Single parents deserve our admiration
Single Moms and Dads have a rough go, especially over the holidays. Working full time to make ends meets, giving kids the attention they need and deserve, keeping the fridge stocked, nutritious meals on the table (at least some of the time), staying ahead of the laundry, and keeping work demands at bay is exhausting. I have great admiration for single parents that are the custodial parents—they can and do leap tall buildings in a single bound—every day!
While I admire these amazing, capable and competent parents, I also know they have their share of suffering too. Sometimes they try to make up for an ex-spouse that is lacking in parental interest, insight or skills. It’s a thankless job.
Finding love and companionship is challenging too. Who has the time and energy for dating after putting away laundry until 1a.m.? It’s hard enough for single adults who aren’t parents to meet the right person. But with kids there are always complications. There are “mine and yours” problems that can be like a hand grenade thrown into the middle of a budding relationship. It’s hard to meet other single adults while cheering on the sidelines for your 10-year old daughter’s soccer team. Online dating can feel risky. Blind dates, set up by well-meaning friends, can be awkward. What if the relationship gets serious, the kids get attached to the new adult in their life, and then it goes upside down? No one wants their children to go through one more loss. Some single parents just give up and settle for loneliness, at least until their kids are older.
The rhythm of single parent life can also be jarring. Single parents try to cram four weekends into two weekends a month. Then the other two weekends they may be completely alone. Sure, it’s a good time to catch up on the million things that didn’t get done that week and visit with friends, but it can also be lonely. Weekend, non-custodial parents also suffer from the on and off feature of single parenting. It’s hard to fall into a natural flow.
Many single parents don’t have enough time in the day. The net result—they don’t take care of themselves very well, exercise regularly, or just have time to stare out the window. Self-care goes by the wayside.
So what can single parents do?
- Don’t give up on love. It’s a challenge. But most of us are wired for companionship and love. Like swans, we want a life partner. Make sure to leave some time for dating. Probably the most important part is to be open to a new relationship, even if it has to progress slowly. Don’t jump onto the first boat that comes by—be discerning, thoughtful, and go slow. But don’t be afraid of making a mistake. Disappointment is not a terminal disease!
- Blending families is harder than it looks. Single parents, coming together, hope that their love and optimism will spread over their collective children like a blanket of harmony and peace. It doesn’t work that way. There are often major stumbling blocks that may require professional help. Don’t assume that love will conquer all—it won’t.
- Ask for help. Sure, emotional support from friends and family is always nice. But I think single parents need h-e-l-p, as in babysitting, meals out, folded laundry, and transporting kids here and there. It’s important for single Mom’s and Dad’s to be able to ask for help. And friends and family—offer it when you can.
- Take time for yourself. Let your kids know that you need 10 minutes when you get home from work to make the transition from your day job to your night job. Change your clothes, take a few deep breaths, throw some water on your face, and then you’re ready. Take a yoga, dance, or exercise class, even if it’s once a week.
Remember, investing in yourself is a good investment for your family.