My co-worker was telling me she reads this blog http://www.parentdish.com/bloggers/kristin-darguzas/. Now, she's been reading it for a while, and considering it's on a site called Parent Dish, I didn't feel like it was a site for me. Then, one day she told me that this Kristin is a single mama (or unmarried mother) such as myself. I'm now addicted. However, I wondered why I thought the site didn't apply to me. I'm a parent, I like to dish. But I know why. Because these sites are filled with "My husband didn't help change the baby's diaper" and "We're wondering what the best preschool is for our 2-month-old". I have a different set of circumstances such as, do I pay the electric bill or the daycare, why can't my son catch a football, and how am I going to raise my son all by myself.
This divide between regular parents and single parents starts at the very beginning. When I found out I was pregnant there were no books out there titled "Oh Shit, You're Knocked Up" only "What To Expect When You're Expecting" and the like. I remember reading these books and thinking, "this really doesn't apply to me", but I read them anyway, because that's what was available.
When children are born out of wedlock, they are, by definition, illegitimate. Meaning, not legitimate. Now that's not a very nice way of describing my child. Because he has only one participating parent, does that make him less legitimate than other children...according to society, yes.
So I did a little research:
-According to Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2003, released by the U.S. Census Bureau in July, 2006, there are approximately 14 million single parents in the United States today raising 21.6 million children.
-Single parents account for 27 percent of family households with children under 18. (US Census Bureau of Household and Family Statistics, 2000)
-More than two million fathers are the primary caregivers of children under 18, a 62 percent increase since 1990. (New York Times, May 20, 2001, Jane Fritsch)
-One in two children will live in a single-parent family at some point in childhood. (State of America’s Children Yearbook 2000, Children’s Defense Fund)
-One in three children is born to unmarried parents. (State of America’s Children Yearbook 2000, Children’s Defense Fund)
-Between 1978 and 1996, the number of babies born to unmarried women per year quadrupled from 500,000 to more than two million. (National Survey of America’s Families)
-The number of single mothers increased from three million to 10 million between 1970 and 2000. (US Census Bureau of Household and Family Statistics, 2000)
Now, that's a pretty large segment of the population. I'll admit, part of this feeling is my own defensiveness and hyper-sensitivity to my situation. But, recently, I've felt that society doesn't view me as a legitimate mother (which makes sense, because my son is not legitimate). But I am legitimate. My son has the same needs as your children, he does homework, he eats, he watches TV, he plays. Which means I do the same things all the rest of you mothers do, I help him with his homework, I cook (or buy) dinner, I watch TV while he watches TV, I play with him and remind him to clean up. Feels pretty legitimate to me. I'm both parents, it doesn't get more legitimate than that.
Parenthood is hard, no matter how many people are in the family. I've always recognized that. I don't think my friends have it easier because they have husbands, I know they still have it hard. I'm just tired of single (or unmarried) parents being the red-headed step-children (not to offend red-heads or step-children) of the parenting world. My son is as legitimate as they come.