Why Single Parents Will Change the World

It’s because men I know raised by single or mostly single parents end up being Awesome Husbands.

Why? Because

a) they have to learn to do things around the house/pick up the slack, cooking, cleaning, taking care of themselves/siblings instead of having a parent (mother) doing it for them

b) they don’t get exposed to screwed up male-female patterns of privilege that exist in most marriages

My ex’s mother, for instance, walked out on her family when he was around 11. It was sad and tragic. The young boy suddenly was cooking dinner for his father and sibling, had to make money for his own clothes, do his own laundry, clean the house, watch his sister – basically, his dad forced him to take the place of the missing mother.

But I benefited because in a relationship where domestic chores don’t have a gender attached to them, when it’s just What You Do to keep the house clean and organized, to make food and do laundry, to look after other people, to be considerate and caring, when that is second nature because you had to do it growing up – well, lord, it is a breath of fresh air to any woman.

But it’s that kind of equality in the domestic sphere that needs to happen. It’s not enough that women are rocking it in the workplace sphere – the balance has to occur in the home as well. And this means that something has to change for men – for the way we raise our sons – single parents or not.

I look at my little boy. He is my mission.

Single parents have to do it by default. But more than that, single parents themselves break down gender barriers – mothers work, fathers clean – there’s no division of labor, they have to do everything (my mom was a single parent for a while; she was amazing). Boys, like girls, take their cues from what their parents do. If their mother does all the cleaning and their dad doesn’t, that will seep in, no matter how much the mom (!) tries to get them to clean up. Why should the son clean up if dad doesn’t?

If we can, let the rest of us do it by choice. Nothing so harsh as making our boys serve us pot roast the way my poor ex had to – but by expecting, requiring, everyone in the home to pick up after themselves equally.

And that includes the husbands.


One Response to Why Single Parents Will Change the World

  1. ChrEliz says:

    Thanks for this interesting post. There was an article in the NY Times a week ago called “Gay Unions Shed Light on Gender in Marriage;” it talked about how egalitarian same-sex partnerships tend to be when compared to hetero partnerships, in areas of housework, financial responsibility, etc., and suggested that stereotypical gender-based inequality problems in hetero partnerships are not in fact due to some innate differences between men and women, but are indeed learned behaviors.

    I know you mean it when you say you want to teach your son a different way. And I know you’ll actually walk the walk, not just talk the talk. So many people say that they’re going to raise pro-feminist and anti-sexist boys (and girls!) and then they unconsciously do things that promote the gender inequities all over again. I’m not suggesting that there are no innate differences or preferences between boys and girls, of course there are. But where you draw the line with products/activities/stories, which ones you promote or allow, which ones you just quietly don’t bring into the house, and how hard you’re willing to work to be gently in control over what media your child even has exposure to, will all help determine the outcome. It’s hard work to do what you’re setting out to do, but you know that and you’re obviously willing to swim upstream. I’m with you, sista!

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