Leave it to kids to be brutally honest.
I recently had a conversation with my very young nephews, my sister’s son and my brother’s son, who both believed they were abandoned by their dad. Neither was abandoned. Both live miles away from their dad, and because they are not able see their dad every day or spend the amount of time they would like to with their dad, they feel abandoned.
When I explained this to both my sister and brother, they both felt bad and their feelings were hurt. I, on the other hand, saw this as a great teaching moment. I explained how both were living with their mother and just because the relationship between their parents didn’t work out, that doesn’t mean they can’t have a relationship with their dad. I also asked them to remember this feeling when they have kids and try not to be so quick to walk away.
Each of my nephews, and even my own son, are very close to their mothers. And although I come from a family of very strong women who routinely raise kids as single parents, research has proven that kids are much better off with two positive parents in the home.
Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and author of “Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives,” discusses the benefits of having a father in the home in his 2013 article “Children Are Better Off With a Father Than Without One.” He highlights the difference having a father in the home makes in education, teenage pregnancy, and even how likely kids are to go to jail.
Peggy Drexler, author of the book, “Raising Boys Without Men,” details the successes of many mothers who raise their sons without men. I agree that women are completely capable of raising wonderful, loving men who contribute positively to society. I also believe that single parents must be cognizant of the possible void their kids feel without the other parent.
My son’s father and I make it a point to ensure he spends ample time with both parents. We both spend time with him and make memories. We take photos and document every minute that we can. We may go overboard, but even at 9, he looks back on those memories and smiles. He brings out his baby book every time someone new comes over. He asks me to play the video of when his father gave him a bath at 6 months old and sang to him. He remembers and when his cousins said, “My Dad abandoned me,” he simply listened.
Being a single parent doesn’t mean your child has to know the difference. I encourage those who are raising kids alone to make every effort to co-parent. It could make a world of difference to your child.