Susan Deitz

DEAR SUSAN: I tend to think that the rise of "friends as family" (as in the television show "Friends") highlights a cultural experience that has existed and been growing. That phenomenon makes it easier for people with children to have male or female role models around them without having to find "substitute daddies or mommies." A friend of mine is a single mom, raising her child from birth into young adulthood without any husband or partner -- yet with a group of friends, including good male friends, all of whom played some part in giving the child a variety of role models of both genders.

From the "Single File" blog

DEAR BLOGGER:As I have witnessed it, the phenomenon of never-married single parents (mothers mostly, but not exclusively) was born from groups made up of people who can't go back home to visit faraway family members during holidays. From those "second-family" celebrations came the concept of unmarried parenting -- with other-sex role models -- for a balanced home life. The evolution didn't occur overnight without society's raised eyebrow, but in time the dearth of male partners and the growing acceptance of unusual routes to parenthood pushed society into greater societal forbearance. The many routes to single parenting came in such variety and numbers that rather quickly -- as cultural phenomena go -- unmarried parenting grew from snickered disapproval into a rather ho-hum happening. Easy it isn't, but for women who can't or won't find an acceptable father figure for their dream of motherhood, it has become not only possible but a rather standard option.DEAR SUSAN: The arrangement described by a fellow blogger in which his ex-wife gets to have her "womanly needs" met on weekends because that's when he has the children sounds one-sided. Granted, a sleepover in either household should not happen with the children on the premises. But I would think a better arrangement would be for the twins to stay with their daddy one weekend and their mother the next so an alternate pattern could be established. But I don't like his attitude about women very much. He sees them as nothing more than an itch scratcher. Being with his twin girls and getting involved in their lives should be more important than his sexual "itch."

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From the "Single File" blog

DEAR BLOGGER:The mother has weekends to scratch her itch, but she also runs the household five 24-hour days. Yes, women should represent more than an itch scratcher to men, but even in normal times (whatever "normal" means), things aren't usually what they seem to be. Add a grisly divorce to the mix, plus twin girls, and voila! Extreme thinking, tempers too near the surface, children in the middle of selfish emotions -- not a happy mixture. And not a happy upbringing. They need to be asked: Who is nurturing these little girls? Who is taking care of their needs? At what point do the parents stop thinking about their own itches and give a thought to their children? Itching time is long past; now it's the twins who need mutual attention. And they shouldn't throw in a psychiatrist; the girls need the real thing: unselfish, undivided time and caring from the people who chose to sire them. Parenting time is here for those folks. Time for them to put away their bodily urges and focus on their girls' basic need: parental devotion. This is growing-up time.