“Single parenting not the ideal”

By Jim DeBrosse

“Single parenting not the ideal”

By Jim DeBrosse

Unmarried heads of households now officially outnumber married couples, according to the latest barrage of survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sorry, but Mr. Mom isn’t ready to strike up a marching band or break into a rousing chorus of “I am single, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore” — especially where kids are involved.

What has turned the tide in favor of unmarried and single parent households is mostly the result of personal choice — a growing divorce rate, mothers who choose not to marry, same-sex couples and partners who either won’t bother or refuse to exchange wedding vows.

I have no problem with any of those choices (besides, there’s no turning back the clock at this point, regardless of how much conservatives fuss and fume), but I wonder if anyone has asked the kids what they think.

Would most children prefer a household with two parents who have pledged themselves for a lifetime to each other and to their children?

It’s a no-brainer, except that kids, because they’re kids, often don’t know the answer. They haven’t the maturity or judgment to realize how many advantages accrue to them, financially, socially and, yes, even emotionally, by having a committed “back-up” parent in the house.

So adults do the voting for them.

Put another way, two adults in the family wrestling ring is better than one. And I would argue that’s true no matter what the tag team — same sex, no sex or Aunt Gertrude sacking out on the couch with her hair in rollers.

Single parents, many of whom aren’t single by choice, simply get by.

You rank your priorities, try to cut the right corners and do the best you can by your children. You scrape the dishes while you’re helping them with their homework. You take the phone call from work while they clobber each other in the background. You slip out early from the office and pray you don’t get fired while you drive them to doctors’ appointments, soccer games and music lessons.

And if you’re one of the millions of unfortunates who has a deadbeat for an ex-partner, you scrape by financially. You eliminate the frills — lessons, vacations, trips to fast-food restaurants and the mall. You rent the DVD, instead of buying the movie ticket. You take the second job, or maybe the third, and hope the kids don’t burn down the house or gouge out an eye while you’re at work.

I’m not saying single parents can’t raise decent, successful, well-adjusted children. More often than not, they do, by sheer dint of their love and determination and the grace of God.

But any single parent who says it isn’t a struggle, both for parent and child, needs a reality check.

I remember when I first divorced and I feared it was the end of the world for my children. It wasn’t, not by a long shot, but it took me several years to overcome the sense of panic. As my friends oft-repeated to me at the time, all that kids really need is one loving adult in their household and their lives.

Only think how much better it is to have two, or going back a generation or so, even three or four.

Personal choice has become the overriding dynamic of our times, and, like Humpty Dumpty after the fall, there’s no way to patch together a system of laws that will force couples to stay together or stop parents who prefer to be single by choice.

But let’s not pretend this is a party or some exciting new age of freedom.

Let’s remember the kids.

DATE: September 29, 2006                                     PUBLICATION: Dayton Daily News (OH)

            Copyright, 2006, Cox Ohio Publishing. All rights reserved.