While there are several joys and advantages to being a single-parent, there is also a side to it that is painfully isolating because those who aren’t in the situation will never fully be able to understand it. So my intention in writing this blog is not to complain about how “awful” life is and tell everyone to “take pity on us poor, miserable, single parents.” My hope is that in sharing this with you who aren’t single parents, that maybe this will give you more insight into our lives so you better know how to befriend or encourage us.
Recently I’ve seen some blogs circulating the Internet attempting to explain what single parenthood is like. Here’s my own spin on it:
1.) Just because we can do most things by ourselves, doesn’t mean we want to.
Sure I can change my oil, flat tire, fix the leak in the sink and also dress up with my daughter and have a tea party – while simultaneously doing the voice of every Disney princess you can think of. I can go from being Bob Villa to Princess Ariel in 5 seconds flat. Single parents do all those things by ourselves because it’s up us to play mom and dad and we don’t have a choice. You can sit there and be intimidated by our seemingly eight hands that allow us to do everything, or you can jump in and help out. It may look like we have it all figured out and don’t need help, but on the inside part of us is probably beginning to wonder if we’re going to have to check ourselves into a mental hospital soon.
2.) Don’t waste our time… for the love of God.
I cannot stand when I plan to meet people for coffee or lunch and the person shows up 15 minutes late. My days are so packed, more often than not I have a minute by minute schedule. So if I have an hour and a half of my day cut out for you which includes 15 minutes each way for drive time, 60 minutes to meet and catch up with you and then you show up 15 minutes late, sorry to say but I will be spending 45 minutes with you and not a minute more because guess what? Not only did I just blow $5-15 on my coffee or meal, but also another $20 on the babysitter. Much like anyone else, single parents love spending quality time with friends and family; but keep in mind, we are paying for it. And we don’t want to be paying a babysitter for you to waste our time.
3.) You don’t need to say “I don’t know how you do it.”
Because guess what? We don’t either. We don’t really have a choice. We know that comment is often from well meaning people who are attempting to show sympathy and compassion, but it’s not the most helpful thing in the world. Next time try something like “I can’t even imagine how hard it must be. But you’re doing an amazing job.” Just offering a simple encouraging comment can be more meaningful to us than anything. Even if you don’t exactly know what to say, we still appreciate the thought behind it!
4.) If you want to offer help in some way, don’t give us an option.
Flat out tell us exactly how you can help and when you will. If you say “let me know if you need anything,” it’s kind and appreciated. But we likely won’t tell you if we do or we’ll forget you ever offered or more likely than not, we’ll be too busy to even ask for help. So next time, say very clearly what the plan is and don’t give us a choice in the matter. Such as “I’ll take the kids to baseball this week so you have one less thing to worry about” or “I’m free for 2 hours on Saturday and will be coming to your house to help you with whatever house work you have.” Or “I’m going to take your child out for an ice cream and movie date this weekend so you can have a few hours to yourself.”
5.) No, we haven’t seen that t.v. show, commercial, or movie…
…and honestly, we probably never will. Can I be real for a minute? Cool. Showers are a miracle from heaven once you’re a parent. Want to know why? Because they are a luxury you try to squeeze into your week and no longer are viewed as a necessity. I know…gross, huh? So if we can only get 2-3 showers in a week, chances are we don’t know what bud light commercial you’re referring to, who won the the big game last night, who got voted off the bachelor or who the new guy is that Snookie is dating. Don’t make us feel bad for not keeping up with these things. Our responsibilities as a parent will always come before the latest sitcom on TV or what Fallon made a joke about on The Tonight Show.
6.) Our kids are not our cop-out!
Unlike the childless people of the world or those who have an active, involved spouse, we have no one else to take care of our kids when they are sick or there is a last minute scheduling conflict or emergency. When they’re throwing up and running a fever we can’t very well send them to daycare or school nor can we hire a babysitter to come watch them. So it’s on our shoulders to take a day off work and stay at home with our child(ren). If there is a childcare provider and they end up getting sick, that’s another day we will be missing work. Oh yeah, and if we get sick, well…that’s another day we will be calling off. We don’t enjoy missing work and it’s not a mark of our “laziness” because supporting a family on one income is nearly impossible as is. So “blaming our sick kid” isn’t an excuse for us to have a “free day” (whatever that even is…).
7.) It’s not that we don’t want to hang out with you, it’s just that we are busier than you could imagine (seriously it took me over two months just to finish writing this blog). So don’t feel bad when we have to book our coffee date for 4 Sundays from today.
We know it’s hard to imagine, but as stressed as you are as a full-time student, as an active member of the full-time workforce, a stay at home mom to 4, or as a dad who works full-time and also coaches his sons football team, being a single parent is like the stress of all of those combined in one. Click here to read my blog “2 Minutes in the Mind of a Single Parent” and see just how chaotic our lives can be!
8.) We know we haven’t been able to hang out with you the last 16 times you’ve asked, but please keep asking!
It’s very rare, but it does happen at least twice a year where we have nothing to do and think “hmm, it would be nice to hang out with friends.” So never stop asking because we do appreciate it and we sincerely do want to hang out with you. The more you ask, the more likely it is you may catch us in those rare moments when we are actually available.
9.) If you’re sick, we’re sorry but don’t come near us or bring your kids around ours.
10.) The term “If it’s important to you, you’ll make time for it.” is true for everyone….except for single parents.
You might literally have to force yourself into our world and it’s not because you’re not important to us, it’s because yes, we are that busy. Remember…showering on a regular basis is important to us too yet that doesn’t always happen…
11.) If you genuinely want to hang out with us, be okay with it being on different terms than you might have hoped.
As much as we would love to go out for drinks on Friday and stay out till 11, 12…1 or 2, some of us still have to get up at 6am the next day…unless of course we want to pay a babysitter more money to watch our kids so we can sleep in. Which ultimately just results in the loss of money we spent to go out with you, the money we spent to pay a babysitter so we could go out with you, the money we spent the next morning to pay the babysitter to watch our kids so we could sleep in after going out with you, and the loss of the time we could have spent with our kids that instead we used to go out with you and then sleep in because we were so tired from going out with you. Getting the gist of this? Instead maybe you could come help with the household chores and we can talk and catch up on life while I’m cleaning out the toilet from when my kid had diarrhea after her preschool gave her milk knowing she’s lactose intolerant. Quality bonding time, no doubt!
12.) Your friendship is more important to us than we could ever express.
We feel lonely and isolated a good portion of the time. We have no spouse or partner to share the ups and downs of parenting with. People without kids don’t understand us or our lifestyle. Married people and couples with kids can relate to a certain extent because we’re both parents but they have a spouse or partner so their understanding only goes so far. And other single parents can relate to us better than anyone, but single parents are so busy we don’t have time for each other. So even though it might take us 3 months to text you back and even though it probably seems like we don’t really care or want to hang out with you, we do. We sincerely do. Your friendship is probably helping us keep our sanity even if we only get to see you once every few months.
13.) We’re not desperate for a mate.
The unspoken assumption is that single parents are on a mad hunt looking for a mate to swoop in and save the day. Would it be nice to share our burdens with someone else? Absolutely. But guess what? Most single parents have experienced how hard “family” is. Most of us already feel varying degrees of guilt for not being able to give our kids a “traditional family” and therefore are very, very selective about who we would even consider going out on a date with. At the end of the day, as much as it would be nice to be married eventually, we know it’s up to us to provide everything our families need if that doesn’t ever happen.
14.) Being a single parent, particularly a young one, doesn’t mean we’ve been around the block 5 times.
All of us have different stories and reasons for how we got to be in this situation. I know of people who are single parents because they simply made a poor decision as a teenager, some who were married and got divorced after a spouse cheated on them, some who were in abusive relationships and I know a few who were raped. So before you cast your loving stones of judgement, please take the time to get to know us and hear our stories before you jump to conclusions. It might surprise you.