The title may offend some of you while others may think this will be all about negativity towards single parents. But no, the reason I’m writing this post is to share the pros and cons of raising children alone and to encourage single parents everywhere not to give up and for others to always seek what’s best for children – a mother AND father in HEALTHY marriages!
My Story: Marriage – Divorce – Single-parent
I did the “right” thing by getting married first and what followed during the next 11 years was the birth of five children, three boys and two girls. My husband at the time was a proud papa – being present at every birth – well, except the first one when the baby was born 20 minutes after our arrival and papa was still putting on his scrub gown when the announcement was made to him, “congratulations! You have a bouncing baby boy!”
I loved being a new mother and nurturing those cute little babies. They were as the bible says about children – “gifts from God!”(Psalm 127:3) I was so thankful especially knowing that I had the possibility of not having them after being diagnosed with endometriosis and my husband being told he had low sperm count. So much for medical diagnoses!
But by the time the youngest was two years old, the marriage was over and I took shelter with my parents who welcomed me and all five children into their four bedroom home. At least I had the help of grandma and grandpa who help provide food, shelter, babysitting while I attended school and offered me much moral support! But something was still missing, and the children reminded me of it day and night.
“Where’s Daddy? When is he coming to visit us? Why doesn’t he come to my school?” It was heart-breaking with the children missing their father immensely while I was missing being married. The kids not knowing that I had missed their father way before the marriage ended with his many nights he spent away from home (not on business trips).
The Good and the Bad
The boys grew increasingly angry and became problems within their schools. It seemed as though the more I disciplined them the more trouble they seemed to get into. Sometimes even laughing at me while I called myself spanking them. When the laughing started is when I stopped the spanking and started the restrictions which were sometimes more painful to them then any spanking they ever received! I was very strict with them sometimes not even allowing them to hang out with neighborhood boys in their own front yards! Although a very nice middle-class neighborhood, the gangs had saturated our particular side of town, and their friends were either in gangs are close friends to gang members.
The girls were easier for me to raise. They excelled in school with both making the gifted programs and taking advanced classes. They responded better to discipline and never laughed at me when spanked! But I was also strict with them as they got older, as their clothing became more of an issue. “No hoochie mamas” I would constantly remind them while teaching them modesty if I thought too much of “this” or “that” was showing. Their friends (including their “boy” interests) were also scrutinized as their brothers friends were, and they also weren’t allowed much freedom away from home.
To compensate for their lack of freedom at home, I’d busy them with sports which the boys loved and dance for the girls. They found new friends and I found friends also with the parents of their newfound friends. It seemed to work as their joy was evident in having something to do.
I made a promise to myself that I would raise my children and not leave it to their grandparents. I sacrificed not working, (going on the dreaded welfare) so that I can stay home and watch my children’s every movement while remaining at home with the non-school aged children. When the youngest reached school age (no preschool), I went to work but work that would allow me to be home before they got out of school. I learned from going to the police community meetings that the most trouble with youth occurred during the time they got out of school and parents get home from work – between 2 to 6 pm. I made it a point to be home during that time.
The boys were sent to stay with their dad when they hit high school age. Not that I didn’t want to keep them, but they were begging to be with their father. I certainly didn’t stand in their way and let them go. In spite of whatever I thought about my ex-husband, he was their father and was willing to take them in. He was remarried, so there was some semblance of a stable home. And it seemed to work as far as keeping them out of trouble in school. A slight few incidents but with a father whom they wouldn’t laugh at when they received their “whuppings” they were less motivated to be troublesome. My new “formula” – send boys to dad – I liked very much although I missed them tremendously! But the youngest son, ten years younger than his older siblings and who is also the youngest of the five, didn’t have that luxury of going to dad. Dad had already divorced his new wife by his teenage years and mom had to raise him all the way through high school.
For the most part, my overall mothering techniques seemed to work as the children didn’t get involved with gangs, drugs or crime and not sexually promiscuous with babies. They all finished school and some are in college while others work. I had succeeded in breaking from the mold of being a welfare mother who’s children only ended up having babies and on welfare themselves, and boys ended up in juvenile hall or jail. I gave my children a small dose of spiritual training (I wished I could have done more here) and all five profess a faith in Jesus Christ. My number one goal as a mother that my children make a decision for Christ on their own – and they did! Of course, the challenge then became to teach them to follow after Christ!
Although my children are all adults now – 19 years through 30, they are not without deep emotional scars. Some still desire their father’s involvement in their lives, some still harbor anger and resentment towards their father and/or me, some are marriage wary and my list could go on. The stress I had in raising these children with the problems involved has taken its toll on my physical health as well. From mysterious non-cancerous tumors to gallstones, to kidney issues and more. I was so in tuned to meeting these kids needs I certainly neglected my own.
The Statistics and Single-Parenting
With single-parenting, the statistics don’t lie: families DO fare better with both the mother and father raising them! There are too many side effects from raising a child with a missing parent. Here are a few of the problems that I experienced and other single-parent may families face as well (found from Answers.com):
- lower levels of educational achievement
- twice as likely to drop out of school
- more likely to become teen parents
- more conflict with their parent(s)
- less supervised by adults
- more likely to become truants
- more frequently abuse drugs and alcohol
- more high-risk sexual behavior
- more likely to join a gang
- twice as likely to go to jail
- four times as likely to need help for emotional and behavioral problems
- more likely to participate in violent crime
- more likely to commit suicide
- twice as likely to get divorced in adulthood
Yes, yes, yes. We hear these statistics often and the picture of single-parents are painted with those numbers. With these odds against single parent families and with all the negative images that are projected, I don’t see how anyone would want to bring up a child voluntarily without a father or mother! There is a trend with many financially stable single women desiring children so they become pregnant and bring a baby into the world minus a father. Another popular age old trend are teenage girls who desiring someone to love them so they recklessly get pregnant to have a baby. For both of these trends – BIG MISTAKE! I absolutely abhor anyone who would selfishly bring a child into the world without their father in a stable marriage.
How I Survived
But all is not lost with single parents as most of us are hard-working and will do what we must to make our children’s lives better. It was hard raising my children without their father. We are making it. Others are making it. But would I encourage people haphazardly becoming single parents? Never!
How did I keep my sanity through all of this some may ask? The phrase “it was nothing but the Lord” couldn’t have been farther from the REAL truth! Understanding my role as their mother and seeking God’s word for EVERYTHING helped me tremendously. Here’s a few things that helped me through this single-parenting obstacle course (this goes for single dads as well – just invert the sex tense):
- First, understanding my responsibility as a parent was extremely important. (Proverbs 22:6)
- Asking for God’s provision, guidance and wisdom was MOST important! (Philipians 4:19, Psalm 32:8, James 1:5)
- Seeking God when the anxieties began to overcome me – not seeking drugs, drink or men. (Philipians 4:6)
- Being a godly example to my children (Galatians 5:16-23)
- Getting my children and myself involved with a church community (Hebrews 10:25)
Do not “plan” for a life of single parenthood!
There are many things I didn’t cover such as handling finances, childcare, education, careers and more. But I did want to share a few things just to paint the picture that single parenting should be a result of either a failed marriage or an unplanned pregnancy, but never a purposeful plan in bringing a child into existence!
My “formulas” I used worked for me but for some of you, your problem children may be your girls and not your boys, or ALL of your children may be pain in the butts or NONE of your children a problem! Some of you may not have had the luxury that I had of having parents with a place and WILLING to keep you and your children. Some of you also may have had no choice but to work at a job while leaving your children with daycare or relatives.
Welfare (what I chose to do instead of work immediately) is definitely different during this day and time as now it no longer means a safety net for a mother to stay home with her children due to divorce or becoming a widow (welfare’s original intent). Now when people think of welfare, they think of promiscuous women too lazy to work. A picture of welfare unfortunately made real by those who have abused it, turning welfare from a temporary helper to an enabler.
Most single parents work outside of the home, but in doing so leave their children either unsupervised, or with untrustworthy day care/after school care providers or in schools nearly 12 hours of day giving children more opportunities to become raised by their peers rather than parent. Some single parents are fortunate enough to have an excellent community help system and avoid having to worry about who’s watching their children.
All in all, most of us survive single parenting and our children are living testimony that we have. Single parenting is one of the most difficult and under appreciated jobs in the world and it sucks to do it! But by the grace of God it’s a job that we not only survive doing, but find rewarding as we witness the fruit of our labor when it’s all done!
But I wish single parenting on NO ONE!
Resources for Single Parenting
© 2009, Carlotta Morrow. All rights reserved.