A Voice in the Wilderness
My childhood dream of the perfect life never included divorce and single parenting. Barbie and Ken are supposed to live happily ever after. There’s no such thing as Divorced Barbie or Single Mom Barbie. But perhaps Mattel missed the boat. Had we played with these super heroes, maybe we’d be better prepared as adults for the hard reality that in the United States, more than 50% of marriages ends in divorce, with Barbie forced to vacate the Dream House and move to the Barbie Trailer.
People become single parents for many reasons – some choose to, some don’t. Certainly, divorce contributes heavily to the population. But no matter how we arrived at single parenthood – whether it’s due to the end of a marriage, the death of a spouse, adoption, accidental pregnancy, even artificial insemination -- we’re ever-present as one of the fastest-growing subcultures in America. According to the Census, Native American children are much more likely to be living in a single-parent household or with grandparents. Reality TV? This is reality parenting.
I am a divorced single parent, as many of us are. And I didn’t realize until after my divorce what a tremendous responsibility it is to shape the life of another human being. In my case, two human beings, who were 7 and 3 when we first separated. While I try my hardest to maintain a semblance of strength and normalcy in our fractured and altered lives, there’s a strong undercurrent of guilt and worry. Did I do the right thing by leaving their father? Are my kids happy? Will they end up in therapy?
While I would love to go back about 15 years, knowing what I know now, and marry the RIGHT man to begin with, I can’t. Instead, I have to make lemonade out of a sour situation and remember why I chose to be a single parent in the first place . . . because it was the only shot at happiness for me and my daughters.
Yes, single parents are overworked, stressed and financially stretched, especially Native American single parents. How could we not be? Parenting, done right, is at least a two-person job. But statistics show that 75 percent of white children live with married parents, compared to only 53 percent of Indian children who do.
Most of us are doing the best job we can, just like our married counterparts, despite additional hardships, such as legal tangles and scrambling for childcare. And for that, we deserve a respectful nod – overdue recognition from a sometimes critical and judgmental society for making the right choice, the only choice, to stand up for our children and be parents.
Even if it is on two feet, instead of four.
In this column, I hope to provide you with a voice in the wilderness of single parenting, and address those issues that are so relevant to us. While being a single parent isn’t easy, it helps to know that no matter how alone we feel sometimes, we’re definitely in good company.
Lynn Armitage, an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, is an award-winning, syndicated columnist, freelance writer and blogger who lives in California.