The New York Times ran a long page one article a couple of Sundays ago under the headline Two Classes Divided By “I do.”
The story is an anecdotal account of a troubling reality. Too many studies are reporting the same thing. Children raised by single parents simply do not do as well in life as those who are nurtured in homes where their parents are together and married. It’s a matter of economics and time at the very least. Single parents, usually single moms, can’t provide the same family income as married couples provide and the responsibility of caring for a home and being a part of children’s activities fall on one pair of shoulders instead of two. As the story shows, dads are not incidental to a child’s sense of self and his or her development as a person.
The article is quick to point out, and rightly so, that “many children of single mothers flourish.”
The heart of the article is the story of two women who work in the same day care center, the director, Chris, and the assistant director, Jessica. Chris as director has a higher salary, but that, according the article, is not the primary difference between the two women and their children. Chris also has a husband, Kevin, and her kids have a father and he is wonderfully involved in ways a father and husband should be involved. Jessica is a single mom.
As the story unfolds, facts and figures cited from academic studies point out what is painfully obvious and sometimes hard to say. Marriage matters. From the viewpoint of the social scientist, marriage matters. According to cold numbers and hard statistics it matters. It is a predictor of outcomes for children, and children of married parents do better than children without married parents. Measured by the outcomes of academic performance, behavioral problems and emotional stability, the children of marriage do better than others.
Again, the article is quick to point out, and rightly so, that “many children of single mothers flourish.”
But there is something about the story of Chris and Kevin and their kids and Jessica and her children that has me not just rooting for but even betting on Jessica and her children.
Because Chris and Kevin have each other and their family has both their incomes, the article tells us that they have “a three-bedroom house, two busy boys and an annual Disney cruise.” But it also tells us that “the couple’s life together has unfolded in the to-do-list style.” One son “plays tennis and takes karate, (the other) plays soccer and baseball. They both swim and participate in Boy Scouts, including a weeklong summer camp that bring the annual activities bill to about $3,500.”
Jessica, the single mom, struggles to pay her rent, “she buys generic cereal at about half the brand-name price (and) takes the children to church every week.” Jessica doesn’t complain. “I’m in this position because of decisions I made,” she says.
Chris and Kevin live a to-do-list life. Good for them and especially good for Kevin, for being the kind of father our world needs. But might something be missing?
There is no Kevin is Jessica’s life or in the life of her kids. Their father is long gone. The story continues, “left to showing up alone, (Jessica) makes big efforts. She rarely misses a weekend of church with the children, and she sacrificed a day’s pay this spring to chaperon field day at (her kids’) school. ‘They were both saying, “This is my mom, my mom is here!”’ she said.”
Chris, Kevin and their children sound like great people, sort of like the people many of us know. Too many activities and an annual Disney cruise. But they seem to be missing something. They seem to be missing God.
Jessica and her children don’t do as many things and they don’t go as many places. But every week they go to church, and I’m thinking that every week at church just may top a yearly Disney cruise or $3,500 of annual activities when it comes to raising children who will grow into the people God created them to be – measured by outcomes like joy and faith and love.
I’m betting on Jessica and her kids. It takes a church to raise children in the way they should go.