Statistically speaking, the best thing you can do for your kids is to get married before you have them -- and stay married once you do. Study after study shows that while the majority of kids from single-parent households turn out just fine, they are more than twice as likely to suffer serious, negative outcomes.
Psychologist (and author of For Better or For Worse, a guidebook on divorce) E. Mavis Hetherington found that "twenty-five percent of youths from divorced families in comparison to 10 percent from non-divorced families did have serious social, emotional, or psychological problems."
Study after study has shown that kids do best when raised with a married mother and father. They go to jail less often, they get knocked up as teenagers more infrequently, and are less likely to be depressed, do drugs, or generally engage in delinquent behavior. This is all after adjusting for differences in parental income, education, and ethnicity.
So what’s the deal? Bradford Wilcox suggests that it has to do with time. Single parents have less time. They go from work to helping with homework, shuttling kids to and from places, making dinner, etc., and they do it by themselves. There is no extra pair of hands or eyes to help raise those kiddos on a day-to-day basis.
There have been days when passing off the parenting baton to my husband has saved my sanity. Also wine, but that’s probably a subject for another day. Those breaks to settle my hyped up 'Oh God, why did I have children?' emotions has helped me to be a better, more rational mom. Without another parent in the home, how do single parents manage?
Hope is not lost. I think the key here, as in most challenges, is simply knowing what you’re up against. There’s not going to be a partner there at the end of the day to tuck the kids in and rub your feet, so develop routines and habits that keep things streamlined. Latchkey kids? Have a friend make occasional unexpected drop-ins so the kids won’t be tempted to misbehave too badly under the lack of parental supervision. Arrange carpools so you don’t have to drive both ways, every time.
Learn to appreciate the little things too … like not having to wash stinky man-socks, or never having to share the remote.
Kids from single-parent homes can and do turn out just fine. Just because you’re not married doesn’t mean you can’t be an awesome parent or raise awesome kids. It just means that you’re going to have some difficult challenges to overcome that your married counterparts probably won’t have to deal with.
At least there’s less laundry to put away.
Image via Fifth World Art/Flickr