By Alicia Harper, REDBOOK.
It seems as though a "study" that talks about the difficulty of single motherhood surfaces every few months and immediately shoots around the web. I don't have a problem with that. I'm a single mother, and I can tell you this: It's no easy feat.
My main gripe with these studies is that sometimes they are too black and white, simplistic, or misleading. This is particularly the case with a study from Princeton sociologist Sara S. McLanahan - an authority on single motherhood and its impact on children - that shows how conditions like poverty and instability increase the chances that the children of this single mother household will experience alcoholism, mental illness, and academic failure, amongst other things.
In a recent New York Times article, Katie Roiphe offers a rebuttal to studies like McLanahan's, and upon reading the article, I gave it two thumbs way up. To quote the article's thesis, "Married parents, even happily married parents, raise screwed-up or alcoholic or lost children, just as single parents raise strong, healthy ones."
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This is not an attempt to minimize the sanctity of marriage - I think marriage is awesome. I'm just not on that path (yet). This is more of a plea for our culture to let go of the "woe is the child of a single mother because her lack of resources, energy, and time prevent her from helping shape her child[ren] into socially competent adults" mentality.
Having two married parents doesn't automatically produce children who grow into well-adjusted teenagers with integrity and good grades, and then self-sufficient adults with morals, values, and career aspirations. However, having a loving, caring, and understanding adult (even if it's one parent!) in their lives does.
This is why I worked as hard as I did in graduate school, obtaining both my MA and EdM. This is why, post-graduate school, I gave myself five years to find a career in education as part of the school's leadership team. And this is why I celebrated so much when I was offered the position a couple weeks ago (exactly one year after finishing grad school).
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Aiden's other parent is not present in his life, and the times that child support actually arrives is so few and far between that I've conditioned myself not to depend on it at all. Sure, I could use the extra income, but I am blessed enough to be financially stable, and money is only one factor in the equation when it comes to raising a child to be socially competent and self-sufficient.
Aiden and I are doing quite alright, if I don't say so myself. I plan out time to spend with him on a daily basis; On the weekends, we enjoy going to his swimming lessons, soccer practice, and other kid-friendly events around the city; I am hands-on with regards to his education, and this fall, Aiden will be attending a very good private school in Manhattan that required a lot of time and energy during the rigorous admissions process.
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I've connected Aiden with great male mentors and positive role models with whom he loves to spend time. Aiden knows that he is loved and cherished, and this is setting a strong foundation for him to be successful in life.
Despite income barriers and other issues, the fact of the matter is this: single mothers can foster a great amount of resilience in our children. We can create protective factors that far outweigh the risk factors. It can be done. I know this for certain because I do it every single day with Aiden.
Alicia Harper, M.A., Ed.M. is a single mother, freelance writer, blogger, and recent graduate of Columbia University who's now a mental health therapist. Her life is filled with all things pink, except for the one bit of blue-her rambunctious 4-year-old son. Together they make a great pair, and Alicia chronicles the trials and triumphs of being a young, single mother living in NYC at Mommy Delicious. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.
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