I was raised by a strong, badass single mom. She raised my sister and me on her own while maintaining a stressful job as a special education teacher. Things were not easy for us growing up. We struggled with money. Our house wasn’t always neat. My mom was often stressed and exhausted—I remember her collapsing on the couch each afternoon when we came home from work.
But my sister and I always had what we needed. And despite a sometimes strained relationship with our dad, and a court custody battle that was traumatic for all involved, our mom was our rock. Her love was unconditional, she was steady and reliable, and she would do anything she could to provide the kind of life me and my sister needed.
My sister and I are both fully grown, have undergrad and graduate degrees, and are kicking ass at our careers. That strength my mother modeled definitely rubbed off on us.
I have many friends who are single moms. I see them for the incredible, strong AF warrior women they are. But sometimes they don’t see themselves that way. They wonder if they are “enough’ for their children. They worry that they don’t have enough time and energy to spend on their kids. They worry about money and providing all the opportunities that two-parent homes seem to.
The thing is that yes, the struggle is real when you are a single mom. But the truth is—and I hope all my single mama friends are listening—being a single mom isn’t going to screw up your kids in some way. Two-parent households aren’t the only way to raise amazing children. And even roadblocks such as financial struggles don’t matter as much as you might think they do.
Showing up, providing unconditional love, being emotionally available and stable—those are what matter most to kids, and single moms are as capable of providing those things as anyone else.
It’s not just me who thinks so either: there is research to back up the notion that kids raised by single moms fare just as well as kids raised in two-parent homes. Awesome, right?
For example, a 2017 study conducted by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology found no difference in terms of the parent-child relationship and child development in single-parent vs. two-parent homes.
This study looked at single-mother-by-choice households, meaning mothers who had made a conscious decision to raise their children on their own, often using sperm donors or other fertility treatments. Fifty-nine single-mothers-by-choice households were compared to 59 heterosexual two-parent homes.
Several very promising conclusions were found. There were no major differences in parental emotional involvement or stress between the two types of households. There were also no discernible differences in their children’s behavior.
“Children in both family types are doing well in terms of their well-being,” Mathilde Brewaeys one of the presenters of the study, told Science Daily.
Brewaeys also shot down the outdated (but still very prevalent) notion that you must have a man involved in the family unit for optimal child development.
“The assumption that growing up in a family without a father is not good for the child is based mainly on research into children whose parents are divorced and who thus have experienced parental conflict,” said Brewaeys. “However, it seems likely that any negative influence on child development depends more on a troubled parent-child relationship and not on the absence of a father.”
So, this is all pretty encouraging. But what about single moms who don’t come to the whole thing by choice—and what about kids who come from divorced homes rife with parental conflict? These sorts of situations are all too common. Thankfully, though, there’s research pointing to the fact that single mamas of all types are capable of raising wonderful, well-adjusted children.
A 2004 study from Cornell University looked at some longer-term effects of single motherhood. The article was specifically examining the academic performance and behavior of tweens and teens raised by single moms. These kids, aged 12 and 13, had been raised by a single mom for several years, and came from various ethnic backgrounds. The study researchers looked at families from white, black, and Hispanic homes.
Their findings were extremely positive and encouraging for single moms everywhere.
“Overall, we find little or no evidence of systematic negative effects of single parenthood on children, regardless of how long they have lived with a single parent during the previous six years,” said Henry Ricciuti, professor of human development at Cornell, in a press release.
The researchers did zero in on a few aspects that increased the likelihood of raising a well-adjusted and academically proficient child as a single mom.
“The findings suggest that in the presence of favorable maternal characteristics, such as education and positive child expectations, along with social resources supportive of parenting, single parenthood in and of itself need not to be a risk factor for a child’s performance in mathematics, reading or vocabulary or for behavior problems,” Ricciuti says.
The researchers from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology also emphasized the importance of social networks for single moms and stressed that single moms should not hesitate to reach out for help and assistance.
“A strong social network is of crucial importance,” Brewaeys remarked. “So I would recommend that all women considering single motherhood by choice make sure of a strong social network — brothers, sisters, parents, friends of neighbours. And to never be afraid to ask for help.”
I would venture to say that single moms are not only capable of raising kids who turn out just fine, but kids who thrive and get shit done. I know that I personally was inspired by my mother’s example of getting up every single day to go to work and take care of us—despite how hard it was and how completely exhausted she was.
She didn’t always see her strength then, but I did. I am grateful to her everyday, and am in awe of all the invincible, hardworking, loving single moms out there. You are doing amazing and your kids are going to be just fine.