Since this topic is back in the news again, I thought I’d weigh in. When things go awry, people tend to point fingers somewhere. Often times families like mine get pointed at.
My son lives with one parent (me) and hasn’t seen his other parent in seven years. Society would have me believe that this somehow means that our home is broken, and worse yet, that my son is “at risk.” Luckily I don’t believe this.
One of the arguments is that because single parents have to work full-time outside the home to support their family, that they have less time to devote to parenting. I suppose I’ve circumvented this by choosing work that allows me to homeschool and spend all day with my son. I work as a nanny so we’re together ALL THE TIME. I might make more if I chose another profession and sent B to school. However, I feel the quality of the time we spend together far outweighs a beefy bank account.
There are also plenty of beliefs about income levels and their contributions to risk that is likely to be a side effect of broken homes. In order to make ends meet, many single parents must work multiple jobs and long hours. It has been postulated that this leads to tired, neglectful and/or absent parenting. Although, from personal experience, I’ve seen very well off families be just as guilty of these. Your income doesn’t necessarily equal how present you are with your child, how well you truly know them or how loved they feel. Many wealthy families substitute things for time spent. They’re not equal and good parents, regardless of socioeconomic status, know this.
Two parent families aren’t some magical salve for turning out healthy, happy adults either. I was raised in one so I can attest from that point of view. My two parent household was often a place for fear and abuse. We were never well off, although both of my parents worked full-time. We weren’t neglected, had all our needs for food, shelter, medical attention, etc. met.
There was physical and mental abuse though. I grew up believing my mother’s mental illness was my doing, that I was inferior because I was born female, and that I was ugly. I listened to my parents fighting, verbally and sometimes physically, more often than I care to remember. I was watched like a hawk and seldom allowed to leave the house so I certainly never got into any “trouble.” (If you read that last sentence as a good thing, you’re doing it wrong.)
My childhood wasn’t some anomaly either. Households of all kinds can turn out fully functional adults or very disturbed/ dangerous people. Some of us do well in spite of our upbringing, others because of it. Each family and person is unique so lumping all low-income or single parent households together is just another way to pass judgement. It’s just a continuation of society’s way of demonizing those seen as less. Perhaps if the finger pointers turned those fingers back around toward themselves, then we’d get to some actual roots of the ills of civilization. Another soapbox for another day…