Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day to Single Moms

We cheerfully celebrate Father’s Day today to the delight of card companies, confectioners, shirt and tie manufacturers, and restaurants. Happy Father's Day to all the great fathers in the world. We are honoring fathers and fatherhood, perhaps in the image of the traditional nuclear family made famous by the 1950’s and 1960’s TV shows, such as Ozzie & Harriet Nelson, Leave it to Beaver, or perhaps even I Love Lucy. The father was the breadwinner and stalwart supporter while the stay at home mother performed her domestic duties. He was the strong partner and she the nurturer, although she was often the stabilizing power in the house. “Mr. Mom” did not exist in these glamorized television families The traditional family unit was a fiction then, and even more so today with two-income parents as the norm. The wife is often earning more than the husband today. The Hollywood picture is also unrealistic with the large number of single parent families today, 72.6% of which are headed by the single mom. Single mothers also existed in the 1950’s, but were ignored by Hollywood and sociologists. The 1960 Census showed 9% of all children were dependent on a single parent. That figure was up to 28% in the 2000 Census, and now exceeds 1/3 of all American families. I have no idea how many of my classmates in elementary school, junior high, or high school were the children of single parent families. That was a taboo, which was not talked about 5-6 decades ago. Obviously many were in hindsight. Many of the single mothers were young widows, especially war widows created by World War II and the Korean War. A second group, then and now, were unwed mothers. Many women today decide to bear children outside traditional marriage. Think of Murphy Brown. Many unwed mothers though continue to be teenagers, who with flaming hormones do not practice contraception, nor resort to an abortion after becoming pregnant. A third class is the divorcee, which is more common today than five decades ago. My mom was a divorcee. The problem for all continues to be economic, especially when the father, for whatever reason, does not contribute to the support of the child. The single mom has to bear the nurturing, child rearing, and breadwinning of both spouses in a 24 hour day, with her often in a low paying job. To this day I do not know how my mom managed to do it, but she did, just as millions of single mothers succeed today. I recognize from the perspective of the child of a single mother just how difficult it was. My biological father contributed nothing to my support. I hope he was more generous with the two children of his first marriage. 27% of the single parent families today exist below the poverty level. 80% of the single moms in American are employed, with 50% full time and 30% part time. Here’s my belated Father’s Day letter to my dad: “Dear Dad, Thanks for biologically begetting me. At least you had the brains to impregnate my magnificent mother. I learned from you. I vowed to be the father to my children, the father I never had.” I salute today’s fathers, but I also admire the single mothers who are succeeding in raising today’s child. May they be as successful as my mom!

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