In the doctor’s office with my daughter, the doctor asked if I was checking my daughter’s temperature regularly. I answered by saying that I had left the thermometer at her mom’s place. That led her to respond with, “You’re separated? That’s a growing epidemic.”
I wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to this statement. On one hand, I am a part of a growing problem (trend?) with younger generations. On the other hand, it could be a much worse life for my daughter.
There are probably a thousand reasons why people have children together but ultimately split up within the first five years of their lives. I would hesitate to guess that one of the main forces in driving couples apart is substance abuse of some kind or physical abuse. Whereas previous generations tolerated the abuses they were surrounded by or went through, and probably ignored the impact it would have on their children, the new ones are less likely to put up with it.
The number of support systems built up for people in abusive relationships is most likely far greater than it was 25 years ago. A quick search on Wikipedia tells me that the first modern women’s shelter (not a religious place of refuge) was opened in 1964. The first widely known shelter was opened in 1971. Today, there are shelters in all cities and communities, big or small. Each shelter has access to Government programs and agencies to insure the safety of the woman and the children, and provide a step up to get going again (at least in Canada).
There are fewer reasons to try and make the relationship work if it isn’t working out from the beginning. Women are climbing the organizational ladders much faster and higher than they were a generation or two ago. They are much more likely to have sufficient funds to take care of a family on their own (assuming they don’t find a new partner) than before. Without that financial dependence on a partner, cutting ties is more of a calculated risk than nearly impossible.
The question that I keep thinking about as I see so many single parents or blended families now is whether it is beneficial to us all in the longterm or not? I grew up being raised by my parents who have been married nearly 40 years now. We moved as a unit with the only major separation starting when I left for University. Almost all of my friends through school lived with their two parents and siblings, as well. I could probably count the number of single parents I knew on one hand, and some were separated not by choice but by the death of a spouse.
Regardless of how my daughter’s time is split between her mother and I, she is always going to have to visit another household. She is also likely going to have several friends living in that kind of environment. I wonder how challenging this is going to be for kids as they grow up. I think about the boy that is living by my parents asking about whether my daughter is coming over to visit. When the response is that she’s with her mom for a few days, he gets rather bummed out about it. These kids could potentially have a childhood of more disappointment and less playing with the same core group of friends all the time.
Maybe it will be better for them to diversify their group of playmates instead of having the same group. Time will better answer that question than I ever could.
For now, I am a part of an “epidemic,” standing out as one of the few single males staying at home to take care of a child. In the coming years, I imagine it will be much more of the norm – both the separated parents and single men working from home with a child. Whether that is good or not, I do not know, but I know that I act in a way that all parents act regardless of their marital status: to do what is best for our children.