It’s “just” not the same…..

When I hear you say that you are a “single mom” for the week because your spouse is out of town or they are working TONS of overtime it is JUST not the same. Being a single parent is different for each one of us. I will always be a cheerleader of parents and know that whether co-parenting, single parenting or parenting with a spouse each has challenges and blessings. I have been a single mom since my daughter was 3 months old. I can’t speak to co-parenting (her father is not involved), or parenting with a spouse but want to shed some light on being a single mom!

Being the sole parent of a child is an amazing adventure. It has freedoms and difficulties; it has emotional highs and lows and it has times of feeling so complete and simultaneously feeling so completely alone. I had the experience of having a young child with some severe health challenges. From the age of 9 months old until the day she turned 3yr old she was hospitalized over 18 times, spent a week on life support and needed 24/7 watchful care and health support. Although during this time I was “alone” I was also continuous lifted up in prayer, walking in VERY close relationship with God, and had so much family and friend support that I could devote my time to caring for her.

I also have had the experience of losing everything and having to rebuild my life working up from a transitional housing apartment to a low-income housing apartment to eventually being self-sustaining in the Seattle area. Financial stress is no stranger to me, or any single parent. If you are in a position to rely on any type of state assistance you are assured to have hoops to jump through that make becoming self-sufficient difficult. I will never forget the day that I went back to work and as soon as I was hired I contacted social services and canceled my financial assistance. I was told I was making a mistake and that I would need more help. I was constantly told that if I just had another baby or went back to school I would be able to live off state assistance for years to come. Can I tell you that I had been working since I was 16 years old? I had been the primary bread winner in my marriage and had worked hard to save enough money to be able to take a year off when my daughter was born. I did not expect my account to wiped out and to be going through a divorce before my daughter turned 1 yr. old. I did not anticipate that she would have emergent medical needs. I just knew that if she was stable enough for me to go back to work (bringing her with me) then I would no longer need state help. I was hard working, and a productive member of society.  The financial burden of being a single parent can NOT be matched. I fully understand that many 2 income families struggle financially. I am not going to debate that the strain of finances on any family may be better or worse for any situation but I will say without a doubt that when struggling financially sharing the burden with a spouse is a different story then bearing the weight of that on you own. ESPECIALLY when you are also trying to be the sole parent caring for the children, and running the home.

That is right, we all realize that single parents have all the responsibilities of running a home, educating a child and earning an income to support your family. This is not just a challenge in finding time to do it ALL but also in not having someone to share the responsibilities, or time with. Without a spouse in the home you can’t just “forget” to buy the milk or the coffee. This simple oversight that can easily be managed with a quick call to a spouse saying “please pick up XYZ on your way home” to the single parent becomes a decision of whether the forgotten item is worth the effort of hauling the kids out of the house, braving the store/traffic and giving up the time you had planned to do laundry/make a meal/do homework/finish the work deadline or what have you.

Logistics aside because let’s face it, married, single, co-parenting it is NEVER easy! The single biggest difference I have seen with friends in various circumstances is the emotional support. When you have people in your home or have time away from your kids to connect with other adults it is different than going it alone. When you have had an awesome day and just NAILED it all there is no one there to celebrate with or notice. When everything is falling apart and you just know that you are making a mess of your kids’ lives there is no one to share the blame, responsibility or heart break of those days. When you are so tired that you just can’t even remember how to turn the coffee pot on you have no one else to ask for help.

Sure, we can build communities of friends and families that want to support us and offer their own time and lend a shoulder to lean on. We can create bonds with other single parents to vent to and to share with but rarely do these types of support fill the gap missing from another parent there in the trenches with you dedicated to making your family succeed.

I often hear people say they are “single parenting it this week” or that they are “just like you right now” because a spouse is working ridiculous hours. I hate to say it but it is just not the same! Sure, it is the same juggle of time to get kids to the activities, or ready for bed, or make the meals, and clean the house, and do all the things. It might be stressful and it is certainly a challenge all on its own (I get it!!! I really get it that when you are used to having a partner their absence is felt and the overload is real) but it is just not the same. You may be feeling the strain of juggling the schedule but you still have support. You still have someone else carrying the burden of providing for the family. You still have someone in your corner, cheering you on and checking in on you and the kids. Changing routine is a challenge for everyone but it is a different scenario then truly being a single parent.

When this comment is made, I understand what is usually trying to be said is “I can relate”, “I feel your circumstance” “I have compassion or empathy for your life” and I so dearly appreciate the sentiment and the community of connecting. I also feel a bit of a sting in my heart. I feel that vast difference of that situation vs my life. I have no deadline to know when I will have help again, I have no one working hard and sacrificing time away from family to provide financially, I have no one calling in the evening to cheer me on, thank me and tell me they wish they were there to help.

I would NOT change my life and I am the first to admit that there are some perks to being a single parent. I never have to negotiate parenting styles, or discipline practices. I don’t have to debate what is best for my child in terms of education, medical choices or religion, or any other topic or activity. I choose to remain single because my child is my priority. I don’t ask for sympathy, or pity or even extra support. I am happy with the choices I have made and I feel at peace with the life I am providing for my family. What works for me may or may not be what works for you. You may be co-parenting, or raising your family with your spouse and have equal challenges. Heck, you may even have struggles that I would never survive. I am not here trying to place judgement or justify any of these lifestyles as being more or less difficult. I am simply saying it is JUST NOT THE SAME!

My hope in this blog is not to make anyone feel badly for comparing a temporary situation to a permanent single parent. I don’t intend to say my lifestyle is any harder than any other. I am simply saying let’s acknowledge the differences. When we are desperate to connect with others and feel an experience brings us to common ground let’s embrace that and support each other without creating false commonalities. This parenting thing is TOUGH!! Parenting creates growth in adults, and pushes us and teaches us. It is life-giving and beautiful, and empowering, and so, so full of joy. Together, we are raising amazing humans and whatever that looks like in your home I am cheering you on!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *