Sunday, August 14, 2011
A "real" single parent
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.