An article in the San Antonio Express-News this Sunday described the city’s mayor, Julian Castro, as being raised by a “single mother.” Usually, the term is used when a journalist is attempting to describe a Horatio Alger story – i.e., rags to riches, and that is clearly the case here:
- “Castro said he was speaking from experience. He and his twin brother, a Democratic representative from San Antonio, were accepted to Stanford University in April 1992. The cost for one of them to attend exceeded their single mother’s entire annual salary.”
According to Wikipedia, a single parent is “a parent, not living with a spouse or partner, who has most of the day-to-day responsibilities in raising the child or children. A single parent is usually considered the primary caregiver, meaning the parent the children have residency with the majority of the time.” Thus, the use of the term, as applied to Julian Castro, is technically accurate, at least after his father moved out of their house when Julian was eight years old.
But I suspect that a majority of Americans apply a different definition to “single parent.” As reflected by a discussion on Yahoo, many Americans think the term “single parent” means that the child doesn’t have two parents involved in their lives, either physically or financially:
- “I think the term ‘single mother’ invokes sympathy and compassion – as it should. But if you choose to become a single mother, and you are only a 50% single mother – I don’t think you should get the same empathy as someone who is single mom 100%. The struggle is clearly different.”
Based on what I have read about the Castro twins, there were not raised by a single mother, as most people understand the term. Applying the term to Castro is merely a modern-day version of the legend of Abe Lincoln growing up in a log cabin, and because the Express-News is often merely an extension of the Castro PR machinery, I’m not surprised that it helps spread the legend.