From the time they are young, children are taught to eagerly anticipate their future of dwelling in a picture-perfect, nuclear family. Mom, dad, and children…. What could be more perfect?
Fast forward a few years, and reality strikes: no family, nuclear or otherwise, is perfect. Inside the walls of every home are struggles and difficulties that could bring anyone to a breaking point.
However, media and social norms continue to glamorize two-parent homes in a way that is far beyond helpful. At times, they can be found encouraging unhealthy relationships for the sake of upholding an unrealistic, Instagram-worthy image.
While this continues to happen, families that are run by one parent are left to deal with stereotypes and stigmas that society has developed steadily over the years.
If you are a single parent struggling to overcome the stereotypes often associated with one-parent homes, you are in the right place! In this article, we will discuss the definitions of stereotypes, why one-parent families are a popular target, common stereotypes towards single parents, and tools that you can use to overcome these stereotypes.
What is a stereotype?
A stereotype is a widely agreed-upon opinion or idea that oversimplifies a group of people. Stereotypes do not take into consideration differentiations between individuals within said group of people. Instead, they ignore any differences for the sake of convenience.
Stereotypes can be hurtful because they often have a negative connotation. It’s hurtful anytime ideas are assumed or opinions are placed on a person, but when those things involve our children, parents tend to take on a whole new level of defensiveness. Rightfully so!
Why do one-parent families have so many stereotypes?
Well, to answer this simply: people tend to dislike the things that they don’t understand. When people dislike something or someone, they subconsciously do everything in their power to make this thing or person feel insecure or excluded. Using stereotypes and labels is a very effective way to do this.
Common Stereotypes for One Family Homes
A negative stereotype will look different from one parent to another, depending on the reality of their situation. However, there are some stereotypes that no parent wants to be connected to.
Do any of the following sound familiar to you? If so, know that you are not alone!
● Single parents are looking for a partner.
Sure, this may be true for some single parents… but by all means, not all. While there is nothing wrong with looking for a partner, to assume that ALL single parents are looking for partners is to assume that no one wants to be a single parent- and that is just not true.
● Single parents rely on others to make things happen.
“Oh, it must be such a relief that you have family nearby!”, or “You must have a great babysitter!”… have you heard those? Regardless of whether you have help (which is a fabulous thing!) or not, comments like these take away from the incredible amount of work single parents put in every day while raising their families.
● Single parents want pity.
It’s a hard NO on this one. When a single parent tells another person about their situation, the last thing they want is your unsympathetic pity. Yikes!
● Single parents don’t have time to be effective parents.
“Single parent” can sometimes mean one caregiver for the children, one chauffeur, one chef, one housecleaner, and one income. A single parent has their hands full! However, that does not leave them incapable of doing the most important work of all: raising their children in a loving, competent environment.
● The children of single parents will grow up in a broken home.
A common storyline in mainstream media, this narrative is damaging not only to the single parent but to the children in the one-parent family. Children raised in a single-parent home are not destined to a bleak future, and broken homes are certainly not isolated to single-parent homes.
How Can I Overcome Stereotypes?
● Surround yourself with people who are non-judgemental and who are willing to take the time to understand your situation.
That means REMOVING those who are judgemental and/or disloyal. It isn’t easy, but it will be worth the hardship when you find yourself feeling supported and empowered by those in your circle!
● Take pride in your situation.
No matter how you got to the situation you are in today, you are there for a reason. Take pride in the fact that you wake up every day with the opportunity to raise your children in the way that YOU want to raise them.
● Remember that others are not thinking about you as often as you may think they are.
When you are different from those who surround you, it is easy to feel like everyone is analyzing you, all the time. While that may be the case in some environments, your hyper-awareness of their opinions can make matters worse.
While it’s easier said than done, try to let go of your anxiety about how others perceive you. It may just lift the burden of stereotypes right off of your shoulders!
We are all humans, which means that it is okay and normal to feel confused or hurt by the assumptions that other people make about us and our lives. As parents, we do everything we can to protect our families.
However, we do not have to give in to the stereotypes. Nothing (and no one!) can take away our ability to hold our ground and disprove negative stereotypes. Surround yourself with honest people who are non-judgemental, take pride in the amazing things you accomplish in your role as a single parent, and be empowered by the unique challenges that you overcome each day.
Your family is more than a stereotype. You’ve got this!