What’s Your Definition Of ‘Single Parent’?
- Jackie Pilossoph, Contributor
I’m pretty sure all divorced men and women call themselves a single parent. Whether it is someone who sees their kids every other weekend for just a few hours or a person who sees their children every single day (with no break and no help from the ex) or anyone in between, they will all say to others, “I’m a single parent.”
A single parent, in my opinion, is a mom or dad who is not in a marriage or who is a widow or widower. Being a single parent means that when you are with your kids (however much that is), you are solely responsible for them. That means everything from getting them dressed and ready for school in the morning, feeding them, bandaging wounds and hearing a teen girl’s boy problems to being their lifelong teacher and instilling in them good values, healthy habits, and right from wrong.
When you are a single parent, you are all alone during your parenting time. There is no partner there to bounce things off of, ask advice on how to handle certain things, deal with the kids fighting with each other, handle an extreme kid meltdown or even to deal with the mouse in the house that has your kids standing on chairs screaming.
While I’m not diminishing the value of the single parent who shares custody with an ex, I do have to say one thing: at least you get some time off to regroup. I know some single parents who really have it rough: the ones whose ex-spouse are not in the kids’ lives at all. Let’s call them VERY single parents. Here are some issues they face:
1. Financial stress.
Lots of times, if the ex is out of the picture physically, then he or she is not contributing anything financially.
2. Emotional stress.
How do you explain to a kid that Daddy (or Mommy) moved away and chose to have a life without seeing you anymore? I can’t even imagine the stress and the pain that comes with that conversation.
3. No freedom.
Being a VERY single parent doesn’t leave much time for a social life, especially if your kids are young. Babysitters can be expensive, and sometimes it’s hard to find people you trust to stay with your kids, not to mention the guilt single parents face (which is very unproductive and not rational, but I’ve been there) for leaving the kids to go out for dinner with your friends or on a date.
4. The stress of responsibility.
Knowing you are solely responsible ALL THE TIME for every decision that will affect your children is very very stressful. It’s a lot of pressure and responsibility for one person.
I have the utmost respect for every single parent out there. It isn’t easy. But here is the upside. What is even harder is living with a spouse when your relationship is unhealthy and toxic, right? (Read on)
The Ex Files
- Meagan Francis and Ilisa Cohen
Suck It Up and Get Along with Your Ex
When my divorce was new, talking with my ex-was painful. We were angry at each other, and, let's face it, looking for ways to hurt each other. But no matter how right I felt I was, deep down in my heart, I knew: Being in constant fight mode was horrible for my kids, and it was making me even more miserable. You have an obligation to your kids to stay friendly -- or at least civil -- with your former spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend. But this is easier said than done. So, I tried my hardest and used the greatest gift to divorced/broken up parents everywhere: e-mail. Hashing out sensitive topics this way allowed me to cool down before responding. "Sleep before you send," advises New York City family-law specialist Peter Bienstock. "Read the e-mail again in the morning, and make sure it says exactly what you mean." Don't be snide, angry, or sarcastic. Try for a pleasant and courteous tone even if you don't feel that way. It's easy to fake it electronically.
...and Stop the Trash Talk
It's absolutely critical that you take the high road and don't bad-mouth your ex in front of the kids, Whatever hers/his flaws, your kids love their mom/dad with all their heart. But what about when your ex doesn't show up for visits or blows off child-support payments and actually makes your kids' lives miserable? It's good to acknowledge your child's feelings as long as you don't add anger to your empathy, You can say "I know it's hard that Mom/Dad couldn't come again this Wednesday," but leave out the "That jerk has always been irresponsible!" comments.
As if this advice isn't tough enough to follow, you've also got to keep yourself from making negative comments to your friends, mother, or next-door neighbor if there's even a chance that you'll be overheard by your kid. A sleeping child has a way of appearing out of thin air -- just when you're cursing out his mom/dad. Remind yourself that each time you keep quiet, you're causing your child a little less pain.