Another statistic has been released. The title: Single moms report worse health in middle life.Oh, joy.
When I read the article, however, there was actually more substance to it.
The findings suggest public health campaigns to promote marriage, which were started by the government in 1996 and aimed at single, low-income mothers, may not improve these women's health as once hoped, the researchers said.This reminded me, of course, of the debate I had with the pro-marriage dude who called me a national disaster. I don't remember if I ever wrote about it, but I also had a lengthy conversation with someone from the federal healthy marriages project not long after that. By the end of it, we had to agree to disagree. Still, I think it's time I followed up with him to inquire why our federal government continues to fund marriage incentive programs, particularly with all the other issues.
The article goes on to state:
It's important to note a bad relationship or bad marriage also can be deleterious to one's health.I can say this absolutely was true for me. I remember once, during my relationship with X, I looked at a list of the Top 10 Stress Factors (that pointed out that having 3 or more of them would most likely land you in a hospital). I was at the time experiencing 7 of those 10. The first few years of single motherhood were bumpy, no doubt, but the last 3 have been the most settled of my adulthood.
The conclusion of the study seems to me the most important, most useful information for single moms, their children, and society at large:
Yes, single parenthood is hard, but it's made that much harder if you can't make enough money to support your family, can't find affordable quality child care, or you can't take your kids to the doctor.
The study suggested policymakers should look for other ways to help single mothers improve their health, Williams said, such as providing access to job training, child care assistance and health insurance.
Most single parents I've met aren't looking for hand-outs. I know that the majority of my influence as a parent comes from I do, not what I say. I'm okay with telling them there's not enough money to go to the latest movie, or to take them out to eat every night. I'm not okay with them not having a safe place to go after school. I'm not okay with losing my job because of a massive lay-off (and not because of my work product). I'm not okay with not having adequate healthy dinners to feed them because the healthier grocery options are out of my budget.*
It's important to look beyond the statistics, beyond a "sexy" headline, and get into what it really means to be a single parent family. Chances are, there are worse alternatives.
(*Note: none of this is true for me today, but possibilities, prior experiences, and underlying fears.)