I’ve been thinking about this for a while, mom blame. Partly because I’m a mother and the other because of the area that I work in, family law reform and education.
The Doctors show today, Episode 48, Season 10, included a segment on “How to be a Wealthy Single Mom. There were a couple of comments that got my attention:
- Most of the single parent homes are headed by mothers
- That the statistics saying that single parenting homes were detrimental to the children were outdated and not the case anymore,
- That the amount of time you spend with your child made no difference, and that what mattered was the quality of the time.
Recently, two separate groups Leading Women 4 Shared Parenting and The Texas Father’s Rights Movement each did their own informal studies on the number of times a family court judge restricts a child from one of their fit, loving, involved parents, many of these homes that they consider really to be single parenting models. Both of these studies revealed that mothers are awarded primary custody almost every time. They both seem to have revealed a very strong bias in favor of the mothers having custody. And this show confirmed that the majority of the single parent homes are run by the mother. In fact, there wasn’t a single comment made on the show to indicate that any of them thought it odd that their topic was only on single parent, mother run, homes.
There are recent studies that show that children who spend closer to equal time with both of their parents are better off. One family law attorney agrees, where his blog states, “Studies have shown that children who have continuous and long-lasting contact with their fathers do better in school, adjust more readily to changes in social situations and have fewer disciplinary issues both at home and at school.”
Children mimic the people they are around. We all know this is fact. We know that children learn more through observation and that personal beliefs, values, and morals are conveyed through intimate daily interaction, so how can the amount of time spent with a child not matter?
There are a lot of studies that show more children from single parent homes have a higher likelihood to drop out of school, for substance abuse, to develop mental health issues, and have higher suicide rates. There are more, but these are some of the biggies. While I don’t want to put the blame on moms in general, because there was a time when mothers had to fight to have any rights with their children when fathers were favored before the tender years doctrine. And we know that there were times in history where science plain got it wrong and they blamed mothers for certain mental health disorders in their children. However, we cannot ignore that there is a strong cultural bias still that mothers are more equipped to raise children in the younger years, and that the laws of more recent times had in them that mothers were presumed to be the primary custodian when the parents were separated, and some of the laws even considered fathers incapable of parenting without the mother and if the mother was found to be unfit or deceased, the fathers would have a hell of a fight to not lose their child.
While I do not disagree that studies can be done in a way that produce skewed results. I know both of the organizations that conducted the preliminary inquiry into the results of family court orders, the one by LW4SP calculated all of North Dakota and the one done by the Texas Father’s Rights Movement calculated only one county, Brazoria, county in Texas. Since we are on the issue of studies, yes there are studies about single parent households that are circulating in the family reform committees. I do not agree that all children in single parent households will develop these problems or that a single parent cannot do a great job with developing their child to the fullest. There are many single parent homes that are single parent homes because of loss of a parent to death or the other parent decided to not be a parent any longer. There are other homes being forced into what might as well be considered single parent homes, and these are the homes where a fit, loving, involved parent has been restricted to minimum time with their children just because they are no longer together with the other parent. The courts are creating a false condition and stripping the children from their equal time with the other parent. I believe this causes even more harm than the homes where the parent is willingly absent. This, in my opinion, is causing an even higher risk of damaging the children. I know, I witnessed this with my own children. And now that I work daily with creating solutions in family law, I hear about it happening to other children. Parental alienation, child depression, children missing school, children’s needs not being met, and even child suicide. Most of these children were forced into single parent homes and lost great support they had from the other parent, not because the parent withdrew their support, but because the court decided to remove it. One of the factors stated on The Doctors show also was financial stability.
The doctors said that parents made better choices when they had a financial cushion and some retirement put away. The family courts destroy this for the parent they reduce to nothing more than a visitor in the child’s life. Another issue that needs attention on it quickly as divorce is the 4th most common reason that drives a person into bankruptcy.
While I agree that the idea that a single parent cannot raise a strong, healthy, productive child is absurd, it is also a fact that the most advantageous structure for a child is two fully participating parents. While it is not always in a parent’s control to have the other parent participate, the fit parents being blocked by a family court is a falsely created single parent home. These false created single parent homes are a huge detriment to children.
With the exception of the comment by the doctors that single parent homes are not detrimental to children, the other comments made by them that I listed above on today’s show make me wonder what the doctors on this show are measuring to support their statements. The Doctors is a popular show and they need to be more responsible with the content of their show. Their comments today could be very harmful. For instance, when you have family courts cutting children off from their fit parents based on careless or outdated beliefs, the courts harm children.
I believe that it is harmful to make people believe that the amount of time spent with their child doesn’t matter. We have an epidemic in this country and around the world where family courts are restricting fit, loving, involved parents to bare minimum time with their children, and the general public is not taking much interest in the issue. Shows like this don’t help when the average person isn’t going to go and do the research to find out whether these comments were correct or not.
Immediately following this episode, the Dr. Phil show came on with a child who was in tears stating that she felt abandoned by her mom. Her father spent her life being mom and dad. This child clearly has been impacted by being raised in her single parent home. The child clearly needed both parents to be involved in her life. This is not always possible when one parent abandons the child willingly. There is a difference between this family and those that go through family court. Parents who fight for the ability to be an equal in their child’s life are being kept out of their child’s life based on the same careless and loose, unsupported statements as the ones that were shared on The Doctors.
The bottom line is that when shows like The Doctors spread ideas that impact the public’s culture and beliefs, I think that they have a higher duty to check their facts. While these comments might not have meant much to them, they do impact generations of children.
The North Dakota studies by LW4SP here.
Texas Father’s Rights Movement study here.