These days I am surrounded by exceptional father role models everywhere I turn. Fathers with hands-on involvement in their children's lives, actively helping their spouse in every way in addition to their professional work, which is the new normal today. This wasn't the norm in parenting roles when I grew up. When I was born in 1948, most fathers worked outside the home and supported the family financially, while women did all the household chores and raised the children on their own. Women working in jobs outside the home still had the same household and child-rearing responsibilities, all without help from their husbands. Today we have a healthier approach, with shared responsibility for handling finances, housework and child-rearing, with both parents aware and pitching in, rather than following outmoded traditional gender roles.
But I never forgot about how things once were for many mothers and fathers who raised children alone. Having been through it myself, I know how hard it is. But there is a bright side for those who have known and experienced solo parenting. Parents with all that responsibility mature rapidly in their efforts to nurture their child. Some us in that solo parenting role needed to mature in ways others may not. Perhaps children with solo parents had more time to play and be children because their parent was busy attending to every possible household job. Perhaps in a way that actually served and benefited all of us! When I reflect on how things are in families today, I feel satisfaction that my own children have a better situation by sharing parenting and household work. Even if we have a spouse who prefers traditional male-female roles based on that of his parents, we can understand just how important our role is when we must do it alone. It makes us feel stronger, knowing that we're making a difference. We smile and bring joy to our family just as our old-fashioned parents did for us.
Because what else should a parent do who has to shoulder all the parenting responsibilities? When your spouse is preoccupied with work or sometimes unaware of their responsibilities as a parent, then the parent who is aware must benefit the whole family by doing whatever is necessary, even if it's different from an ideal family with two hands-on, active parents participating in child rearing. Single parenting can be a serious loss that the whole family feels. But if you're in that situation, let me offer some assurance that there is something of greater good working on your behalf to pointing you towards the best way to handle things. This is important because when we let our children take on too much responsibility, this might lead to additional pressure or strain on the children in the end. In my opinion it means we have to handle single parenting very carefully.
When praising working parents who somehow get it all done, we may be sending the wrong message to single parents with no outside support of any kind, even from family members, and who consequently have a tough time meeting all of their responsibilities. Having help raising children from a partner or spouse whose concern is the same as ours is the greatest blessing a parent can have. It can give us room to grow when we know our children are being taken care of with love by their other parent who loves them as much as we do. Not everyone has this advantage and single parents and their children feel the strain.
What are the rights of children being raised by single parents? What are the rights of their working parents, who toil without support and have no help raising them? These questions that parents and guardians ask themselves that can only be answered in the depths of their hearts and souls. We can help them with God's inspiration in revealing the right words to say to support and encourage these single parents. We can let them know that they are doing more than enough just by doing their best to take care of their children and putting them first as much as possible. Just remember that there is a greater good behind the scenes working on our behalf with God's hand that will help keep our families safe, either with the good intentions of today's modern responsibility-sharing fathers today or even with those holding the values and roles of yesterday.
An excerpt from Imprinted Wisdom, with some good old-fashioned advice:
Let the Children Play
Mom did most of the housework and the cooking in our home. We helped out, but we never had the responsibilities that most of our friends had in keeping up with the daily chores, housework, or cooking. And for the younger ones, Mom believed, let them be children, as she would say to my dad, when he noticed she was doing more than her share of these tasks. "They have the rest of their lives to be responsible; for school, work, parenting, providing or preparing meals, and keeping their own houses in order when they have their own families." She often explained to him, "What am I doing here, then, if not taking care of my own children? This is what gives me the greatest joy!" She considered it her role to give of herself and to do for others, and spoke about it as a privilege. To her, not being able to do so would be sad.
About Catherine Nagle: Catherine grew up in Philadelphia with 16 brothers and sisters, reared by loving, old school Italian parents. Catherine's artist father's works graced locations from churches to public buildings; her mother was a full-time homemaker. A professional hairdresser, Catherine worked in various salons while studying the Bible and pursuing spiritual growth through courses, seminars, lectures and inspirational books, including A Course in Miracles and the works of Marianne Williamson among many others. The mother of two children and a grandmother, Catherine lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and son. She is the Author of Imprinted Wisdom.