I’ve been a single parent since 2011. Which is the equivalent to 75% of the biggest ones life.
It’s always been something I’ve worried about, maybe worried isn’t the right word, but it’s always been something that I’ve been conscious of, maybe because there’s an inherent inter generational belief that two, together parents is best.
It’s quite a strong fight across the board to generally convince people that it doesn’t actually matter if your solo parenting, co-parenting, same sex parenting, happily (or unhappily) married parenting. Whether we want to accept it or not – single parents get a rough deal on the old judgement front.
I’ve grown to live with that, dismiss it almost, after years of worrying what people would think of me when they found out that not only was I divorced from my first husband but that I also have a child with another man. But still, you only have to see the vitorol that’s aimed at some women in the public eye who have children with more than one man to see where some peoples opinions fall.
Recently I was tasked with writing an essay on why parenting is such a focus of government policy.
The results of which are pretty exciting, but maybe because I get excited about health outcomes and data on young people.
I could actually stop now by telling you it doesn’t matter if you’re a single parent it only matters that you’re nice to your kids and the research shows it.
Anyway, what we know now is that parenting – which by the way can be carried out by anyone and doesn’t have the be a biological parent – has a fundamental impact on the outcomes for children. HOW children are parented will determine their outcomes for life basically.
Crucially, it is what a parent does, and what they provide for a child rather than the family structure that will determine outcomes for a young person. Basically – you could be raised by wolves and as long as the care you were given met your needs you’d be fine.
In Scotland, we have a national parenting strategy that details research showing that it’s not family structure at all that’s important but rather consistent, caring, positive adults (that’s a key word isn’t it) that will improve on all outcomes for children.
Equally, when we discuss attachments in children there is a vastly growing body of evidence to suggest that early, secure, healthy attachments before the age of two, provided they remain consistent, will be the ones that determine how happy, healthy and adjusted a child grows up to be.
In essence, regardless of who you are to a child – grandparent, step-parent, family friend whatever – if you provide good quality, positive, consistent parenting in the first couple of years then the outcomes for that child will be dramatically increased.
Of course we know that not all children are born equal, everyone has a different starting point depending on socioeconomic status, parental mental health, trauma etc, BUT we do know now is that if we can positively impact on the parenting, then the other factors become a lesser evil so to speak.
And this isn’t a ‘you must be a perfect parent’ argument, not at all. But much more a light bulb moment that actually when Boris stood up a few months ago and slagged off the single parents of this world that actually he was massively off the mark.
Which he proves most days anyway but it just goes to show – you don’t need two parents to get it right. You don’t even need one.
Absolutely, if both parents are providing good quality parenting then yes that is always going to be positive for a child, but are they going to be detrimentally impacted if they only get it from one? Or if they’re raised by grandparents or in care? No. Although as a caveat to that if we just let kids in care be without sometimes forcing negative interactions with natural parents on them then that would also be better too but that’s an argument for another day.
Basically I spent two weeks researching whether or not I’ve massively messed up my kids by raising them as a single parent and the answer is no.
And I wrote it all down and got a distinction pass for it.
And now I’m going to go write a million words on why divorce shouldn’t be classed as an adverse childhood experience because it’s not the divorce itself but actually the adults involved inability to get along that fucks kids up….
But I might also go eat some cake for breakfast in stead.
In conclusion – doesn’t matter what situation you’re bringing your kids up in, loving them and meeting their needs will see them alright in the end.
Keep going, you’re doing great 🤍