[Bella’s intro: This is the second of a 2-part guest post by Amy Andrada. The first part is here. As you may recall, Amy, a single parent, is trying to figure out why the other kids don’t play with her son and why the other parents are not so friendly to her. A coworker thinks it is because she is the only single parent, and suggests that she fake being married by wearing a wedding ring, then see what happens.]
Amy Andrada continues telling her story:
Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. I thought this was insane. A wedding ring? Psh. There’s no way this is going to do anything. But, my coworker was right. Nothing I had tried changed anything. So I found a measly $20 crackerjack ring and put that sucker on my ring finger. Then…BAM! Everything changed. Women, other mothers, who had seen me for months, even years, began approaching me as if we have been longtime friends. (I’m sure I had many WTF looks on my face each time.) Then my son started to be invited to activities with his teammates and peers. This was such a dramatic shift to what we were used to experiencing, I decided to test it again. I tried all the things I had done before but this time with the ring on. And no matter what else I did, women would engage me as long as I appeared married, not to mention my son was now allowed to interact with his friends outside of organized activities.
As it happened, I was in the middle of my undergraduate program when I brought this to the attention of a professor. He encouraged to research the topic. Therefore, I started poking around, digging into research, but couldn’t find anything anywhere near the topic. I started asking other academics who studied family, and before I would finish my sentence I would be informed the issue was that I was single. No. Freakin’. Way. That can’t be it. It has to be something else altogether. I must be missing something. This is the 21st century. And why in the hell was there no significant research on this topic?
During one of my research expeditions I stumbled across Bella DePaulo’s work on singlism, the stigma and discrimination experienced by people who are single. Okay, it was a start. It didn’t focus specifically on single parents, but single people. I wrote my first research paper on the topic, and it was met with polarized responses from classmates, and other academics. Mostly women. If they were single, they could attest to the same experiences. But if they were married, they were mad as hell about my findings. That part was even more alarming. At the time, I honestly (and naively) thought that other researchers would be open to considering a new perspective (Hey! There’s always room in the party for more, right?) But, it was met with a significant amount of resistance, and at times, disdain, from a specific group: married women. Though married women seemed to have an issue with the topic matter, married men didn’t seem too concerned. Strange.
Regardless of the responses to my research, like most academics, I pursue work which reflects some of my experiences. My interest in single parents derives from becoming one. Therefore, I proposed to continue my research on this topic at my university. At some point, I was encouraged to pursue graduate school, but hesitated. Why would a single mom pursue graduate school? Hell, I’m lucky I earned a Bachelor’s degree. But, the reactions and treatments me and my son received alarmed me.
Now, I’m not ignorant. None of this was overt or life threatening, but it was denying us something, even if unknown. Internally, the thought that, in some way, I was responsible for my son being denied anything hurt me in the deepest way. I could live with my own failures as a parent, but I was going to be damned if I let another person give way to that. And I don’t care what it was, my son would have access to the same things as any other child and the only person that would tell him no would be me. So, I continued my higher education. During my Master’s program, my goal was to answer the troubling question my seven-year-old had asked. In the end, like most research pursuits, I got some answers but they were promptly accompanied by more questions. I wasn’t there yet. I hadn’t quite found what I was looking for: my answers. And I had a promise to keep.
So, here I am. Almost seven years later and I’m still trying to answer the question posed by my kid, why didn’t the little boys play with him? Although I’m still researching this topic, I know the issue wasn’t him. Or his teammates or peers. It was other parents. It was other mothers, and married ones at that. Troubling, eh?
Trust me on this… there’s no research on this topic. But, there soon will be.
I told my son I would find an answer for him, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. Like most parents, I would go to the end of the world for my kid. But in this instance, that path has led me to a PhD. Who would have figured, right?
P.S. Secretly, I’m hoping my son doesn’t ask any more of these questions. Lord help me.
[From Bella: Thank you for sharing this very moving story, Amy. I am so glad you decided to pursue your education, and an answer to this important question. Your resolve is inspiring. And by the way, I have also experienced resistance to my research on singlism from other academics, including people I thought were more open-minded than that.]
About the Author:
Amy Andrada is a PhD candidate with the University of Edinburgh. She studies gender, family, and deviance. She holds an M.A. in sociology and a B.A. in sociology and English literature from California State University at Bakersfield. Amy has worked for various American universities and colleges as an instructor and researcher. She continues to teach for American colleges and tutors for the University of Edinburgh as well. She spends her time between Los Angeles and Edinburgh with her family.