Before you judge me, make sure your life is perfect.–Clint Eastwood
Older women can utter the most judgmental words ever spoken to younger women. Especially, when it comes to parenting, lifestyle choices, and appearances.
It is possible that other demographics (older men, younger women, and younger men) harbor the same thoughts but they do not dare speak them aloud.
Older women do not care. They seem to think that they can–indeed that it is their God given obligation to –tell younger women exactly what they think. No holds barred. I have considered that maybe I’m not being fair here. I could be too quick to stereotype. We all make judgments based on our own personal experiences–and that’s what I’m doing here. I’ll explain.
Two years ago, I traveled to a conference for work and took 3 month old Massimo. During the conference, I attended–with Massimo in tow–a BBQ held at the home of one of the “leaders” of our organization. Massimo wasn’t the only baby there–in fact–another attorney and her husband attended with their baby who was several months older than Massimo.
Oh, how they swooned. Massimo was a very handsome baby. We compared the two babies–their size. Massimo was larger even though younger–which (by the way) meant exactly nothing. Everything was going pretty well. Massimo was well-behaved and there were no major accidents. . . . . at least until one of the older female “leaders” of our organization accidentally opened her mouth.
She asked me about my husband. I told her I wasn’t married. Although I’m sure it was quite obvious to her that the fact that I had no husband was not all that important to me–it was to her– and she continued to pry.
“Well, what about his father? Where is he?”
“He isn’t around,” I responded and then quickly tried to change the subject. Having none of it, she persisted.
“Well, that’s not good for the baby!” Awkward silent moment. I walked away.
To be fair, I am not sure she would characterize her interaction with me as an accident.
I was at a work function, with a “leader” of my organization–who by the way–I had never met until that moment. Of course, her opinion of my life did not matter to me but no mother –particularly a new mother–wants ANYONE to tell her that the choices that she makes aren’t “good for the baby.”
Here’s the thing, this lady literally had no business telling me what her opinion of my life choices were. They were quite simply none of her business. But she hit a nerve.
The story line that single parenting (particularly single motherhood) is bad for children is a time-honored tale. “Single mothers” have their own demographic–beside which appears higher rates of poverty, school failure, and other “problems” with the children as they grow up. Indeed, the children of single mothers are destined to fail. At least that’s what we’ve been told.
In fact, that story is not exactly true–and it does not have to be.
Mathilde Brewaeys from VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam conducted a study comparing the well-being of children growing up in single-mother-by-choice and heterosexual two-parent families and found no differences in terms of parent-child relationship or child development.
According to her, “the assumption that growing up in a family without a father is not good for the child is based mainly on research into children whose parents are divorced and who thus have experienced parental conflict.” Ms. Brewaeys explained “however, it seems likely that any negative influence on child development depends more on a troubled parent-child relationship and not on the absence of a father. Single-mothers-by-choice knowingly make the decision to raise their child alone, in contrast to unintended single mothers. Little research has been done on the specific features of these single-mothers-by-choice families and whether there are differences between them and heterosexual two-parent families in terms of parent-child relationship, parental social support and well-being of the children.”
The study was a comparison of the well-being of children between 18 months and 6 years old. 69 of the children were raised by women who had knowingly chosen to raise their child alone and 59 were raised by mothers from heterosexual two-parent families.
Based on the results of the study, Ms. Brewaeys reported that children growing up with single-mothers-by-choice appeared to enjoy a similar parent-child relationship as those in heterosexual two-parent families. She also said “a strong social network is of crucial importance.”
I am certain that she’s right about this last point. It is hard enough being a parent. Its super stressful to know that you are entirely responsible for the well-being of another human. That’s why a support network is important. It is allows a single mom (or dad) to have someone to reach to for help. It also allows the single parent an opportunity to have conversations and participate in activities apart from their children.
Of course, it is always possible that some of the choices that I make not be “good for the baby.” But, I think it’s that way with any parent–married or single. We all try to make the best choices we can make and make those decisions based on enough information. Inevitably, we will, on occasion, make bad ones but that’s all a part of life–and they are our choices. Not anyone else’s.
At the end of the day, I know that the child is going to be just fine and I have to hope that whatever bad choices that I make will be just enough to make him an interesting adult. If you found this post helpful or inspiring, please be sure to like, comment and share.
#singlemombychoice #singleparenting #singlemom