As we approach mother’s day this year, all of us mom’s deserve a big pat on the back. We don’t live in a culture that supports us, regardless of our choices or circumstances.
According to the Pew Research Center, only 46% of American kids live in a household with two married (heterosexual)* parents. You only have to peruse the news headlines to hear depressing news about the effect this has on our children. Children living in households headed by a mother are more likely to live in poverty (thanks wage inequality), less likely to graduate from highschool, more likely to suffer from behavioral issues, and on occasion, they link single motherhood to future incarceration.
I argue that we need a revolution in this thinking. We need a revolution that demands that our society value childhood and the hard work and time required to raise a good human being. None of these negative outcomes are written in stone and probably have more to do with economics than a lack of two married parents.
It’s not really rocket science to understand how to support families. We need affordable housing, high quality and affordable childcare, good schools that aren’t tied to the property values of the neighborhood, healthcare that includes mental health, access to healthy foods, and work for parents that allows time for parenting. I guess the rocket science comes in when you try to implement these things.
Let’s fight the good fight for these big societal level changes, while at the same time, doing what we can do to support families where they are. If you are a single mom, don’t let any statistics define you or your family. You can and are raising amazing children in hard circumstances. Keep it up! I promise one day you’ll spend an afternoon with your grown children and almost burst with pride about what great people you created.
Here are a few ideas about things you can do to support moms (single or not) right now:
If you are a boss, have a conversation with your employees about how you can help them manage their parenting responsibilities. They will be ever so grateful you brought the subject up and I suspect their loyalty and work ethic will improve.
If you are a teacher or school administrator, understand the constraints of working single parents. In my single days, I was once told that if I couldn’t make a 3PM teacher meeting I clearly didn’t care about my child. I would have been fired if I left work at that time, I cared about keeping my child housed and fed.
If you live in a neighborhood, engage with the neighborhood kids, help their parents out by keeping an eye on them and letting their parent(s) know what’s going on. Even better, offer to help out from time to time if you would enjoy kids in your house.
Stop being so afraid of teenagers! It seems that teenagers aren’t welcome anywhere these days. Teenagers are great, they need acceptance and they want to be treated like adults even though they still need supervision.
Coach a sport, teach a kids class, volunteer to tutor at your local school. Kids need other adults in their lives. You may never know the deep and profound ways you may change a child’s life but I promise you will. Be a role model so that kids can see there are different ways to live and be in this world. More importantly, let kids know that adults care and are trustworthy. Kids do better with bigger support systems. One parent, two parents, grandparents, family friends – the more the better.
What are your ideas about making our society more family friendly, better for kids and parents (single or not)? How can we support macro and micro changes?
Fewer than half of U.S. kids today live in a ‘traditional’ family