The Pandemic Is Highlighting The Wisdom Of Alternative Families
Moms of young children — whether coupled or single — are suffering the most, so it’s time to get creative
The pandemic is putting a huge strain on everyone, but a new study indicates who’s suffering the most of the coupled among us— moms of young children, especially moms with jobs and no childcare
Thirty-nine percent have become frustrated with their partners who are “providing insufficient support with pandemic parenting” or are dismissive about their concerns about COVID-19. Those frustrations are leading to conflict, and as numerous studies have shown, conflict increases the chance of a breakup. It also affects the partners’ and children’s well-being. In fact, many mothers in the new study say are they leaving the workforce — leaving them financially vulnerable and dependent on their husband — are taking antidepressants and are starting to question their own concerns about COVID-19 because of their husband’s gaslighting.
As if just living through a pandemic isn’t hard enough.
Which is why many women, often divorced moms, have long touted the benefits of solo parenting. In fact, when a poll asked who has it harder, single moms or married moms, almost two-thirds of the unmarried moms agreed that it’s sometimes easier not to have a husband:
Sixty-two percent believe they bicker less with their better halves over how to raise the kids; 55 percent are glad they don’t have to worry about working on their marriages, too; and 38 percent feel freer to follow their own dreams.
Beyond the bickering, they cited other benefits or parenting solo:
- You can do things your way.
- You don’t have to compromise on parenting styles, immunizations, circumcision, etc.
- There’s no romantic drama.
- There’s no chance of divorce, custody battle and lingering bad feelings.
Indeed, studies have shown that older single moms — a growing demographic — are often happier than married moms.
But that was before the pandemic, and if there’s one thing that the pandemic has shown us is that without access to the community and support single moms count on — child care, babysitters, friends, neighbors, family, school — they are truly struggling.
While one single mom by choice notes that it has in some ways better prepared her to handle quarantine — “You’re used to figuring out a lot by yourself, without support” — another acknowledges the need for support:
“I am still the only adult at home who is trying to work, manage Gali’s education and summer activities, do grocery ordering and pickup, cook our meals and keep our home clean. While I’m generally used to doing all of this, like all other parents I don’t usually have a child home all the time. Fortunately, I’ve been able to lean on my parents for help.”
And while sickness and death are always a reality, the pandemic has presented a new urgency and new health challenges, forcing one would-be choice mom to reconsider solo parenting:
“What would I do if I were to fall ill as a single mother? Or injured? I am not long recovered from a severe knee dislocation that left me unable to walk for weeks. Even then, I was thankful to not have yet been a mom when it happened, though that would have been forgotten, if not for the coronavirus.”
Which makes me wonder what this means moving forward. Will fewer women choose to be choice moms? Will fewer moms leave unhappy relationships because it seems overwhelming to have to do everything by yourself? Will fewer women even choose to have children?
Author and single mom by choice Rachel Lehmann-Haupt is hopeful that the voice of single parents is finally being heard. Both Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris, have experienced single parenthood — Biden as a single dad of two young sons when his first wife died, and Harris, whose mother divorced her father when she was 5 and raised her on her own.
As Lehmann-Haupt writes:
“Now more than ever, single parents need government leaders who can empathize with our losses and victories, the strengths that they build, and offer a vision for the future that will give us all more psychological security and stronger community structures in which we can thrive.”
We do need leaders to support all sorts of caregiving, no matter the family form. Who knows when, or if, that will happen. So, it’s time to get creative, and alternative families offer a way forward.
Platonic parenting is a growing trend, thanks to the rise of subscription-based websites such as PollenTree.com and Modamily.com, which match would-be mothers with would-be fathers, no love involved as love-based relationships are often fraught with conflict. It’s easier to have someone to co-parent with without the entanglements of a romantic relationship.
Another possibility is having two or more single moms move in together to look after each other and each others’ kids, while also sharing expenses — known as mommunes. Some couples are living with friends for a sense of community and to help raise their kids together.
What the pandemic has shown us is that the nuclear family doesn’t always work for today’s dual-income families. In fact, it seems to be failing women, especially moms of young children. And because we don’t yet have policies that support single parents, as Lehmann-Haupt hopes to see, single moms (and the majority of single parents are moms) will continue to suffer. The economic impacts of this pandemic are not going away anytime soon.
All mothers need support. Having a spouse is no guarantee they’ll get it. Women will need to get creative.