The release of a University of Maryland study last week prompted the arrival of several emails into my inbox, from other bloggers and friends who thought I might be interested. And indeed I was.
The study focused on the amount and quality of time that American Mothers are spending with their kids. And surprisingly to the researchers (but not to me) - the data concluded that Single Moms spend almost exactly the same amount of time with their children as married Moms. Despite the steriotype of the frazzled Single Mom balancing a low-paying job, slightly deprived TV-zombied children, and Kraft dinner meals in a dilapidated house — the evidence shows that single Moms devote about 90% of time with their children that married Moms do. Single Moms are doing a stellar job of balancing work, life, and kids without a mate to help.
A spokesperson for the University of Maryland said that single Moms might be cutting a lot of other things out of their lives: sleep, friends, exercise — but “they’re really trying to privilege time with their kids.”
I know better than to lump all single Mamas into one category - but for me, this sentiment has been utterly true. Being a single Mom means I need to get a babysitter everytime I want to go to a yoga class or for a run - economically, it’s just not worth it. I do have a network of friends but I don’t see them that often, especially those that don’t have kids. And, I sleep about three hours less a night now than I did when I was with my son’s Father. I’m not sure whether the dissolution of one relationship magnified the importance of another, but my sudden status as a single parent only made me more determined than ever to not “screw up” my son.
I think, too, that knowing that I was going to be exclusively responsible for my son’s livelihood made me more tenacious in my pursuit of flexible job options, of determination to pick up more freelance work that I could do at night so I could spend more afternoons with him.
Lastly, there’s the sticky reality that many married Moms, for all intents and purposes, are working and carrying the brunt of home life and child care just like Single Moms. Alaina over at Ms. Single Mama wrote a compelling post about this a few weeks ago noting that for many married Moms, help by Dad with the children and the house is non-existent. This fact might also help support some of the “surprising” research data.
I spent a long time after the demise of my relationship fretting that my son would be damaged for life: that he would be unable to maintain a relationship when he was older, that he would be fraught with insecurity and sadness over the separation of his parents. My own parents have been married for 36 years: it has been drilled into my head that the only option for a stable family is a loving, two parent home.
I am learning, through listening and reading and discussing studies like the one above — that a happy child is created with love. Love from two parents in one home is great.
But devotion, time, and ungrudging sacrifice by one parent who would give the world for her child also provides the basis for a happy child: one who will always know that anything is possible where there is love. Single Moms have proven it time and time again.