Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"The Plight of American Singles"

One of my friends posted this article from the New York Times, entitled "In a Married World, Singles Struggle for Attention".  Some of the statistics were surprising.  Almost half of all adults are unmarried, but policies favor married couples... from filing joint taxes, to lower insurance rates, to military benefits like housing allowances.

Whether you're single by choice or not, I think the contributions single people make to society are just as significant as those married couples are making...  in fact, this excerpt from the article shows we may be doing more than our fair share.

"In a report released this week by the Council on Contemporary Families, Dr. Gerstel notes that while 68 percent of married women offer practical or routine help to their parents, 84 percent of the never-married do. Just 38 percent of married men help their parents, compared with 67 percent of never-married men. Even singles who have children are more likely than married people to contribute outside their immediate family.

“It’s the unmarried, with or without kids, who are more likely to take care of other people,” Dr. Gerstel said. “It’s not having children that isolates people. It’s marriage.”

The unmarried also tend to be more connected with siblings, nieces and nephews. And while married people have high rates of volunteerism when it comes to taking part in their children’s activities, unmarried people often are more connected to the community as a whole."

I'm not saying it's better to be married or single...  but I don't know if I'll ever choose to marry again, although I still plan on having kids.  (Don't even get me started on what people think of that.)  I know that I spend more time building stronger bonds with my family and friends now than I did when I was married.  My sister and I, both single, were each able to take a week off work to spend with our Grandma in her nursing home, something that most married people find tougher to do, with their commitments to spouses and kids.  I have more freedom to choose how I spend my time, and a lot of that time I spend trying to do positive things.  I actually think it's funny how I've changed as I transitioned back into single life; I've started to make more of an effort to see my friends, decorate/clean my house, do things like run charity 5K races, and build relationships.  I have more positive energy as I do these things.

In my family, my grandparents are cared for by their single and married kids alike.  So I don't think that stereotype fits, because it's all about your family culture and relationships.  I don't think married people are less responsible to outside commitments, just more insulated and absorbed with their immediate family.  And I do feel that there is still a lot of pressure, as a young woman, to get married.  I feel like people expect you to stay at work later and have nothing but free time when you're single.  That people pity you or think something is wrong with you if you don't marry.

But I don't see it that way.  It's not selfish to choose to be on your own.  It teaches you to be independent, to truly know yourself.  It's not lonely, it's empowering.  So don't pity me.

Happy National Single and Unmarried Americans Week!

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