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Sunday, August 14, 2011

A "real" single parent

This is something that has been irritating me for a while. I see it all of the time and every time I do, it really ticks me off. For the most part, when people do things like this, I can just let it roll off my back and not get terribly irritated by it, but this has been happening more and more lately.

I see and hear parents making comments such as these:

"My husband/boyfriend is out of town for a week, so I get to be a single mom until he comes back."

"My wife/girlfriend has the flu, so I have to be a single dad until she's better."

"My boyfriend/husband has been working a lot of hours lately, so I feel like a single mom."

"My spouse is deployed, so I'm a single parent for the next 6 months."

OK, people - let's get something straight.

If you have a spouse/partner/significant other who is the biological/adoptive/stand-in mother/father to your child, you are NOT a single parent.

So the other parent is out of town for a few days....suck it up. You're not a single parent.

The other parent doesn't feel well? Not your ticket to single parenthood.

Other parent works a lot? Be thankful and deal with it.

Spouse is deployed? First off, thank you both for your sacrifices, but it still doesn't make you a single parent.

Why do I say these things? Because until you are truly a single parent, you will NEVER understand what it's like.

Just because your spouse (or partner or significant other or whatever) is out of town, you are not a single parent. Your spouse is still supporting you emotionally even if he/she isn't just in the next room. Assuming that your spouse works, there is financial support. Most importantly, your spouse will eventually come home and step back into the role of the other parent.

A real single parent doesn't have this.

Yes, my older 3 kids spend half of their time with their father. I have help with them in that respect.

Alex and Daniel are with me 24/7. Alex's father walked out of his life several months ago, and Daniel's father passed away. Yes, I get child support for Alex and yes, I get Social Security for Daniel. So there is financial support. But there is no one there to help with decision-making. No one to help decide which school to get them into. No one to help pick out a new bike for them. No one to help get them to and from appointments or school or playdates. No one to stay with the kids for a few minutes while I run to the store to get the milk that I forgot to get earlier. If I'm sick, guess what? I don't get to lay around and take naps until I feel better - I have to suck it up and continue being a parent because there is no one else to do it.

There is no one to put down as an emergency contact if I can't be reached.

Think about that - I am their one and only emergency contact. I'm it. No one else.

If something happens to me, what happens to them?

That, my friends, is a single parent.

I think the one that irks me the most is when people say "I get to be a single parent until...." like it's an honor or something. Trust me, it's not. Being a single parent sucks most of the time.

Yes, there are perks. I can load up my kids and take a road trip and not worry about asking permission or making different visitation arrangements. I know that they get consistent discipline because I am the only one dishing it out. I have 'the power' when it comes to decision-making. But guess what? I don't always want 'the power'. Sometimes it would be nice to be able to say "ask your father" instead of being the bad guy and having to say no. It would be nice to be able to run out to the grocery store and not have to drag all of the kids with me because there's no one to watch them while I go.

Don't get me wrong - I have friends who do help me out when I need it. I can generally find someone to watch the kids if I have to go do something and they can't (or shouldn't) go with me. But to go to the grocery store? They go with me. To run errands? They go with me.

School starts this week, and soon I will have a few hours each day when all of my kids are in school. I've been asked what I'm going to do with all of that "spare time"....

I'm going to go to the grocery store. Alone.
I'm going to go to the library. Alone.
I'm going to take showers and shave my legs without refereeing fistfights on the other side of the shower curtain.
I'm going to make appointments for things that need to be done that I've been putting off for months so that I can get them done. Alone.
I'm going to start taking better care of myself and get back into my walking/jogging routine because I will finally have time to do it.

I'm going to do all of the things that many non-single parents get to do on a regular basis and often take for granted. I might even *gasp* get to go out to lunch with a friend occasionally and be able to have an uninterrupted conversation.

Being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is just as hard, if not harder. Not all single parents are single by choice - some are single due to the death of their spouse, or infidelity, or a multitude of other reasons. To just flippantly say "I get to be a single parent for a few days/weeks/months..." is downright insulting to many real single parents.

So...parents WITH partners, wherever they may be - think twice before comparing yourself to a single parent. And the next time you are filling out paperwork for your child, be thankful that there is someone to put on that "Emergency Contact" line.


  1. Well said, Amy...I don't envy the way you have to get by and have tremendous respect for you! You are a wonderful mother and Jane of all trades despite the added stress of having to do it all. If you left me alone with the kids for a few days I would probably be described as a growly bear even with the knowledge that my help would return in the near future. As I have said before...you are a stud! :)

  2. I am going to link your post to one I just realized I MUST write. Too many people tend to lump all single parents into the 'unwed mother' basket, and this is an excellent start to educating people about the reality that is single parenthood.

  3. Thanks ladies! I appreciate it!

    MommyMagpie - when you get it done, definitely let me know! We can do some cross-posting and get them both out there. I'm so tired of people's attitudes lately....

    Momma T - You're allowed to be a growly bear with that precious little newborn! I need to get down there and see you soon.

  4. Very well written Amy. So many people (even me) get to feeling that way. Sometimes when I feel like it's been months since my hubby has interacted with us, I remind myself that at least he is here, and if I really forced him, he'd stay with the kids while I go shopping. (He's not very helpful). The pay is nice though. And I know there is someone to turn to when I really need help. When things were getting really bad for us, he actually admitted that he doesn't do a lot because I knows I can and will. But I've got him to step back up.

    You do an amazing job momma! I lived with my single mother all my life. I know it's not an easy road.

    Those of us who have someone there, no matter how little or how much they help, should always be grateful that there is someone there. I admire all you do!

  5. Thank you so much Wendy! I wasn't sure how this post would be taken so I really appreciate everything that you said.

    And, just for the record, your comment was #1000!

  6. Thank you for speaking out! It bothers me when people do this. I was a single parent to my oldest son for several years after his father walked out. Like you said, the biggest wake up realization for me was when I enrolled him in school and realized there was NO ONE else to be there for him. His bio-dad was still around...every other weekend. He would NOT leave work if our son was sick. He didn't care that I could lose my job, etc. I didn't sit and moan about it then, because it was my job. But it would really get me when someone would call themselves a single parent because their spouse wasn't very involved.

    I'm married now, thankfully to someone who is very "there" for all of our children. And during his busy season at work we see him very little...but it's nice to know my back up is a phone call away.

  7. **nods**

    well said.
    I hope this was cathartic for you.


    The ex is trying to "spend time" with Emry again... ugh... I'm going to write about it later on today... come check out!

  8. Kat, I just hope that people start to understand what it REALLY means to be a single parent. So many of my friends do this and I know they don't mean to offend, but they really do.

    I'm also glad to see that I'm not the only one who feels this way. =\

    I will definitely be over to read yours later - when I'm not on my phone! ;)

  9. I agree it drives me nuts, I have 2 kids work 2 jobs and still do EVERYTHING else. I hear it from friends all the time I feel like a single parent my hubby is golfing and wont be home until late. I also get if your so tired and are going to complain then quit one job. To those people I ask you where is my check to cover the bills?
    I am everything i work clean cook shop go to every activity plus all the "man work".
    Im not complaining since its still better than being w/ someone who may or may not come home, who may or may not be drunk and violent. i think most people just dont think before they talk but maybe w/ all there free time while there spouse takes the kids for a while they should use there time to appreciate what they have.
    My favorite one is you dont know how hard it is to stay at home w/ kids at least you get a break when you go to wok.

    I really enjoy reading everything you write and I dont know you but respect you and the great job you are doing!

  10. Thank you so much, Terri! I really appreciate it, and it's so nice to know that I'm not the only one who feels this way!

    And I agree - being single and doing it all solo beats being in an abusive relationship any day!

    So glad you left a comment - thank you!


  11. Love this post! My two younger brothers and I were raised by my amazing mom. She was a true single parent. My dad was not very interested in being a parent and my brother's dad passed away while my mom was pregnant. As a child of a single mom I can assure you that your kids will grow up to truly appreciate you, realize your sacrifice and respect your strength. I tell my mom all the time "I just don't know how you did it!" She is an amazing woman, who in her mid 50's now has found her soul-mate, married him and started a beautiful new chapter in her life. Stay strong and know that even if it doesn't seem likely now, your kids will one day marvel at all of your awesomeness!

  12. Yep, I'm with you on this one. It really kills me when people complain TO ME about how hard it is when their husband is out of town. Out of town, making money for them, and COMING HOME. It kills me.

  13. Chell and Allison, thank you both for your comments! I do appreciate them.

    Just to add to how crazy life can be sometimes - I just got more details on my kids' school schedules, and I will be making 24 trips each week to get them to and from school. 24. 5 kids, 5 schools, 2 districts. 24 trips per week.

    Yeah, I think there's going to be a follow-up post to this one with the little details like that.....LOL

  14. I'm a single parent. But I have an awesome ex that I share equal custody with and we are on the same page when it comes to raising our two little angels. Although single parenthood is difficult at times, I have often thought about how lucky I am that my ex and I get along and we are both there as full time parents for our children.

    I bet you feel more like a shuttle driver and meeting coordinator than a mom sometimes. Good luck darin'!

  15. Exactly! I am lucky in that Ex1 and I .... get along. We don't like each other a whole lot, but we tolerate each other for the kids. We have 50/50 custody, and honestly, that's the only thing that saves my sanity at times - it gives me just enough of a break to catch up on things around the house. I know that I don't have to worry about the older 3 kids because he's there for them, 100%.

    But with the other 2, it's just me. Me and me only, 24/7. It's hard....but we all do what we have to do to survive!

  16. Hi-- I really loved this post. I cannot truly imagine what it is to be in your shoes.

    However, I felt it was important to clarify a little bit. Because I don't think you can imagine what it is to be in my shoes, either.


  17. Casey, thank you so much for commenting - and I love your post too! It definitely puts a different spin on things for me!


  18. You my Dearie are an AMAZING woman! I was a single parent for a short time....it sucked! I found an amazing man that loves my kids like they are his. (And I love his daughter as mine) You have me respect. Keep your head up Dearie. (hugs)

    1. Thank you so much - I appreciate it! Being a single parent is tough - and finding a partner who will help is a true blessing!


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