What single parents would like you to know…
I recently petitioned my Facebook friends who are single parents to share some of their thoughts/feelings about being a single parent. This post consists of the sentiments that I extrapolated from those responses.
1. Reserve your judgments and assumptions: A common thread among the responses was that single parents felt like others were judging and making assumptions about them because of the absence of a spouse. Respondents said that people often challenged them about the absence of a spouse/partner and made assumptions about their singleness (they didn’t try hard enough to salvage their marriage; they were promiscuous). Your judgments and assumptions aren’t helpful because they tear the single parent down when they actually need to be built up by those in their world.
2. Not every situation is the same: There are many different situations that bring a person in to single parenthood, and most of those situations weren’t welcome. Sometimes a spouse decides to end the marriage. Sometimes a relationship partner decides to end the relationship or pull back on their commitment to getting married. Sometimes a spouse/partner passes away unexpectedly.
3. Stop being nosy: The wherefore and why of a single parent’s situation are no one’s business. No one is entitled to know anything unless they are invited into confidence. Stop prying; it’s none of your business.
4. It’s not always a struggle: Being a single parent isn’t all about scraping to make ends meet and trying to fill two roles. There are lots of rewarding moments.
5. …but when I do struggle, I need support: As in anyone’s life, there are low points. Single parents face a unique set of challenges in times of trouble because they have to remain strong for their children, but they don’t have a spouse/partner to lean on. If you’re a loved one of a single parent, don’t be afraid to lend a helping hand from time to time. Babysitting, yard work, and special outings for the parent and/or children are just a few things you can do to help out. Help meet practical needs. Don’t stand by and say, “Oh my, it seems like you have your hands full,” when you see a single mother (or any mother for that matter) trying to herd her children. Open a door or offer to be an extra set of hands for crying out loud.
6. This wasn’t my first choice: There are rare circumstances under which a person may choose to be a single parent, but in most cases single parenthood is the result of a relationship that has failed. For many the joy of being a parent gives way to the realization that their partner doesn’t wish to stay in the relationship and doesn’t want much (if anything) to do with their child. Others have to deal with the aftermath of the death or departure of their spouse. Single parents are forced to pick up the pieces of the broken relationships and make a life for their children. This often proves to be a difficult task.
7. My child is not a mistake or an accident: Children who are born out of wedlock shouldn’t be treated any differently than those with two parents. Single parents, especially single mothers of young children, don’t need lectures on the morality of their situation. They shouldn’t be ‘punished’ for their decision to raise their child. The circumstances of the child’s conception are not for you to comment on. If you can’t support the single parent family, do everyone a favor and keep your mouth shut about them. Unkind words and gossip aren’t helping anyone.
8. I’m not a failure! There are times when it’s hard to make ends meet. There are days that are stressful. There are times when the obstacles seem insurmountable. Failure is not an option. Single parents want you to know, quite possibly more than anything, that they are not failures. Relationships may have failed. The unforeseen may have happened. Their 10-year plan may be way different now. However, at the end of the day, they are proud of themselves, their lives, and their children.
And they should be.