The Struggle of Being a Single Parent

Children need both parents

Raising a child is not an easy business, as most parents will tell you. There are demands that need to be met, plus a lot of stress and worries until they grow up to an age when you can be sure they can take care of themselves. Unfortunately, nowadays, not more than half of American families manage to stay together, and parents often time divorce when children are still small, due to various reasons. Whenever one of the partners departs, the other one is usually left in charge of bringing the kid up all by himself/herself, a task that can be overwhelming at times.

And there’s a good reason why the human standard since the beginning of time was to raise children in families. Other than splitting the tasks associated with procuring the means necessary for living and those related to taking care of the baby, the parents need to work together in order to make things better. This is an evolutionary trait that can be met across the animal kingdom, with a few exceptions, in species where, after the mating ritual is done, the partners separate and have little to do with each other.


But in social species, such as ourselves, this is a must, if the offspring is to become a viable member of society. Having established schools is a clear hint at the fact that we want, as a society, to have our young ones prepared for entering our midst, and for helping develop our way of life even further. This is the natural thing to do, anthropologists and psychologists say. Sadly, over the past few decades, experts have noticed a shift in this millennia-old evolutionary tendency.


It would appear that people get married too fast, when their relationship is not yet stable, and they are unaware of the fact that they might not get along too well in the long run. Naturally, exceptions exist, but they are too few, and most US families end up divorcing in less than three years after they were married. Other couples disintegrate when their children are very small, and the demands of being awake all night and living under stress are too much, especially for some fathers.


Anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy says in her new book, Mothers and Others; The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding, that competition and selfishness are not the only two values that should govern us as individuals. A shift in this mentality is in order, if our survival as a species is to be ensured. She emphasizes the importance of cooperation becoming another key human trait. It's only natural to put yourself ahead of all others, she admits, but draws attention to the fact that it's this state of affairs that drives the number of separations or divorces up, and the number of children growing with single parents as well.


It's fairly difficult to take care of a small one with only your company to keep. Other than the fact that, financially speaking, things would only get worst before they get better, the remaining parent needs the most basic of human interaction, someone to talk to or to be with from time to time. Even the most life-hardened individuals need this, even if they would never admit it.


Empathy is another trait that has helped form us as a society; our fresh-off-the-trees ancestors first showed signs of it when seeing one of their own in trouble. Over the millennia, this characteristic got inscribed into our DNA, and for good reason. Still, it would appear that now we are more than willing to throw it away, and all for nothing.

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