While the world is full of different types of families including married couples with children, divorced parents with children, widowed parents with children, step families blended together, grandparents or aunts/uncles looking after other people’s children and even foster families with children, there seems to be a generalisation about single parenting.
Although, the stigma from my parents’ generation has rapidly changed, you know the one, where single parents were frowned upon, especially single mothers because they were tramps, or easy, or welfare-recipients, or never there for their children because they were working long hours doing 3 jobs just to pay the bills, there is more acceptance now, as there is more involvement with the fathers in our children’s lives than there was when I was growing up.
I know I had four gorgeous friends who lived in single parent homes, and rarely saw their fathers (one of them rarely saw her mother) because they lived in a different state or were never talked about. And they have all turned out to be beautiful, compassionate, hard-working citizens of this world. Yet, I was not allowed to ever go over to their homes, or hang out with them at the shops, because it was never known if their mother would ever be home to supervise, or that they had too much freedom to be out on the streets making a nuisance of themselves and my mother didn’t want me caught up in that. Goes to say, my mother didn’t trust my judgement too well…
But the reality is, now in the 21st century, is that there are more and more parents ‘co-parenting’ than there were in the 80s and 90s, so those parents who co-parent, whilst there can be huge upheavals in how to raise the child, who is paying for the extra-curricular activities, who will have the child over what time frame of the week, etc, there is also time, if its 30%, 40%, 50%, 60% or 70% of the time to be someone other than being a parent. You can enjoy being an adult – hanging out with friends, enjoying a lover, studying something that you love, working, doing adult things like visiting an art museum, go out for cocktails, going to an opera, or spend an afternoon in a library researching family history, doing anything you really want, because you have the time to be whoever you want. However, the negative is the emotional turmoil of not feeling wanted or needed when your children aren’t with you.
However, a ‘single-parent’ doesn’t have that luxury. They have their children 24/7 365 days of the year. Some might be lucky to get some child-support, but most don’t because the other parent could be dead, behind bars, self-employed and trying to rort the system, live in a different country, or may have completely disappeared. A ‘single parent’ has it the hardest of all because they have no time to be anything but a worker and a mother/father. There is no down time to just be ‘you.’ It is much easier once your children hit their late primary school years/high school years when they become more independent, however they will always want to snuggle with you when they aren’t feeling well, call you at 11pm at night to pick them up from work or a party, or forget to come home and get you roaming the streets trying to find them. And you have to do it on your own. There is no one else to put down as an emergency contact on their school information form, so you get every single emergency phone call from the school, and you have to drop everything and deal with it – trips to the hospital, trips to the principal’s office, etc. You do, however, have the luxury of raising your kids your way, and that, I will say, is the biggest blessing there is… And your kids will also always have your back. They know how tough you do it, and they respect that. They learn quickly how to do things for themselves, like cooking themselves something up for dinner, or make a sandwich, etc. They learn the importance of helping around the house. And for my little family, I emphasise that we are a team, and we do what we can to help each other out.
So, while we don’t want to be pigeon holed into a box, there should be different boxes for ‘single-parents’ and ‘co-parents’ when it comes to internet dating sites because their realities are completely different and you don’t want to get someone involved in your life who doesn’t take you as a package deal 100% of the time, or even a recognition from the government or the community to create help for ‘single-parents.’ I am one of the lucky single parents who has a flexible job where I can work when my children are sleeping and at school, and I can be there for them more often than not, but most aren’t that lucky. They struggle between parenting obligations and fixed work obligations for little money. Those single-parents are the heroes in this world… the selfless, exhausted, get up and deal with their responsibilities each and every day single-parents who have absolutely no time to switch off.
And those parents, who never help a day and night to actually be a parent, and be ‘present’ in their children’s lives, don’t ever deserve to be called a parent. They all have their different circumstances, but to give themselves the title of ‘parent’ is not fair on those of us who do the hard yards, the nurturing, the trips to the school, soccer field and friend’s places, the barracking on the side lines, and the forking out for all the school necessities and shoes.
Those who parent and raise their children are helping the next generation be the best they can be, if they are co-parents, single parents or doing the parenting thing as a team in the same home, all those have the right to be called a parent. To me, parenting can never be considered hard-work, because it is a hard-love… the hardest-love you’ll ever have is to love, nurture, educate and discipline your children to be solid upstanding citizens. It’s a privilege to be the parent to do so… and watching them evolve and take notice of what you’ve said, is the biggest reward ever. So salute and have compassion for the single-parents for everything they do on their own and envy the co-parents for their ability to have some regular child-free time. Either way, none of it is easy, but still, it is definitely rewarding.