better life has created.” This makes sense to me. Zane could have talked about how single parenting helps her teach her children about financial responsibility and accountability–one income household budget vs. two. She could have done a lot with that. I could have even accepted the point about showing your children a strong independent role model–if she’d maybe talked about things like sacrificing for the good of the family or managing the finances or balancing the role of mother with the role of father, since a single parent must do both. Being a single parent is hard work. I don’t know how people do it. I don’t think I ever could! So Zane could have talked about that and how it made her a stronger person and a strong role model for her children. She could have talked about how her children have had to learn more responsibility than they would have in a two-parent household. I am sure that other single moms could give other benefits to single parenting that would have been more effective at proving her point. Remember her thesis: it’s better to be a single parent than part of a parenting duo.
I don’t think she proved it. Do you?
And if you are a single parent, would you agree that it’s better than team parenting? What are some of the things you most love about being a single parent? And I think it bears repeating: I admire the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice of single parents (I just think Zane’s post really doesn’t do that justice by trivializing the experience).
As always, unless otherwise noted, the views and opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone and do not reflect those of any other person or organization.