Single mothers have always been picked on. Not only are they doing the hardest job in the world on their own, critics call these women morally bankrupt, their “choice” a disgrace to family values and they often times find a way to link single parents to rising rates of poverty and crime.
But now we know that women have more earning power than ever (though we still have a long way to go)—more than men in some professions, and that many are postponing motherhood so that they can invest in themselves, establish a career, and offer a stable life for themselves and their children. And haven’t we finally killed that antiquated mindset that marriage is the ultimate end game for all women?
Apparently, no. A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that most of the nation thinks single-parent households are detrimental to society.
Detrimental to society? Really? War is detrimental to society. The constant assault on women’s reproductive freedoms is detrimental to society. “The Bachelor” is detrimental to society. Loving, capable parents—one or two, gay or straight, multicultural or homogeneous—are about the best damn things our society has. We need to start supporting them in real, effective ways. Not pointing a finger of shame at them is a start. Offering affordable child care, not discriminating against working mothers, and offering them flexible job training and after-school programs for their kids are just a few others.
Studies like this always piss me off. The focus group is a tiny sliver of society (2,961 people in this case) but media attention makes these opinions speak for all of us (they don’t). And they’re hardly objective. This poll cites data that shows children who grow up in single-parent households have a greater likelihood to commit a crime or not go to college. Conduct the study a different way and you’ll see the reasons behind these trends are more directly linked to the lack of social welfare programs needed in certain low-wage, high-crime areas, the lack of adequate women’s health care and birth control, and the overall victimization and neglect of our most needy members of society.
Women become single parents for so many reasons. It’s the perfect family for some, a necessity for others. So let us cheer on the women who consciously, responsibly and excitedly choose to have children on their own—how lucky is that kid to be so wanted and loved? And let us support the women who find themselves with an unexpected pregnancy they choose to keep, and those who end a relationship for the betterment of themselves and their child. These women have a challenging road ahead and deserve the supportive Village that’s so often quoted as being necessary to raise a child, not the critical one that seems to turn its back if the baby doesn’t come from a happily married couple.