14 Things You Should Know About the Life of a Single-Parent

“They have to have four arms, four legs, four eyes, two hearts and double the love. There is nothing “single” about a single-parent.”

While there are several joys and even advantages to being a single-parent, there is also an aspect of it that is painfully isolating, as those who aren’t in the situation will never fully be able to comprehend the magnitude of our burdens. My intention in writing this post 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 maybe this will give those of you who aren’t single parents, more insight into our lives so you better know how to support us.

Here is a list of 14 things, single-parents wish you understood about our lives.

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 under the sink and also play dress up and have a tea party, while simultaneously doing the voice of every Disney princess ever invented. I can go from Bob Villa to Princess Ariel in 5 seconds flat. Single parents do all those things by ourselves because we don’t have a choice but to play both mom and dad. You can sit there 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, we are often wondering how much longer we have until we have a mental collapse. 

2.) Don’t waste our time… please, for the love.
I cannot stand when I plan to meet people for coffee or lunch and the person shows up 15 minutes late. My days are packed so full, 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 longer. Because guess what? Not only did I just blow $10-$20 on my coffee or meal, but also another $25 on the babysitter. Like most everyone, 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 pay 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 remark 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 some simple encouragement can go a long way. 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, 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 ice cream and a movie date this weekend so that you can have a few hours to yourself.”

5.) No, we haven’t seen that TV 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. 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 parents will always come before the latest sitcom or what joke Fallon made on The Tonight Show. 

6.) Our kids are not our cop-out!
Unlike the childless people of the world, we have no one else to take care of our kids when they are sick, there is a last minute scheduling conflict or there is an 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 them… If there is a childcare provider who ends up getting sick, that’s another day we will be missing work. Oh yeah, and if we ourselves 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 take it personally when we have to book our coffee date for 4 Sundays from today. 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 when 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 genuinely want to hang out with you. The more you ask, the more likely it is that you may catch us in those rare moments when we are actually available.

9.) If you’re sick, but don’t come near us or bring your sick kids around ours. 
Goes back to the whole we-can’t-afford-to-get-sick-or-bring-sickness-into-our-homes-thing. It’s just selfish and inconsiderate in general, but it’s especially offensive to single parents.

10.) The term “If it’s important to you, you’ll make time for it.” might be true for most… but it’s not true 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 night, 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 pay a babysitter so we could go out with you, the money spent while out with you, the money 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 to 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 folding laundry or scrubbing the toilet. Quality bonding time, no doubt!

12.) Your friendship is more important to us than we could ever express.
We feel lonely and isolated the majority of the time. We have no spouse or partner to share the ups and downs of parenting with. People without kids don’t understand our lifestyle. Families with children, relate to the extent that we’re both parents. But they have a spouse or partner so their understanding can only go so far. Other single parents, can relate to us better than anyone, but we’re all so busy that 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 you or our friendship, we do. We sincerely do. Your friendship is probably helping keep us sane, 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? Single parents know how hard it is to keep a family together. Most of us already feel varying degrees of guilt for not being able to give our kids a “traditional family.” Therefore, we are extremely selective about who we would even consider going out on a date with.

14.) Being a single parent, 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 made poor decisions as teenagers, some who were married and got divorced after a spouse cheated on them, some who were in abusive relationships and some 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.

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