By Dr. Marika Lindholm
Much to the chagrin of some traditionalists, single motherhood is not a passing phenomenon. Currently, 22 million children are raised by single mothers, and all indications suggest these numbers won’t decrease soon. As an advocate for single mothers, I’ve learned that it’s important to look past stereotypes to examine the real impact of this experience on these kids. Although single moms struggle and often need support, their children reap benefits that serve them well. In fact, they learn lessons that will give them a leg up as they move toward independence and adulthood.
Here are seven qualities that children of single moms are more likely to develop than their counterparts in two-parent families:
1. Financial savvy. The majority of single moms live on a budget, so it’s no surprise that their children know the value of a dollar. Unlike so many American kids, children raised by single moms understand what it takes to keep a family financially afloat. They develop a strong sense of how to budget, how to save, what’s important to spend money on, and what purchases would be frivolous. These lessons will serve them incredibly well as they forge their own path toward financial independence.
2. Helpfulness. A mom parenting alone simply can’t do it all, so she needs her child or children to get involved in the running of the household. From a young age, kids of single moms are called on to do dishes, clean, feed pets and more. At my house, I’ve seen lots of my kids’ friends walk away from the dinner table without clearing their dishes or offering to help clean up. The kids who do pitch in without being prompted are often children of single mothers. When you’re raised by Mom alone, you might not enjoy the luxury of having your parents do everything for you, but your helpfulness is noticed and appreciated when you’re out in the world!
3. Resilience. Too often these days, we hear stories of young people who simply can’t cope with change. Colleges, in particular, are finding that an increasing number of students buckle under the strain of their newfound independence. Not so for children of single moms. They’ve observed their mothers’ incredible resilience, and they themselves have had to adjust to new situations. I saw this with my own children, who came to terms with my divorce and have done well in their subsequent transitions. Learning the skill of resilience offers the lifelong ability to adapt and persevere.
4. Appreciation of hard work. Most single moms are extremely hardworking, juggling jobs and family with few resources. Children of single moms watch their mothers’ tireless dedication and come to appreciate their struggles. Not to mention, the added challenges make victories even sweeter. When a single mom gets a raise or promotion, or is able to save enough money to pay for something special, her child sees the connection between Mom’s sacrifice and her success. The habit of hard work trickles down and is forever embedded in these children’s character.
5. Enlightened view of gender roles. Daughters of single mothers learn that they don’t need a man to be happy or successful. Meanwhile, boys raised by single moms learn to value women’s strength and independence. Because single mothers do it all, they challenge traditional expectations about what a woman can or should do. As a result, their children benefit from a much more enlightened view of gender roles. Ask any grown man about his single mom, and you’re sure to hear a poignant description that transcends traditional experiences.
6. An inclusive understanding of family. Children in single-mom families come to understand that family doesn’t always mean mom and dad. Their family might be mom and grandmother, just mom, or some other configuration. Their own experience makes them accepting of the nontraditional family arrangements that are increasingly common across our country. As adults, children of single parents will be open-minded about their friends’ and coworkers’ alternative family arrangements. These are the people whom organizations that care about diversity should be keen to hire!
7. A single-mom ally. Being raised by a single mom makes a person sympathetic and supportive of single mothers’ struggles. In the long term, this understanding is good for society in general and for the workplace specifically. Instead of judgment and criticism, children of single moms become adults who treat single mothers with compassion and respect. I have a son who understands the challenges that single moms face in the labor market and a daughter who worries that the gender pay gap hurts single mothers more than others. Their perspective is a direct result of growing up in a single-mom household.
Too often, we focus on all that is missing in the life of a child raised by one parent. But as you can see, children from single-mom families form beliefs and habits that serve them well throughout their lifetime. In today’s world, the odds that a child will at some point be raised only by their mom are increasing. It’s nice to know that this reality comes with some important benefits!
Dr. Marika Lindholm is the founder of ESME, Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere, a website and social platform, that aims to redefine single motherhood by providing resources, inspiration, and a point of connection for the underserved community of Solo Moms. Mothers on their own, whether by choice or circumstance, parent approximately 23 million American children. Moving beyond stereotypes, ESME offers Solo Moms inspiration, resources, allies, opportunities for creative expression, and some laughs along the way. The ESME community honors and celebrates the millions of Solo Moms who raise children in every town and city across America.