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Single Parents: Out of the Closet
Encouragement for single parents! Singleness is not necessarily a handicap when raising healthy kids.

If there was ever a closet big enough to hold single parents, these courageous folks are bursting out of it today like gazelles from the lion’s jaws. And North American society is taking note.

Books like Angela Thomas’ My Single Mom Life tell single parents, “You can have an incredible life!” Amazon offers volumes such as Single Mothers by Choice: A Guidebook for Single Women Who Are Considering or Have Chosen Motherhood. TV shows like The Gilmore Girls, whose main character is an unwed mother, are awash in happy endings. And a new Toronto-based dating site for single parents, Single Parent Love Life, describes these folks as “gutsy, direct, and straightforward” and “sexy and unique.”

Single parenting has quick-stepped its way from taboo to cool. In many ways, single parents, 1.4 million-plus and rising in Canada, have become the new heroes of the parenting world. They don’t just do it; they do it well and against the odds.

Single parents were definitely on the radar in Canada’s 2006 census. The survey indicated that single parent families are changing. For example, of the 1.4 million lone parents in Canada, 20 percent are males. Lone father families are up nearly 15 percent from 2001, which is twice the rate of single mothers. This is attributed to the fact that more fathers are winning sole custody of their children.

Another new development is that three out of every ten single parents have never married. Statistics Canada attributes this rise to the increasing social acceptance of having children out of wedlock. Note, however, that the definition of a lone parent is limited to adults living with their own children, so the statistics do not include singles who are fostering or parenting without legal custody.

Succeed and thrive

Though I would never call myself heroic, I too, am a single parent. The truth is I don’t see myself as being much different from my Christian friends who are married with children. Our parenting challenges and goals are identical. And while I am aware of the warnings that children of single parent families have a higher risk of depression, addiction, and suicide, that knowledge deepens my commitment to live biblically.

Many offer the knee-jerk rebuttal, “Children need two parents to thrive and same sex parents are necessary for role modelling.” However, when I look around my apartment building and see grandmothers doing an excellent job raising their grandchildren and see single fathers raising healthy, self-respecting young ladies, I shake my head. When I think about never-married Christian women who have adopted or are fostering children, these reservations rapidly dissolve.

Experience tells me that every child needs someone to love and mentor him or her, and that not every parent is a good role model. The Bible offers many different examples of healthy families, suggesting that singleness is not necessarily a handicap when it comes to raising healthy kids. And that’s what the body of Christ is for – a community to help and care for all kinds of families. The key is finding and providing the right support for each child.

Single parents have always been a cornerstone of child rearing in Canada but are just starting to win the respect they deserve. The stereotypical uneducated, destitute, helpless widow is no longer viable. Single parents are as diverse as any other Canadian social group. The destitute coexist with the privileged, the faithful with the faithless, the PhDs with the high school dropouts – and most of us somewhere between.

With so many resources available, today’s single parents can anticipate success in their task of raising healthy kids. They can live with a sense of pride in their families, knowing they’re not considered second-class citizens anymore. They can step out of the closet with pluck and poise.

Laura Thomas is a single mom and attends Gracepoint Community Church in Surrey, British Columbia.

Originally published in the Mennonite Brethren Herald, February, 2008.




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