I’m pretty sure all divorced men and women call themselves a single parent. Whether it is someone who sees their kids every other weekend for just a few hours or a person who sees their children every single day (with no break and no help from the ex) or anyone in between, they will all say to others, “I’m a single parent.”
A single parent, in my opinion, is a mom or a dad who is not in a marriage or who is a widow or widower. Being a single parent means that when you are with your kids (however much that is), you are solely responsible for them. That means everything from getting them dressed and ready for school in the morning, feeding them, bandaging wounds and hearing a teen girl’s boy problems to being their lifelong teacher and instilling in them good values, healthy habits, and right from wrong.
When you are a single parent, you are all alone during your parenting time. There is no partner there to bounce things off of, ask advice on how to handle certain things, deal with the kids fighting with each other, handle an extreme kid meltdown or even to deal with the mouse in the house that has your kids standing on chairs screaming.
While I’m not diminishing the value of the single parent who shares custody with an ex, I do have to say one thing: at least you get some time off to regroup. I know some single parents who really have it rough: the ones whose ex-spouse are not in the kids’ lives at all. Let’s call them VERY single parents. Here are some issues they face:
1. Financial stress.
Lots of times, if the ex is out of the picture physically, then he or she is not contributing anything financially.
2. Emotional stress.
How do you explain to a kid that Daddy (or Mommy) moved away and chose to have a life without seeing you anymore? I can’t even imagine the stress and the pain that comes with that conversation.
3. No freedom.
Being a VERY single parent doesn’t leave much time for a social life, especially if your kids are young. Babysitters can be expensive, and sometimes it’s hard to find people you trust to stay with your kids, not to mention the guilt single parents face (which is very unproductive and not rational, but I’ve been there) for leaving the kids to go out for dinner with your friends or on a date.
4. The stress of responsibility.
Knowing you are solely responsible ALL THE TIME for every decision that will affect your children is very very stressful. It’s a lot of pressure and responsibility for one person.
I have the utmost respect for every single parent out there. It isn’t easy. But here is the upside. What is even harder is living with a spouse when your relationship is unhealthy and toxic, right?
To all single parents, keep these things in mind when you feel like life seems really, really exhausting:
1. You get to choose how you want to raise your children.
You have an incredible influence and the ability to shape your kids into the best possible people they can be. Show them your good! Show them things your parents taught you that made your life great. Share memories with them and mold them into happy, loving, caring, smart, sensible people.
2. Remember that you have no control over the way your spouse chooses to parent.
You are powerless, so why worry about it? What good does that do? With the exception of your ex abusing your kids in some way, you kind of have to let things go and let him or her be your kids’ other parent. Remember that regardless of how you feel, your kids love their dad (or mom). Respect that. Be happy about that.
3. For those who have your kids 100% of the time, you owe it to yourself to lean on family and friends.
Or find babysitters you trust so that you can have a life of your own that doesn’t include your kids. You deserve that. Everyone does. Spending time without your kids doing grown-up things and having fun will accomplish two things: one, your kids will appreciate you more and learn to become more independent. And two, you will have some me time and not become bitter or resentful, which will make you a better parent.
I view being a single parent as something special. I know in my heart that my kids are going to grow up and realize that my life wasn’t easy. But what I tell them now, and what I will tell them later in life, is that I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world.
I adore being needed and feeling like their rock. I am having a blast watching them grow and mature and become the beautiful people they are becoming. And I am giving and feeling more love than I ever have in my life. It really doesn’t get any better than this!
Jackie Pilossoph is the creator of her website, Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of her novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationship column, Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press. Pilossoph lives with her family in Chicago. Oh, and she’s divorced.