Some spirited discussion after my Homework posting below, so wanted to keep the issue going.
I agreed with David V’s reply, particularly his characterization of Faith Hill’s comments and the perspective from which she speaks. I also agreed entirely with the final paragraph in the entry, which is what I took to be the ultimate point of David’s well presented entry.
David, I don’t take issue with what you wrote. In fact, I believe we agree. For example, I am equally baffled when a parent opts not to have a direct role in their child’s life, and also agree that children suffer in that situation. I cannot imagine how a child can be completely at ease with such a situation, although there are obviously circumstances where a parent is somehow a harmful presence in a child’s life.
My point in suggesting that I don’t agree with it all is more based on minor details. And much of that is based on assumptions made about your entry by others, not so much in what you wrote. For instance, while I agree that “out-of-wedlock” births clearly warrant attention Ã¢â‚¬â€ particularly given the statistics you cite Ã¢â‚¬â€ those situations should not be assumed to be the norm in single-parent families, which at least one of the other replies to your entry seemed to do.
Ultimately, I think there are some misconceptions about single-parent families. While economic hardship is an inevitable consequence of many single parenting situations, they are a pretty mixed bag and difficult to lump into one neat demographic profile. My son, for instance, was not born out of wedlock, yet I am a single parent. So the category excludes children of divorced parents.
I also pulled some numbers from the 2000 U.S. Census and a variety of surveys and studies (they can be found in the Parents Without Partners statistics I posted earlier), and found that the proportion of custodial parents and their children living below the poverty line dropped from 33% in 1993 to 26.1% in 1999. Over the same time span, the percentage of custodial mothers in poverty fell from 36.8% to 28.7%. The number for custodial fathers in 1999 was 11.1%. Of course, the numbers are a tad dated and it is still an alarmingly high number. For the record, the percentage of married families below poverty was 6.3%. Also, 89% of single fathers and 77% of single mothers are in the work force.
Again, I am not ignoring the very real issue of children born out of wedlock and living in poverty conditions. The numbers are clearlyÃ‚Â high for single parents, and it is a serious issue and one to take up in future in more detail. I am simply trying to illustrate that it is difficult to categorize single-parent households with one stroke.
What we all do share are lone parenting duties and children who are eventually going to have difficulty understanding their familial situation. The picture that David paints is an often grim one, but a realistic one. Clearly, Faith Hill’s commentary, while well-meaning, is hardly rooted in the very real, day-to-day life that many single parents find themselves in. My purpose in posting it was to highlight that she was showing some understanding of her situation being fortunate in that regard.
What I found most insightful in David’s entry, if I read it correctly, was the notion that we must take a level of responsibility as parents and as a society. The bulk of single parents are not reliant on taxpayers for support, and those that are need additional resources and better parenting training to better help themselves. Whether we like it or not, David is right in suggesting that “the idea that taxpayers are going to step in and rescue single parents from their ecominic struggles is fanciful.” There is simply a reluctance in our society to do so on a continual basis, whether we agree with the notion or not.
In the coming weeks and months I will attempt to link up with more and more resources for single parents, resources that will vary from support groups, to professional advice, to training, to services. Most of us didn’t choose to find ourselves in single-parent situations, but here we are. I think you’d find most of us, given the opportunity, very driven to improve our own circumstances, for ourselves and for our children. Very few of us want a handout.
ON ANOTHER POINT:
David, you are right on my son’s birthday. Last year, for instance, it did fall on Thanksgiving. My ex and I are flexible in that regard as well. Unfortunately, sometimes it affects time with my son: Last year I saw him the day after his birthday. Yet, it balances out, as he spent the weekend after Thanksgiving with me last year, although it was not my scheduled weekend. So while my ex was able to be with him for Thanksgiving and his birthday, I was able to have a few extra days with him. It’s all in the compromise. Thanks for asking.