How the stereotype of the "typical" single mother limits our understanding of families today
An opinion article by Katie Roiphe, called "In defense of single motherhood," was published in the New York Times this week (Sunday Review section, 8/12/12). Several points I appreciated are: 1) the all-too-common "lack of imagination about what family can be..." 2) the fact that women move in and out of singleness, whether via divorce, death of a spouse, romantic attachments' forming and dissolving... 3) the stereotype of the "typical" single mother does not apply to the immeasurable variety in families today and the fact that 53% of babies born to women under 30 are born to unmarried mothers and 4) Political and moral conversations about single motherhood might be more usefully channeled into protecting single mothers, e.g. the response in France to acknowledge that single motherhood can be more difficult and to give single mothers preferential access to excellent day care.
If you are a single mom (whether never married, separated, divorced, or widowed), parenting can be more difficult at times. There are obvious advantages to having 4 hands, rather than two, such as the good chance you'll have periods of greater sleep deprivation or exhaustion in the early years compared to moms with husbands who help. You may deal with hurdles and milestones you never imagined dealing with on your own, making certain positive events feel bittersweet and disappointing developments all the heavier feeling. Your kids may get the idea from picture books, peers, adults' unthinking remarks or questions, that there is a way families "should be," that their family situation is different, inferior or "broken." This oppressive, narrow view of family can bring on your own self-criticism and fears, even when you know how much your kid is loved and finances are relatively fortunate.
If you want to talk about any of this in private, you are welcome to contact me for a free phone consultation at 212-426-9253. Don't go through it alone.
Dr. Nina Miller is a psychologist in New York City, and she specializes in working with single moms.
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