100 years ago, there was no such thing as a single parent—only a widower. 50 years ago, single parents existed, but were social pariahs. Even 20 years ago, being a single parent was kind of taboo. Today, about 16% of all families are single-parent families and there are more than 13.6 million single parents out there. To say we’ve come a long way is an understatement.

Today, it’s not only acceptable to be a single parent, it’s often applauded. Single parents are finally being recognized for who they are and how hard they work. It’s a big win in our social consciousness. We’ve shifted from seeing single parents as an anomaly, to part of our society.

A shift in social consciousness

Societal views on single parents have swung like a pendulum back and forth between extremes. Long ago, people might’ve looked at a single parent as a victim of their own circumstance. “They made a mistake and now they have to live with it.” Then, things swung in the opposite direction, toward pity. “I feel bad for them, because they have to do it alone.”

Thankfully, we’ve normalized and evened-out. Today, society looks at single parents as the individuals they are—not their circumstances or the choices that led them down that path. A woman can be a single mother because she wants to be. A man can be a single father because he chooses to be. People don’t assume the worst—instead, they accept the reality.

Single parents for so many reasons

Gone are the days of women being assumed promiscuous because they have a child. No more do we assume that a single dad is a widower. We know the many reasons behind single parentage, and we don’t assume anymore. The reasons for being a single parent are unique to each person, and people don’t owe others an explanation about them. Today’s single mom or dad might have a child because they:

  • Escaped an unhealthy relationship
  • Wanted to raise a child without the relationship
  • Might’ve chosen to adopt a child in need
  • Might be amicably divorced
  • Could’ve been abandoned by a partner

The reasons go on and on, unique to every person and every circumstance. The main thing to realize is that we no longer see single parents as victims or outcasts. Instead, they’re part of our society and as diverse as any other group of people.

Some stereotypes persist

There are still stereotypes about single parents—both good and bad. In a good example, single parents are still grouped in with “families in need” when it comes to government assistance. In this case, it’s beneficial—especially for single parents who truly do need a helping hand.

In a bad example of a single parent stereotype, many people assume single parents can’t hold a career and be a parent at the same time. These individuals are frequently passed up for promotions and responsibility because people subconsciously see their dual role.

Life for single parents is pretty normal, all in all. We’ve definitely come a long way from ostracizing single parents or heaping pity on them. It’s a big win for a group that’s been facing stereotypes for the better part of a century.