My childhood improved the moment my father left. I had to grow up, of course, to know it.
Now, Mary Pols has written a book celebrating the joys and freedoms of single-motherhood and I salute her. Accidentally on Purpose is a memoir honoring her own experience and the experience of many American mothers.
Every story is different, but when you examine the figures, actual single parent statistics may surprise you. According to Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2007, released by the U.S. Census Bureau in November, 2009, there are approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States today, and those parents are responsible for raising 21.8 million children (approximately 26% of children under 21 in the U.S. today).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau...
The Typical Single Parent is a Mother:
- Approximately 84% of custodial parents are mothers, and
- 16% of custodial parents are fathers
She is Divorced or Separated:Of the mothers who are custodial parents:
- 45% are currently divorced or separated
- 34.2% have never been married
- 19% are married (In most cases, these numbers represent women who have remarried.)
- 1.7% were widowed
My mother was single, against her will. I was reluctant to raise my children alone. Pols declares the good news that today, because of our good modeling, single motherhood can be seen as preferable to many, many women.
It warms my heart to be appreciated - and I'm not surprised
The dirty little secret of my small, Minnesota town was this - most of the women I knew hated being married. My house was "male free." Even the cats were female.
I remember the many, many women who saw it as a refuge.
"Living with a man is like living with a spy in the house," one said. "I can't do anything right."
"I never knew I could resent someone as much as I resent him," another confided.
As a Presbyterian minister, I hosted several women's support groups. Oh, sure - - they called themselves sweet names like "Ladies Aid" and "Dorcas Circle." But the conversations around the quilting, knitting and baking were all the same. The refrain?
"They're all alike."
Men, that is.
And - "I know, I know. My husband does the same thing."
Neglect, that is. Never hanging up his towel, never putting his dirty shorts in the hamper. Never taking out the garbage.
And sometimes, abuse.
But even if a man isn't slapping us around, neglecting us, burping and farting at the table and wiping his ass with our clean sheets, living with one is living with constant, non-stop, critical review of every action.
Single moms don't have to deal with any of that. With the possible exception of that little stretch of time called "adolescence," single moms are free of criticism in their homes.
Several weeks ago, Garrison Keillor sang an old song with original lyrics. All alone in my kitchen, mixing batter for a batch of blueberry muffins for my neighborhood kids, I laughed. I laughed so hard I embarrassed myself. The song reminded me of what it was like to be married - to "share" with a man - to "co-parent" with someone who needs parenting himself.
To the tune of "Till There Was You" (from the Music Man)
"I was wrong, oh so wrong,
I was stupid and so silly,
But I never knew it at all -
Till there was you."
Thanks, Ms. Pols - for telling the truth. It is sweet, sweet, sweet to ever have to put down a toilet seat.