The Single Life
Singles face many issues that don’t affect their married counterparts. Some of these are subtle, such as being excluded from social situations involving couples. But others have economic repercussions. These may include discrimination in employment in the form of hiring and firing practices, lower wages and fewer benefits; greater expense in terms of insurance and taxes, or even rejection by potential landlords—who may view singles as less “responsible” and therefore less desirable as a tenant than a married couple might be. Some would suggest the single life isn't as "free" as it's cracked up to be.
“Tell new acquaintances that you are single and often they think they already know quite a lot about you,” says social psychologist Bella DePaulo. “They understand your emotions: You are miserable and lonely and envious of couples. They know what motivates you: More than anything else in the world, you want to become coupled. If you are a single person of a certain age, they also know why you are not coupled: You are commitment-phobic, or too picky, or have baggage. . . . From knowing nothing more about you than your status as a single person, other people sometimes think they already know all about your family: You don’t have one. They also know about the important person or persons in your life: You don’t have anyone. In fact, they know all about your life: You don’t have a life.”
Published in 2006, DePaulo’s book, Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, uses humor and often very well-aimed satire to explain (to singles as well as couples) that singles can be just as happy as their married friends.
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Parenting can be much more challenging without two adults in the family to share the burden. Some of these challenges are shared by single fathers and single mothers alike, but others are more gender-specific, often because of stereotypes that permeate society's institutions. For instance, the presence of fathers in their children's life still may not be viewed as being as important as that of mothers, a mistaken impression that can have repercussions for single fathers in the workplace. At the same time, research proving that fathers perform much more than merely a biological or economic role for children presents a different challenge for single mothers, who may be made to feel their family is less than complete and their children are being shortchanged. But as research reinforces the fact that men make unique and vital contributions to children’s lives, there is also no getting around the reality that some families do function, and function very well (thank you very much) without the traditional "one parent of each gender" structure.
Must single parents feel guilty and shortchanged, or can a single father or mother raise happy, healthy children?
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