Single mums get a bad rap.
Whether we are seen as the carrier of something that might be contagious (relationship problems) or as a threat to (what’s perceived by conservatives) the way things should be. I.E – mum and dad married in a happy harmonious house.
Single mums get judged, labelled.
But the worst judgement we get is usually the one we give ourselves.
It's hard not to worry that the fact your relationship broke down, or that you chose to have a child without a partner, or the death of a spouse might have a long lasting negative impact on your kids.
You worry that they may suffer anxiety, depression and stress. You worry that you won't be able to provide for them.
You worry all the time that you are f**king them up.
But are you? It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to, and with 16.5% of Australian children experiencing the divorce of their parents by the time they are 16, I know I am not alone in my fears.
What's impossible to take out of the equation is that we know that the main side effect of a marriage breakdown is financial . Statistics show that sole-mother families have incomes lower than the average national household income for families with dependent children.
Putting that aside for just one moment – without discounting it – I have come to realise how single mothers are misjudging the effect their own status will have on their kids and it turns out that real proper science and research backs me up.
What all the research shows is that kids don’t necessarily need a mum and dad who are married, they don’t even necessarily need both a mum and a dad.
If they’ve got two parents who live in separate houses, that’s okay. If they’ve got two mums or two dads, that’s okay. If they’ve just got a mum or just a dad, that’s okay. If all they have is a grandparent then that’s okay too, as long as emotionally they have one thing.
That’s what they need. Lots of it. They need enough people to give a damn about them to make them something, enough people to love them and teach them boundaries, to teach them respect and honesty. Enough people to give enough of a damn to cuddle them and read to them.
No matter what form they take.
WATCH this little girl plead with her parents to stay friends after their divorce. Post continues after video...
Way back in 2002 a TIME magazine article looked at whether or not divorce affected children.
“Does Divorce Hurt Kids?” examined the conclusions from the two longest term studies of children of divorce. One was the 25-year longitudinal research study begun in the early 1970s by Judith Wallerstein and Joan Kelly. The other study was by a psychology professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and these findings were published in a book, For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered.
The two authors came to very different conclusions about the long-term effect of divorce on children. Wallerstein’s research concluded that a significant minority (but still a minority) of children had permanent effects that linger through adolescence and well into adulthood, such as depression, delinquency, fear of failure, fear of commitment.
Hetherington’s research reached very different conclusions. She found that the great majority (75% to 80%) of children of divorce show very little long-term damage and, as adults, function well.
She found that within two years of their parents’ divorce the vast majority of children are doing reasonably well again, and that 70% of divorced parents are living happier lives than they did before divorce.
Scientific American backs up that second study. They compared children of married parents with those who experienced divorce at different ages. The investigators followed the kids till they were teenagers and found the absolute vast majority of children withstood divorce just fine.
Just fine. See.
What children of divorce don’t do well in is judgment and pity. They don’t do well in the way society pigeon holes them. They don’t do well in the way they get labelled.
So don’t feel sorry for the kids of a divorce – they may be better off than you know.
Are you a single parent?