Growing up in the heart of Georgia in the 70s and 80s, I was surrounded by droves of loving families. Both my neighborhood and church community had wall-to-wall two-parent households. Sure, there was the occasional single mom that moved into the area, or a peculiar couple that just “lived together,” but mostly, my surroundings looked like a Black episode of The Brady Bunch – or so it seemed.
For the last 20 years, research has told us that children from two-parent households have a better shot at a “normal” lifestyle. It’s no wonder that the rising divorce rates seem to strike terror in the hearts of lovers and parents everywhere. But my experience tells me that it’s not the number of parents in the household that matters as much as the emotional and social health of the parents. Not all two-parent households are created equal.
I was raised with both parents living in the same household. (My folks were married for 46 years!) But that fact did not decrease the amount of things I’ve had to un-learn as an adult. At 21, I learned that name-calling was the quickest way to lose a good friend. When I was 26, I realized that yelling at a boyfriend usually sent him packing. By 28, I understood that my boss wasn’t going to just “get over” my mood swings. And, I was nearly 30 when I decided that cussing out the cashier only made me look like the idiot. I bet my lessons sound familiar to many of you—whether your parents stayed together or not.
The idea is that we are supposed to learn positive traits from having both our parents under the same roof, right? But in my chocolate-coated Pleasantville, philandering fathers taught their daughters that men were not to be believed or trusted, alcoholic mothers taught their sons that women would always be co-dependent and bickering couples taught their children that respecting one’s spouse was neither required nor expected. And what’s worse is that all these distorted teachings were hidden behind the mask of a “happy family.”
Children in my world grew up and completed the cycle of misfortune that their parents began, but with a far more dismal outcome. Yes, in my two-parent world, I saw my fair share of teenage pregnancies and young drug addicts, but I have never seen any research findings about that.
I’m not totally against the research. Honestly, there is no denying that two emotionally stable and socially healthy adults have a better shot of raising a great kid. But the question is, how many of those relationships actually even exist? I hear many unhappy couples saying they stay married for their kids, but I just see it as dysfunction breeding more dysfunction.
Instead of scaring folks off with the divorce rates, let’s inspire and educate them toward emotional and social wellness. At the end of the day, what good are two parents when all they can offer is the disadvantage of brokenness?
Don’t get it twisted—I’m not advocating divorce or single parenting. I simply believe healthy relations and total emotional wholeness are the required measurements for your happiness factor. I would love to hear your thoughts on this touchy subject, so please chime in!