One of the misconceptions applied to single mothers is that they are "bad" parents who are not effective in disciplining their children. Interestingly, in a national survey conducted in 1999 by Invest in Kids, which included 245 single mothers over the age of 20, the opposite was found. "Our study found that single mothers of young children were not more punitive or less effective than married mothers. In fact, single mothers were actually slightly warmer with their children, and less likely to use physical punishment," says Carol Crill Russell, MSW, PhD, vice president, research, Invest in Kids. Crill Russell adds, "These findings seem to run counter to the opinions of many, who think that single mothers are short-tempered and ineffective in disciplining their children. Our research does not support such a view."
It Takes A Village
The key to success as a single parent is network, network, network! Most of the single parents interviewed for this article agreed that employing the resources of community organizations, friends, family, and other social supports made a huge impact on their lives and the lives of their children.
"Yes, without my support system I wouldn't be where I am now: happier and content alone. I have very good friends and family and I bring my daughter to ... community groups and church programs," says Amy. "Even with all this, there are still days where I wish I was living in a stable family situation, but ... I must rely on my support systems to [help] raise my child. There is a saying that 'it takes a village to raise a child'; I cannot teach my child everything there is to know about the world as I don't know everything, thus I will continue to rely on my support system to help me."
When asked whether she has a strong support system, Danielle replies, "Yes, lots of friends and family around the world offer [us] all the support and love we could ever need."
Laurie Horricks-Volpini shares the view that creating a strong network will make a world of difference for single parents. "Anyone who is parenting and has a good support network would have more positive outcomes. Try to increase your social support network and attend parenting programs, although this can be challenging, especially if you have other children." She adds, "Accessing information on parenting including using the Internet can be helpful."
So, is single parenting doable and worth taking on? "For those people who do not choose to be a single parent, the reality is very hard," says Amy. "Though many have done it before us, it still feels like an impossible journey. Seek support and spend time with your children as they are the ones who will remind you on a daily basis that it's worth it."