In today’s edition of Slate, Pamela Gwyn Kripke writes a controversial parenting piece entitled “It’s Better To Be Raised by a Single Mom.” The piece is subtitled “The kids get that magical quality; grit.” Her position is in response to previous Slate posts (and lots of research) that cite numerous disadvantages for children raised in single-mother households. Her position also uses anecdotal and personal evidence in response to studies and statistics based on significantly larger population groups. Therein lies the problem, as far as I’m concerned.
Everyone could name an exception to the supposed-statistical rules, the two-parent family that is unhealthy and unstable, the single-parent family that provides great support without running the parent into the ground. Gwyn Kripke writes: “We are surrounded by huge homes and the other accouterments of wealth. Kids here, and in similar bubbles of affluence, find gift-wrapped cars in the driveway when they turn 16, as well as one of the greatest predictors of success: support. In the recently published How Children Succeed, author Paul Tough argues that rich kids get the encouragement and poor ones get the grit, and he claims that one without the other gets no one very far. It is hard to spot the millionaire’s kid who mows the lawn or the middle-schooler on a free-lunch program who sees his parents before nine at night. I would maintain that children with a single parent get the winning combination.”
That, of course, depends on class and values and parenting style and each individual family. There is, for most of us, a rather large middle ground between the millionaire’s kid and the free-lunch program. Most of us are more likely to find ourselves in the latter position, even with two parents. Most of us live somewhere between the statistics and the anecdotes of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. Most of us are doing the best we can with what we’ve got. And all of us need a village.