Staying Single is NOT Good for Your Kids, Part Two

Category: Weekly Columns

Effect of Divorce on Kids

Writers never know what is going to connect, resonate, please, and/or anger readers. Staying Single (Part One) achieved that. First, I want to declare the reason for the title since that is just one point of anger from my critics. I am a writer. I want readers. I choose titles that are honest to the content of my columns but I also choose ones I think will draw interest. I am no different than ANY television newscast, newspaper, book, or Hollywood. To be quite clear, I am NOT apologizing for my title choice.

I do want to clarify things that were either assumed or misinterpreted as well as share some of the comment “highlights.”

Comment screenshot

Many things in life are what I call “ideals,” things we as individuals or as a society strive to achieve. An “ideal” is just that – something ideal but not necessarily good or possible for everyone. One ideal I believe in is a two-parent household, ideally with a husband and wife. My belief is that the institution of marriage has been around for a long time, for good reason, and doesn’t need reinvention. I’ll leave the whole gay marriage discussion to others since I’m not taking a position on that in this discourse. And, to be clear, I’ve wonderful gay friends and think of them as NO different than any other person – good or bad as each individual may be.

Staying single may be exactly the right thing for any single person, parent or not. But, my assertion is that it can become a “badge of honor” and some women, in my experience, have worn that badge as a sort of martyr. My suggestion is that they rethink that position because sometimes their role as sole parent can become suffocating on their kids and, as stated in the original column, denies themselves a life.

Divorce affects kids

                                        How Divorce Affects Children

The more fulfilled we are as individual parents, the more we can give to our kids – in my opinion. Yes, there are circumstances when we have to put our lives on hold. Lots of them. And, I commend any single parent who puts their own needs behind pressing ones of their kids, especially if the other parent is absent or abusive in any way. Sometimes, financial pressures are overwhelming and time to date or otherwise do things we might want to are impossible. I get that.

Let’s look at some of the comments made in the first column, excerpted, and with my replies following:

From Kelli: You can model many ways to your children that your life is important, that you can have fun, and that your life matters all the while being single. Bruce: Yes, of course you can, but is this the best thing for your kids if you can date and/or hopefully meet a good partner?

From Ted: All depends upon circumstance, and individual concerns.

Risks of Divorce

From Lori: … my kids are traumatized enough and need the stability of their life with me being a constant. Bruce: Understood, but why does this mean you can’t go out?

From Daisy: Frankly, it has been very difficult for me to find anyone whom is remotely interested in a relationship involving someone else’s children. Cliche, yes, but it fits. Bruce: It’s work to date. I met my wife online and she expressed how so many of her friends just gave up. Daisy, give it another shot, please?

Divorce and Money

From Lori: Most of the comments are from defensive people putting on the boxing gloves. I think each individual can ponder deep inside as to why they responded the way they did. There is a lesson to be learned here if you choose. Bruce: Exactly. I am not attacking single moms. I am actually hoping to help them rethink their behavior if it makes sense in their particular circumstance.

From Griffin: Single dad here with full custody of a teen. I’ve got this single mom friend who is smart and sexy as hell but has remained single for a very long time. …Although she never complains about being single or about everything that goes along with it, she rarely goes out or does things that don’t involve her children. She’s always got an excuse, as it’s always something with the children or her work. To some extent I think she may even use this so-called “single mom martyr status” to keep the guys at bay. Bruce: Yes, that may be a reason she chooses to stay single – it’s scary. It may be easier NOT to go out and I think many single moms take that stance!

Effects of Divorce on Men and Women

From Jennifer in response to Griffin: Do you even realize how deeply embedded your anti-female, one-sided, and clearly emotional (not evidenced-based) your view points are? Bruce: I don’t see any of Griffin’s comment as anti-female or one-sided. I wonder why this touched such a nerve with you?

From SAHD Who Wants a Good Woman: Hello, I’m a SAHD and I’m so sick and tired of moms, Moms, MOMS! It takes two to make a baby and it takes two if you’re lucky to raise ’em! My wife left – drug addict – and left me with debt, and two girls. Try being a guy raising girls without a mom – especially when it comes to “that time!” Try being the only guy at elementary school with the PTA and all the cliques of moms. Bruce: I wish you the best of luck. When in the media do we EVER hear this kind of story? Yes, it is a bit too much moms at times!

Divorce from a child's view

From Heather: Wow! I am not sure what is more exciting, the title, the article, or the commentary.

From Kasie: Calling a single mother a MARTYR is wrong. Period. If she wants to complain to get attention, there’s probably a reason for that (she isn’t getting enough attention or support). If she doesn’t want to date or keep herself open to date, not only is that OKAY, but it’s really none of your business. Bruce: When I last looked we still have 1st Amendment rights. You have every right to disagree with me just as I have every right to express my opinion!

Marriage and Divorce statistics

From Kristen: I am not a single mother, however, I have worked alongside and been/am close friends with single mothers. There have been the martyrs and the ones who truck along, trying to do the best they can for themselves and their kids without wanting any recognition and making no excuses. I believe that Bruce is targeting this towards all the women who want the pity party, who use being a single mom as either a crutch or a “give me a pat on the back” to their benefit, switching between the two when it will benefit them the most. Bruce: That is exactly what I was trying to do!

And, another from Kasie: This blog is so far from wisdom and truth. I have a heart for single moms, you obviously don’t. Do you know how much guilt they carry from not being in a relationship! Bruce: Yeah, I have no heart for single moms.

Statistics about divorce

And, yet another from Kasie: The girls are getting their dating advice from Cosmo and quacks like you, who can just spout off whatever lame idea they have based off their own false theories and call themselves a guru, thereby alienating and adding more guilt and shame to all single women in the process. Bruce: Is name-calling what you do with anyone who you don’t agree with? Does that move forward ANY discussion (e.g. Washington, D.C.).

Okay, now it’s your turn to weigh in? What do you think about all of this?

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  • Cinthia

    Yawn, yawn, I’m weary of these stories about the tragic outcome of divorce on children and the dangers of single parents, blah, blah, blah. I was a single parent, worked full-time as a journalist, attended graduate school, attended my son’s school functions and even (gasp!) found the time and energy to date and have relationships. I never married and I never expected a man to pay my way but I didn’t hide behind my child’s status, either.
    What I hate about your first piece, Bruce, is how judgmental it is: If a woman can’t date because she has to be there for her children, let her be there for her children, and move on. Different strokes for different folks. (Or maybe, just maybe, the women was using that as an kind excuse instead of admitting to your face that she didn’t want to date you or whomever she had been dating, any longer.)
    I wrote a relationship column for years, heard from married and single women, and believe me, many married women are unhappy in their relationships and many single women are gloriously happy, confident and fulfilled. It also works the other way, too. Many single women are bitter and depressed and many married women are gloriously happy and confident.
    Here’s the thing: People don’t have to match up. They don’t have to date. They don’t have to (another gasp!) be married. There is no perfect way of living or defining a life. We all have a path and no one can tell us what is best for us (and statistics be damned; as a journalist I know full well how one can “fudge” stats to fit one’s agenda).
    P.S. I successfully raised a single-parent child, and he recently graduated with high honors from a stuffy private college. Big deal: It happens all the time. It’s just that you don’t hear that much about it. Blah, blah, blah, yawn, yawn.
    P.S.S. You also (and yet another gasp here) don’t need a lot of money to raise successful children. I raised my son in a small apartment. But we had books (books!) and hiking boots and every weekend we were up in the mountains, where we saw moose and bears, mountain goats and once, a wolf. Money can’t buy that kind of lifestyle.

    • Bruce Sallan

      @e2aaf98bf46cf7974baf1ae799effd79:disqus – well cone Cinthia. Sounds like you did very well for yourself and your children. My only comment is your use of the word “hate” which I reserve for really hateful people or events. I can understand not agreeing with my column but after reading this one, I would’ve hoped you’d at least “see” my point-of-view whether you agreed or not!

  • Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC

    Hi Bruce,

    I’m a single mom and licensed mental health counselor. I read your last post, but didn’t comment at the time. I needed to digest it awhile. As a professional in the field, I’ve seen it all, different families with a variety of life circumstances. While everyone can choose their own destiny, I can see your point about the single mom martyr syndrome. For some, it may be the best course of action, but for others not. I feel that dating is a personal choice. However, not dating (or having any time away from the kids) can be detrimental because no one person can be all things to another. A child cannot fill the role of a friend for a parent. It can create an environment for the child to want to be in charge and tell the parent what to do. I also believe kids need to see what a well-rounded person looks like. Someone who engages in healthy relationships (romantic or otherwise) and activities. Plus it’s healthy to have breaks from the kids on a regular basis. I love my son, but I also appreciate him more after I go out with friends. He also sees how happy I can be. I feel that people should date while being single parents. It just needs to be done in a healthy way with boundaries in place. And Bruce I’m not offended by your post. You were expressing something I’ve seen alot. Take care. Heiddi

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thank you @f83d579890634241a8ddecbca6363870:disqus for bringing a professional view as well as your supportive words. Much appreciated. I hope we’ll see you at #DadChat – wisdom like yours is needed ALL the time!

  • Ted Sindzinski

    Divorce sucks. I watched it with my parents, it will be with you for life. How much so depends on the person of course.

    But what drives me nuts is the arguments made around it and the desire to assign causality for what is at most correlation. People with higher education divorce less… but rushing to get a degree won’t change your marriage unless it’s already a sore spot. By the same token, watching your parents fight every day but sleep in the same house won’t abdicate the impact.

    This is even more true when talking long term “effects” which tie to income, education and sense of opportunity more than parental status (reporting should cross-segment what’s compared before drawing a conclusion). As more kids of boomers (high divorce) have more kids of their own, those stats will shift around around like crazy anyways…

    In the end, two people who don’t like being around each other “sticking it out” is not going to make things wonderful. Kids aren’t impacted by legal terms but by rifts, arguments and being stuck on a “side.” Even at a young age, kids are far more perceptive than we give credit too… you won’t hide misery, it will impact them.

    As for the type of parent, let’s point the finger at the action, not the group. There are married and single parents who play the sympathy card in their own ways and those who take it as a life commitment. There’s lots that would be good to change in marriage, leaving because it sucks should not be one of those things.

    And as always, action > stats.

    • Bruce Sallan

      I agree with every word you said, @350a368d2d4bdca2998fa3879025e524:disqus!

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  • David Weber

    When you hit a nerve, you hit a nerve. I often feel annoyed when I read writings that appear to make what I consider the nuance or details of my life immaterial. You may not have intended or wanted to do that, but you were perceived as having done so.
    There certainly is a great deal of evidence suggesting that two parents is the way to go, if you want to raise healthy kids. But there also are enough examples of single-parent families that produce healthy kids that if you are the parent in one of those families, you are going to feel indignant when encountering an argument that appears to take little account of your success.
    I wouldn’t play the First Amendment card casually, which you did with Kasie. The interchange with her had nothing to do with First Amendment issues, curtailment of free speech and so on. I guess it was intended to be a humorous gambit.

    • Bruce Sallan

      @7f990e539df4ddefe26884eb65a5f04c:disqus – I find it so interesting that when I present an “ideal” it often is greeted with harsh response by those that don’t meet that ideal. I was a single dad for years – as you know – and I think I did a good job under the circumstances. Nonetheless, I think my boys would have been better served with a mom present during those years (a good mom, of course). An ideal is simply that – An Ideal – it doesn’t mean we are failures if we don’t achieve it!