You might not believe it, but the number of households run by single moms in the US now make up 25% of the total. Single dads come in at 6%. Add the two together and that accounts for about a third of all American households. This may ease the pain and the challenges of being a single parent a little bit. There is also the consolation that March 21st has now been designated as National Single Parent’s Day which recognizes the heroic contributions made by single parents to society.
We cannot forget that the difficulties single parents face to-day are compounded by certain misconceptions and prejudices going the rounds. But there are also happy memories and tender moments you will never forget. Here are 15 things that only a single parent can fully understand.
1. You may not be financially well off
It may just be a statistic and there is, of course, an explanation for it. The fact is that according to Pew research, married moms are earning four times as much as single moms. Sociologists explain this by saying that many single mothers come from ethnic minorities and have fewer qualifications. In addition, according to CNN, raising a kid can cost in the region of $245,000 and your child support may not cover all that. You are only too keenly aware that a single income is going to be stretched to its limit.
2. You do not have the luxury of co-parenting
As a single parent, you can only understand too well what it is like to do everything solo. That will range from running the house, picking kids up, dealing with minor crises and the list goes on and on. You will never have the luxury of co-parenting so it is almost always exhausting. Watch the inspiring video here of how a single Dad in Russia brings up his two boys. You will also see how single dads have got together to lend each other support and fight for more rights for single parents.
3. You make a superhuman effort to look your best
You have to find time to look after yourself, even though that is an almost impossible task. But look at the benefits. If you are a single dad, your kids will not feel ashamed when you pick them up at school because you do not look like an unshaven tramp. Looking your best and feeling great will rub off on your kids too. It will be a great help to them in facing life with confidence and good humor.
4. You have to put up with the stigma of being a single parent
Society still finds it difficult to fully accept single parents and you always wonder why. The novelist, J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, was poverty stricken as a single mother. But the worst thing for her was the stigma and the patronising attitude of people around her. She recalls working in a church where a woman openly referred to her as ‘The Unmarried Mother’.
5. You now have freedom to do what you want
It is not all hard work and drudgery being a single parent. Do you remember when you had to tiptoe around the house trying to keep to all those compromises? Maybe you never had the luxury of a stable partnership even at the beginning. But now you have the freedom to have your pet cat in bed, go to bed when you want and enjoy a long lie-in (kids permitting!).
6. You involve your kids in decision making.
One great thing about single parenting is that the kids are often much more capable in the house and can do the chores with very little fuss. You have involved them a lot more because you just simply cannot cope on your own. The great thing is that they become much more autonomous and they are also keener to help you make decisions on what to eat, where to go on holidays and other things which directly concern them.
7. You need adult companionship
While you love your kids to death, there are times when you just want to have adult company. If you are a single mum, you have more opportunities to organize get-togethers and share some of the parenting tasks such as collecting children and taking turns with sports practice. But many single dads find that they are often excluded or that they do not cultivate the same networks that mothers do. If you are a single dad, you often feel you cannot get emotional under pressure as you have to conform to the male stereotype. You are also very reluctant to talk to your male friends about these matters, especially when you are in financial trouble. It can be terrible lonely.
8. You have set rigid rules about criticizing the absent parent
Children have to get used to the constant switching from one home or parent to another when there is a divorce or separation involved. It is less complicated for children of single parents who never knew or can remember the absent parent. One thing you insist on is that you never criticize the other parent in front of your kids. You just hope and pray that the other parent is also following this rule. You know how important it is for the child to be able to love both parents without all the drama. This is why you are really pleased when the kids get excited about their day or weekend with the other parent.
9. You no longer have to negotiate
Do you remember all the negotiations you had to go through when you had to decide with your partner about which school was right for your kid, what the boundaries should be for the kids’ behavior and even what time kids must go to bed? Now you are the one who makes all the decisions and even though some of them may be wrong, you will never have to justify, explain or defend your decisions. What bliss!
10. You are a super role model
The fact that you are now an independent and well adjusted adult is a wonderful role model for your children. You are the one who walks the talk about learning how to get things done. Although you find it frustrating and lonely at times, you are quite proud of the fact that you have built your own support system, complete with emergency procedures for coping when things get desperate. You know that your kids may not be famous but they recognize your efforts for them and that is all you need.
“I grew up without a father in my life. I had a heroic mom and wonderful grandparents who helped raise me and my sister, and it is because of them that I am able to stand here today.”- President Barack Obama .
11. Your bed is all yours
Ever wondered about all the sleep you lost when you both had to make adjustments in sleeping next to each other? According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleeping together may be great for cuddling up but not when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. They estimate that the double bed arrangement may result in a loss of 50 minutes sleep a night. Now the bed is all yours and you sleep more soundly.
12. You sometimes feel it is all too much
Having a job and then going home to an even more demanding job is putting you at risk of suffering from depression, chronic fatigue or some other illness. You feel that you cannot meet all your child’s demands on top of running the home. You admit that there have been times when you resorted to physical punishment when you were pushed over the edge. You know though, that the best way is to get support from other single parents’ groups or get help from friends and family.
13. You keep the lines of communication open
There are sometimes problems with boys who become very aggressive when the father moves out. You know that you have to tell the father about this misbehavior and ask for his support in helping you maintain your authority. It is even more important to establish common boundaries for behavior so that when kids are with one parent, there is no good cop, bad cop parenting. The best way to ensure this happens is to always keep the lines of communication open.
14. You know how to work smarter
One of the great challenges is making the best use of your time. I bet that many single parents could run courses on time management because I have seen many of them run incredibly successful homes. They should be a role model for business leaders and many other parents. You know how to plan ahead and organize and you also know how and when to get extra support when you really need it. Above all, you are not afraid to ask!
15. You always manage to see the positives
You know only too well that your love for your kids is just as good, if not better, than those who have a two-parent home. Above all, the absence of a parent does not hinder your child from becoming a well-adjusted, balanced and happy kid. You also know that your children are much less likely to have problems with grades at school or behavior because the main causes there are family conflicts and arguments among spouses. Well, that will certainly not happen in your household!
Featured photo credit: A kid’s Sunday morning at the Beach!!/ Sudanshu Goyal via flickr.com