Dear Single Parents—You Are My Heroes: Six Side Effects of Single Parenting
As I drink wine and pity myself for the “Woe is Me” attitude I sometimes have after a long day of packing lunches, making breakfast, working 8+ hours, making dinner, cleaning up, bath time, bedtime–and then several more bedtimes because my kids require multiple attempts before they’ll give in to sleep–I think to myself, Seriously what kind of daily miracles are single parents pulling off?!
Some of my closest friends are single parents or spent a season parenting solo. I legitimately don’t understand your life and I have so many questions. Where is your cape? How do you do this alone? Honestly, do you have magical powers to handle your business, your kids, your social life, and all while not throat punching a single person? Impossible.
While I admire and respect soldiers, emergency personnel, and my fellow fighters on the frontlines of education, single parents–YOU are my heroes, and here’s why.
Six Side Effects of Solo Parenting
Socially Solo- While I am one of those rare breeds of female who enjoys being alone (Gasp! Even in public.), I recognize that I am, by far, the minority. Don’t worry, I let you soak it in as you stare at me in Panera and wonder if I have some flesh eating disease or a hidden arm because why else would anyone eat lunch alone?! Clearly the simple task of attending social events solo is horrifying for most. Those of us who have a partner in this crazy parenting game should recognize that I am not just talking about those awkward office Christmas parties or 15th class reunions. And that doesn’t even begin to solve the mystery of how you manage to go out to eat in public and one of your kids has to go to the bathroom. I mean, what do you do!?
Single parenting heroes wade through the tasks of grocery shopping, dinners out, PTO fundraisers, and Saturday morning soccer games All. By. Themselves. Ummmm…what?! How do you even carry all of the stuff from the car to the soccer field sidelines Mama Hulk? I bow to your infinite mothering glory because there is absolutely no way. It legitimately takes me multiple trips sometimes and I have a husband to push the stroller that is precariously balancing heaps of juice boxes, orange slices, a shade umbrella, what seems like 30 bag lawn chairs, and about 49 gallons of sunscreen. Why do I pack so much sunscreen?! It is October!
As a sufferer of Adult Onset Introvert-itis (self-diagnosed, completely imagined disease), I get hives just thinking about social gatherings with large groups of people…especially those I intentionally dodge daily like old high school friends I don’t want to see with my “mommy weight” or Bob from accounting who is apparently physically allergic to ever ending a story in less than 30 minutes. How do people enjoy this kind of thing?! And you do it daily with no promise of backup or reinforcements, all while keeping tiny humans alive and bringing in income and keeping a house. You are a champion!
Balancing Budget- Most of the single superheroes I know receive no child support. How is this possible!? Honestly, we just recently went from two incomes to one and it is still a daily struggle to worry about staying in the black. I cannot imagine how it must feel to not have a second income if it doesn’t come from you having to work a second job. You are financial wizards!
Many of my solo senoritas can stretch a dollar from New York to Vegas in a hot minute! They can make a one income household look like the Ritz Carlton on Christmas. Their ability to work a dollar is nothing short of miraculous. And what is most heroic is the consistent act of self-sacrifice to ensure their children never do without. While little Johnny may have to wait to rent the latest video game from the RedBox instead of getting it from Best Buy at midnight on the night it drops, he has what he needs while mama eats PB&J at her desk for the third day in a row.
Clearly I cannot possibly cover everyone in this category, but I do know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that parenting isn’t free. As much as my high school students like to bob their head to Drake singing about how he “started from the bottom” in their fresh Jordans, many fail to realise that their mom took that second job to afford those shoes so they wouldn’t face adversity for rocking the Payless specials to gym class. Tap shoes and gym bags, senior dues and lunch money…it all adds up. Thank you, sacrificial, bank account balancing mother of three. You are a model of getting it done and we salute you.
Line Between Loner and Lonely-Speaking of social engagements, many single parent rockstars tell me that they still feel like third wheels asking to tag along to dinner with married friends or get an extra ticket to a concert when the only others going are coupled up. And don’t get me started on vacations! Many feel they have to go it alone, stick with family (see: exhausting, not relaxing), or find another single friend to share the room cost and sip cocktails on the beach with because they assume because we are married that we already have our matching Disney shirts made for our own trips.
This couldn’t be more wrong. Seriously. Please invite me on your girls only trip. I need a BREAK! And guess what? So do you!
It is an unbelievable loneliness that some of my single parent friends describe to me and my heart hurts for them. However, you must know that embracing the solo season can sincerely make you a hardcore parent with levels of moxie and grit that many of us could only dream about. When and if you should choose to partner up again, you will know yourself–even the cob-webby parts–and that is a gift. Understanding who we really are, what we can handle, our gifts and our soft spots, is something most couples struggle with. You have already overcome.
We all need to start being open about this one because, if we are really being honest, we could all use time away to refresh and recharge and (Oh. My. Word.) sometimes that is best done without a spouse by our sides. Oh no she didn’t! Girl. I SO did. I absolutely love my husband and recognize fully that I have no greater cheerleader on this planet, but we (friends) need each other. Dads need dads and moms need moms. We need friends we can confide in and those who hold us accountable, those to drink wine and laugh with because it is a Tuesday, and those to take long weekend trips with, and there are no rules–NONE–saying they can’t be married…or divorced, or remarried, or single, or seeing someone.
Picking Without A Partner-Full confession, I make approximately 98.79% of the decisions in my household. It is equal parts because I am totally a Type A control freak and because my husband is the go with the flow, hula hooping hippie type of free spirit that doesn’t care about the details. Guys. The details are my life! So, thinking of this concept of making all of the decisions by myself shouldn’t seem like a burden, right? Wrong-o!
When a decision is made in our house, whether it be budget related, a job choice, or whether or not the leftovers from last Thursday are still edible, I always have a second opinion. I might be controlling, but I am also a perfectionist and I like to know that the decision I made was the right one. I have some animalistic need to have my color-coded life checked and double checked. If I had the money to hire quality control for my planner, I would.
These heroic, monsters of motherhood (and fatherhood) are daily making hundreds of choices without the nod of approval from a backup parent, the second glance over their calculations or the affirming, “That’s it; that’s the one,” from the person who knows them best. This isn’t about permission. This is about a knowledgeable, loving second opinion.
Many of the single parents in my tiny world have incredible support from their own parents, friends, church members, and co-workers, but not everyone has that one go-to person to give you their honest feedback instead of what you want to hear so you don’t have the emotional meltdown you have been on the verge of since 2015. Oh, that’s just me? Riiiiggghhhhttt.
Regardless, I think you are insanely awesome beyond measure and the fact that the meal menus, choices on school clothes, family trip plans, and the hard decisions that no one wants to have to make, ultimately rest on your shoulders is immense and you are incredible. When the good gets even greater, guess who did that? Girl, YOU DID!
But What If You’re Sick- This one baffles me. I rarely get the knock-down, out for a few days, meal prep rests with the husband type of sick. But when I do, he manages with the grace of an elephant to make meals fit for a college dorm room and plan activities that involve the constant reminder , “Now we aren’t telling mom about this.” He is amazing in his own kind of way.
Somehow, single parents were built with the healing powers of Wolverine or something because, short of a terminal illness, I am not sure I have ever known you to miss school functions, game days, or even the carpool line because of illness or injury. Is there some kind of hidden hospital administering miraculous healing juice I don’t’ know about, only open from midnight to 5am when I am obviously asleep? You are phenomenal human beings.
You manage to ensure your kiddos make it to where they belong. They are fed and clothed, and you simply wipe your nose, take a couple of Alka-Seltzer, and trudge on. Unbelievable.
Gallons of Guilt With A Side of Self-Doubt- Did I make the right choice? Are they ok while I am at work? How will I ever get Jenny to tap at 5:45 and make Tucker’s football practice by 6? And I guess it’s the dollar menu again because who has time between all of this? I miss them when they are with the other parent. I feel guilty that I don’t miss them because I have no daily backup and I need a break already!
You may have guilt for working outside of the home or guilt from being a single parent in the first place. While your brand of beating yourself up may be different from others’, most of the solo superheroes in my life feel guilt almost daily.
I challenge you to attempt to not feel judged by those of us who are doing this with a partner in tow. I assure you that my stares are not condescending. I am marveling in complete and utter awe and jaw-dropping shock at your mystical abilities to do it all–and by yourself! I raise my glass to you. I couldn’t have survived an affair, a divorce, infertility, or the loss of a spouse/partner/or child and still be slaying it like you are everyday. Cut yourself some slack and allow yourself to feel the grief that comes from your family portrait looking different than you had envisioned when you were planning your dream wedding and naming your 2.5 children and 3 golden retrievers back in seventh grade. That’s okay.
While my mounted mantle canvas has a husband, wife, and two kids, I am twice the size I had imagined I would be. I thought my husband would be tall. And my kids? Yeah, they’re the ones pouting while the other runs out of the shot because that was the best we could get out of them. None of this crazy life of adulthood looks anything like we had dreamed, but here we are, killing it!
Wait, Who Am I Again? As parents, it is very easy to completely lose yourself in your role as a spouse/boss/parent/volunteer/professional, and many other things I could list. We wear a lot of hats, but we only have one head. The monotony of daily living can lose our once passionate personalities in a fog of to-dos and self-doubt.
Many of my solo friends talk about forgetting who they are since so much of their identity surrounds making every decision so their children have what they need, regardless of circumstance. They have to bury true emotions to protect a civil relationship with their ex so the kids don’t end up with traumatic childhood memories, or put on their best “I’ve got this” face so their kids don’t see that they are really falling apart since the loss of their spouse.
Where once proudly stood an athlete, a singer, a writer, a lover, now–exhaustedly–stands a mom or dad. He/she is a son/daughter, a friend, a co-worker, an employee, but always a parent first. There is rarely time for hobbies and nights out because your son has trouble with bedtime and your daughter is still adjusting to sharing a room at your ex’s house. Your oldest misses his dad and no one can comfort him like you, so you stay at home.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is real life and it is daily. We currently [based on a 2016 study] have over 31% of children growing up in single-parent homes. While it is important to focus on those kids, the parents shouldn’t be forgotten. They should be hailed as the heroes they are, for they are doing a duty that–for many of us–requires two.
And it isn’t all peanut butter, Ramen noodles, and lonely nights of Netflix, single parents. My very best friend is a powerful woman with great respect in her career. She brings home hella money that she has busted her tail for and her son has everything he could ever want and, most importantly, he has the unconditional love and support of an incredible mama and role model. She balances all of his sports, gets the groceries, uses coupons, donates to charity, organizes work functions, looks like a knock out every time I see her, and still manages to be one of the absolute most generous people I know. If I were listing the people I look up to, she is near the top.
So thank you non-profit workers, 911 dispatchers, and first responders, but this one? This one is for my personal heroes. Single parents, You. Are. Killing It.