There’s no such thing as a “nuclear family” in modern society. The family unit continues to evolve and change with time, as society’s standards, norms, and expectations of what family life can be and what it can symbolise and consist of today. Traditional families, blended families, guardians, same-sex-parental families…”family” has never had such a broad and all-encompassing meaning as it does at the moment.
However, one group of parents still find themselves carrying a lot of societal stigma–single parents. They make up a significant, if relatively small, percentage of the population, and face additional problems, worries, and challenges to the ones that parents with partners find themselves up against. They might find themselves under pressure thanks to a lack of support, they might find aspects of their lives lacking or neglected, or they simply might just find themselves exhausted from the strain.
It’s not that hard to imagine that single parents keep a lot of their frustrations and worries to themselves . Here are just a few that they’re probably not telling their beloved children:
1. Being ‘just’ a single parent can overwhelm them.
One thing single parents are sure to keep themselves is that sometimes it can be really hard to try and create their own sense of “self”. That isn’t to say that they wander about, unsure about who they are, but they rarely have time to wholly explore their passions and their quirks, what makes them tick underneath the surface. If they become a single parent particularly young, the responsibility can sometimes lead to not being able to identify themselves as a fully-fledged person–just a parent. Fortunately, it doesn’t last and single parents are available to continue defining themselves through their work, their families, and their relationships outside of the parent-child bond.
2. Sometimes the social lives of single parents can be simply catching up on sleep.
Single parents can sometimes find that their “social lives” consist of nothing more than napping, sleeping if they’re lucky, and maybe having a chance to catch up on some TV. Most single parents juggle a home life with work, which leaves much less time to actually relax and take care of themselves. Single parents might seem like they can breeze through everything and juggle it all–after all they manage to raise a child and hold down a job–but it takes its toll, and sadly sometimes that toll is treating sleep like it’s a treat. Single parents love their kids but learn to treasure their sleep like the valuable commodity it is.
3. Single parents will talk about anything to their kids, even if they don’t understand it.
Yes, kids might not be the best conversationalists in the world, but as any single parent will tell you, they make fantastic sounding boards. When you’re frustrated with something, moaning about someone else, and/or just fancy having a good old rant at the world, your young child will provide a happily oblivious person to bounce things off. Talking to yourself might not be entirely conducive, but single parents might just consider this a great survival tactic and way to keep conversations going–even if that someone can’t exactly converse back.
4. Sometimes single parents use babysitters so they can do nothing.
This isn’t mature, and it isn’t really something expected of being a mature single parent, but sometimes single parents call in the sitters to just sit at home and do absolutely nothing. Not a jot of anything productive. If you’re incredibly lucky enough to have a functioning support system around you–your parents, loved ones, or relatives–who can look after your child for the odd evening, sometimes you might utilise them just so you can sit back and just be for an evening. Indulging in this kind of entirely vital self-care should be encouraged vastly more by society at large as it allows single parents to unwind, relax, and recharge to be the best parents that they can be, even if they happen to be away from their kids at the time.
5. It’s easy to catch up on TV when your kids are really young–they’ll watch anything.
This isn’t something really mentioned in most parenting books, but single parents know that this can be a great way to do two things at once. When children are very young, sometimes it’s tempting and easy to put whatever your favourite show is on in the background. At that age, they won’t retain the memories, so you deciding to catch up on Game of Thrones or Keeping Up With The Kardashians while they play with their toys isn’t too much of a bad thing. Is it a bit of a guilty pleasure? Absolutely. But when the children are young, there’s little shame in letting them happily play while their single parent indulge in their trashy TV pleasures.
6. Single parents hate it when people ask about being single.
Yes, you might be interested in the story (we all seem to love gossip), but aside from it being unbelievably inappropriate and nosy to ask, it hurts some single parents. Being constantly reminded of the lack of a partner in a world focused wholly on the notion of romantic love being the most fulfilling kind of love out there isn’t fantastic for anyone involved. If the parent wants to talk, he or she will. But it has to be their choice. Because, honestly, it’s not really your business until they make it your business.
7. Being a single parent can be isolating and lonely.
There’s something inescapable about being a single parent–it can be incredibly lonely. Yes, they might have great, understanding friends and a wonderful family, but single parents spend a lot of time on their own, looking after a child incapable of expressing their feelings and appreciation succinctly (at least when the child is still young). Single parents feel alone in their experiences a lot of the time, largely because society prioritises the two-parent family, even in the modern day. Single parents don’t believe that their child has, unwittingly, made them less social–they just need that support. However, there are growing support groups for single parents who share their experiences and take comfort in the fact that they’re not alone.
8. Single parents want and need every bit of help that is given.
People sometimes have a problem admitting they need help, particularly in our culture where self-sufficiency is hailed as the end goal. However, there is never any shame in asking for help, especially as a single parent. It is more than understandable to be grateful for every kind of help you’re able to get your hands on. Someone knows of an after school club which makes the school run back home easier? Thanks for sharing. Networks and groups of single people are fantastic resources for single parents. After all, who else better to help you than another single parent going through the same thing?
9. Being a single parent can ruin your dating life.
Internet dating has been kind of a double-edged sword, particularly for single parents. Yes, it can be an easy way to meet new people and engage with them, but it can prove to be more trouble than it’s worth sometimes, particularly when it comes to being honest about your current lifestyle and living situation. That isn’t to say that you lie to potential suitors about having a child, but brutal honesty can drive away a lot of prospective mates. Hopefully every single parent can find someone they love–if they want someone at all–and who will love their child just as much. And this isn’t even mentioning how difficult it can be to meet new people when your life revolves around taking care of your little love!
10. Sometimes single parents just do not have the energy to deal with stuff.
Yeah, sometimes single parents just cannot find the energy, willpower, or motivation to do some things. Raising a kid on your own–even with a great support network–is hard work. Single parents can’t always find it in their hearts to give enough of a damn. A single parent might beg for a night off, or for their child to spend some time with a family member–and it’s not because they don’t love their child. It’s because raising your child on your own can be incredibly draining and everyone needs to take time for themselves. Recharging yourself as a single parent is necessary; it doesn’t diminish their love for their child any less.
11. They worry about raising their child right all the time.
Single parents worry a lot about doing a good job–possibly more than a parent existing as part of a unit will do. Single parents have all of the pressure of raising a child, but without the physical and mental benefits of sharing that burden with another person equally invested in helping raise a child in the best possible way. They get looks in the schoolyard and have to answer awkward and intrusive questions from paperwork officials. That isn’t to say children need to be raised in two-parent households–far from it–but it means that single parents often worry about doing a right job when they’ve only got themselves to ask about it and think about it. So, give single parents everywhere a break, okay?
12. Single parents hate getting judged for being a single parent.
This is something that seems obvious and universal, but which is particularly relevant for single parents: your judgmental comments hurt. Single parents already feel like society at large is judging them, so when political and social pundits decide to weigh in and attack single parents for daring to raise a child on their own, it stings. Single parents find their decisions being questioned from all angles and they worry that it’s affecting their child’s lives. It can make single parents feel as though their choices are being invalidated, but single parents deal with it anyway because deep down, they can handle the judgment if it means they can look back on their decisions with pride.
13. Single parents love getting praised for raising their child right.
Perhaps the greatest thing that someone can do for a single parent is help them out and praise them–and older children expressing their appreciation is even more potent and powerful. Single parents might not seem like they need any of that validation, but they do. Raising a child is hard, tough, and sometimes thankless work, born out of nothing more than selfless love. Is it perfect? No. Parents are flawed human beings like everyone else. They get tired and frustrated, but when their child thanks them or shows that they appreciate what they’ve done and sacrificed, it makes everything worth it.