I admit it: I cheered when Murphy Brown had her baby. I, along with millions of Americans, cried when she sang "Natural Woman" to her newborn son, and I called Dan Quayle a total jerk when he pegged that brave woman as a bad parenting example. But I can't think of another single mom who has been quite as celebrated since — and I think that's pretty unfair. I was raised by a single mother and I have dozens of family and friends who are single moms themselves. I have to tell you: for all they accomplish, put up with and bring to the world, I think single mothers have not been given the props they deserve! After all, many of us wouldn't be here without them. So I've reached out to some current single mothers and grown-up children of single mothers, as well as looked back at some of my own experiences. From that, I've compiled a list of reasons why being a single mother is just as amazing as much a cause for celebration as two-parent homes.
1. Did you know there's a holiday to celebrate single parents? It's true! In 1984, President Ronald Reagan dedicated March 21 as National Single Parents Day. As Americans, we are pretty good at creating and celebrating holidays to honor the things, people and events that we admire and are moved by. This is great news: it means we recognize the strength and dedication it takes to be a single parent. We love and support our single mothers... almost as much as we love National Hot Fudge Sundae Day.
2. Single moms do not have to negotiate (unless they want to). All decisions in the house are unilateral, which means no more "good cop vs. bad cop." What she says, goes. And the only backlash she has to deal with is, "It's not fair! Woe is me!" and the faint sound of tiny violins somewhere. Another perk to this fact is that in the absence of arguing with your partner, you have teachable moments during these encounters with your children. You can show them how to communicate and express frustration without yelling. And we have to mention that old saying: "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"
3. They become role models for independence. When there is no one else there to do the things they're not skilled at, they learn. I know single moms who have changed tires, hooked up a TV and entertainment system, learned to cook, moved heavy furniture, hung shelves, changed the wax ring on a toilet, even chain-sawed unwanted shrubbery and put together a lawn mower. Besides these skills being amazingly sexy, sisters doing it for themselves are teaching their children how to be independent too. When the children grow up and start seeking relationships, it will be because they want one, not because they need one to survive.
4. Being single means bed-sharing is optional. The National Sleep Foundation reports that sleeping two to a bed could cause a person to lose 49 minutes of sleep per night. This is unacceptable to any mom, but it's utterly obscene when tiny people come bounding into your bedroom at 6AM sharp on the regular. Single mothers don't have to suffer the frustration of being woken up when their partner comes to bed after them, or by a light being turned on, or by someone not bothering to stop the dog from leaping into bed and slobbering all over your face (I digress...). These lucky singles get to sleep peacefully all they want, and only suffer the hassles of co-sleeping with the kids on a stormy night or a gentleman friend, at their discretion.
5. Their bodies are their own. A Cornell University study found that women generally gain five to eight pounds in the first few years of marriage. And that gets worse if you are unhappily married; the same study found that those miserable women gain 54 pounds within the first 10 years of marriage. Single moms no longer have to make the choice of nixing the gym in favor of snuggle time or hanging out with their partner. They don't have to forgo the salad for dinner because their spouse is hungry for burgers, or watch their hubby shovel down a pile of mozzarella sticks and loaded fries while trying not to be tempted by the smell. Other freedoms that come from being single? You get to go to sleep when you want to, instead of being groped up in the dark like some kind of marital morse code for sex. You also get to wear what you want without probing questions like, "that's kind of a low cut shirt, don't you think?" In other words, you don't have to explain your body and your choices about it to anyone.
6. Single moms are superheroes. Their kids think they are awesome (and they are!). Children of single mothers think it's incredible when mom can pull together six dozen cupcakes in one night for the bake sale the next day that someone forgot to mention. They also love it when mom can go from teaching them how to throw a curveball to dressing up for a night on the town with her friends. Single parent homes call for versatile role shifting, and when moms can pull off both, the kids can feel safe and secure on all sides. They know they can not only trust mom to "get it done" but also as a shoulder for support — no matter what the situation.
7. Fighting for survival creates a tight knit family. Some might argue that this is not good for the children because it makes them mature quicker than they would in a two-parent household, but when the members of a single-parent home have to organize and rely on each other, the closeness that occurs is undeniable. Just as in sports, family teams have to work together. That is exactly what happens in single parent homes; kids learn the value of teamwork and being dependable.
8. Thank goodness kids remember everything. They remember who was there helping them with their homework, cooking, cleaning, getting them to soccer practice and rushing from work to be at their recital. They will never forget how their moms gave up an overtime shift to sit with them while they were sick, or who helped them with their college and scholarship applications.
9. Single moms have a monopoly on the values their children are raised with. Once they live with one parent full-time, that's the lifestyle kids tend to adopt. If the father was a "Negative Nancy," that influence is now kicked to the curb. Single mothers are free to raise their children with the morals, beliefs, character and life skills they choose — with no concern about someone else's contrasting views undermining them.
10. Single mothers are empowered. They are able to find their own strength in having to be as much as they can for their children. It is a stretching and growing experience that many parents never get. They are able to feel an intensified sense of satisfaction when their kids succeed against the odds, because they have been the best parent they can be and more; it's a payoff for all the hard work and sacrifice. Keep reading...
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