Single handed PROGRESS

Four hundred years ago, single mothers were burned at the stake; 50 years ago they were sent to isolated refuges for unmarried mothers or even mental institutions. Today, there remains a widespread negative view of single parenthood.  While researching the topic, I discovered the 3 most common beliefs about single parents:

1. That they are a drain on the economy

2. A threat of traditional family values

3. They often produce delinquent children

Being a single mother myself, I obviously disagree with all 3 claims. In fact I believe that single parents can lead to progress in a society, rather than destroy it. So let’s take a look at the 3 most common beliefs, and see if I can find evidence to support my claim of progress.

1. Single parents are a drain on the economy. They are moochers of state benefits, lazy, mostly teenagers looking for a way out of their parent’s homes.

Here are some facts that I discovered about single parents in the UK. (Facts from Gingerbread).

•Just over a quarter of households in the UK with dependent children are single parent families. That makes 2 million single parents in this country!
•Less than 2% of single parents are teenagers.
•59% of single parents work.
•The employment rate for single parents with children over 11 years old is actually 71%.

While researching my topic, I came across the most inspiring stories of single mothers who challenged the norm. One of them was a woman called Belva Lockwood who lived in the US in the 1900s. Belva’s husband died when their child was 3, leaving the family with no money. Belva immediately realised she needed a career and a career required an education…something women did not get at the time. But Belva persevered until she graduated from college with honours and soon became a headmistress at a local school. It was during this time that she realised that all her male counterparts were making double her pay. And so Belva found a way to get into Law school to fight for her rights. When she finished, the university refused to give her a diploma because she was a woman….Do you know what Ms. Lockwood did?  She wrote to the President of the United States and asked him for justice.

Within one week, she received her diploma, and Lockwood went on to become a well known solicitor as well as an advocate for women’s issues such as equal pay and more protection.  Belva Lockwood was a single mother, and like so many before and after her, she helped to progress society.

2. Single mothers are a threat to traditional family values.

A conservative definition found online is:

  • Promotion of traditional marriage
  • Opposition to sex outside of marriage
  • Support for a traditional role for women in the family.

A recent newspaper article tells us that the British government wants a return to a traditional stable nuclear family.

I ask all women out there: is 1950s-style marriage, which supports the conservative definition of ‘family values’, a life that you would look forward to???

A more modern definition can be found in a study conducted in the United States.  It said:

•50% of men and women thought family values means “loving, taking care of, and supporting each other, knowing right from wrong.”

If we go with the modern view on family values, then I see absolutely no threat at all from single parent homes. And in fact, I may go even further to say that single parent families most probably helped to make the shift from traditional to modern.  Either way, single parents have to offer a more progressive view of what ‘family values’ really means, rather than what we are taught to believe.

3. Single parent households produce delinquents.

A British social policy expert said: ‘Children need input from both parents in order to thrive. ‘Research shows children growing up in fatherless homes are less likely to do well at school and far more likely to get into problems with drink or drugs, or involved in crime.’

A writer for a well regarded newspaper blamed the London riots of 2011 on single mothers , claiming that: “Successive generations are being brought up only by mothers, whose homes welcome transitory males by whom these women have yet more children.”

My response to these remarks? I am left speechless.

What circumstances produce juvenile delinquents, I could not say. But I imagine it has much to do with a negative home life, and god knows that there is enough of that in a nuclear family, as well as in single parent homes. I find it hard to believe that it is only to do with single parents alone.

As for how single parents can lead to progress in child rearing ….Well I only need to look at my daughter for evidence of that.  She sees life a bit differently from many of her friends, which leads to an interesting and fresh perspective on life.

When asked what she wants to do when she grows up, her answer is not ‘I want to be a princess’, it is ‘I want to help people and animals who have nowhere to go.’

And that is progress!

Thank you for reading,

JT (Janet Tarasofsky)

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