Although the gold standard in child rearing has traditionally been a dual family unit, being a single parent has a myriad of benefits. Rather than navigating the treacherous territory of constant parental compromise, you can independently make choices for your children that you feel is best. Eleven years ago, when my former husband and I split, I saw my divorce as a glorious opportunity to parent solo. No more discussing the finer points of gymnastics vs. volleyball. I didn't have to debate dessert after dinner vs. never ever letting sugar touch lips. And there was no longer a lengthy discussion over the reason my daughters needed braces.
While the state of rock-steady marital bliss in this country continues to falter, more and more adults are joining the ranks of contented uncoupled family units. In fact, based on the latest Census Bureau statistics, there are over 14 million single parent households with children under the age of 18. That is a lot of people and a good reason to celebrate. Which is why, March 21 has been designated as National Single Parent's Day. A time to honor all those tenacious individuals who do what they do, day in and day out, to support, nurture and care for their kids.
As a single mom advisor and author of It Takes All 5, I would like to honor the day and offer you five solid reasons why it's better to be a single mom or dad then half of a parenting pair.
1. No Negotiations Necessary: While your married counterparts continue to disagree on the state of their children's welfare, you get to make unilateral choices, which in the long run is better for your offspring's well-being. A child's behavior can be negatively affected by adult arguing. It will either leave them crying their eyes out or running for cover. With no one else in the house to challenge your choices, you may continue to be the cozy constant security blanket your children need. Granted, there is a financial price to pay when you are the sole provider, but children need to learn that sometimes we can't give them everything they want. And oftentimes what they thought was a "must-have," really isn't. Ultimately if it is that important, you will find a way. Payment plans were designed for the single parent!
2. Stellar Independent Role Model: One of the best gifts I was able to give my two daughters was the knowledge that they can make it on their own. Change a light bulb without a dad in the house -- snap Mom. Swoop a stylish up-do for your teen with no mom in sight -- yeah Dad. You embody the the idea that it's better to "want" to be in a relationship because there is a loving bond rather than you "need" to be in a relationship because there is stuff to be done or procured. When your child sees you as a completely whole and independent adult, they will learn to emulate your healthy behaviors.
3. Relationship Options May Vary: Our society is shifting away from the bonds of matrimony. A recent Pew study revealed that just over half of adult Americans are married, the lowest rate in decades. Children will be enlightened and possibly relieved that they are no longer tied to that traditional lifestyle. Marriage is optional and sometimes not applicable. Long-term relationships without wedding bands can be stronger. My idols in this arena are Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn; they've been together for nearly 30 years. These lessons are particularly important for girls, who were raised on the fictitious belief that Prince Charming would sweep them of their feet to live happily ever after, only to become enormously disappointed when their fairytale ending turns into a hardcore courtroom reality.
4. Bed Sharing Not Required: Married couples may have more sex, but it isn't nearly as much fun. While they constantly have to "spice it up" in the bedroom, the nature of being single and switching partners does all the cooking for us. We tease, experiment and explore the bawdy awareness of every new lover. Researchers at the University of Pisa found that testosterone levels, in both men and women, make the sex hotter during the first two years of a relationship. My favorite part of becoming single again was the choice to have, or not to have, a mate in my bed. The National Sleep Foundation reported that sleeping two to a bed could cause you to lose 49 minutes of sleep per night. That's a lot! On the nights when no one is next to me to snuggle with, I lay diagonally across the mattress, relishing the cool crisp sheets on "his side."
5. Building a Better Body: Marriages are like your freshman year in college. You have the tendency to pack on the pounds. One study found that women could gain five to eight pounds in the first few years of their wedded bliss and a whopping 54 pounds by the ten-year mark, while their single counterparts stay slim. Most of us have an overriding desire to want to be attractive to prospective mates of the opposite sex. The result of a divorce? A slimmer, trimmer you -- aka the Divorce Diet. Take a look at Tom Cruise who reportedly lost 15 pounds after splitting with Katie. Jennie Garth lost 20 and Demi Moore has been stick thin since the departure of her sweetheart, Ashton Kutcher.
Many reports will tell you that being a single parent is stressful. It is. But no more stressful than being a married parent. Ultimately, we all want to step into our own with confidence and take every curveball life throws us with our independent spirit intact. The best way to handle the inevitable life shifts is to stay positive, reach out for support from your friends and family, relish the time you spend with your children and most importantly, create a daily space for some much deserved me-time.
Happy National Single Parents Day to you!