This weekend, my daughter's father flew in from California to visit her. Because his visits tend to be brief—long weekends every three to five months to accommodate his work schedule and travel budget—we often cram far too many activities into a three-to-four-day period. This time, we dined in two restaurants, dashed through the National Zoo, visited grandparents, squeezed in a just-before-mall-closing carousel ride, explored a local toy store, assembled and played with a toy he bought her, and said our goodbyes at the airport.
Admittedly, weekends like these would not be possible if he were unemployed. Weekends like these are costly. They were barely possible when our daughter was born nearly three years ago, as our separate part-time and freelance incomes ebbed and flowed in opposite directions. And the visits are still challenging now; they require a good deal of sacrifice, both financial and emotional. But, for better or worse, we enjoy our daughter and enjoy the work-in-progress our bi-coastal co-parenting relationship has become. The gains we have made as a family have been hard fought and hard earned.
Ours is just one story. But when researchers and writers parse single parenting demographics, stories like ours tend to slip through the analytical cracks. Last week, sociology professor Philip Cohen grappled with new statistics on unemployed men, college-educated women, and unmarried parenting, positing ideas about who's in the best (and worst) financial or social position to marry and/or to become pregnant.