What it means to be a single parent

April 7, 2011 - 0:0

One of the scariest and yet the most liberating days of my life was the day I became a single parent. I felt liberated by the end of the adult relationship that was like a roller coaster road through fire and brimstone. The source of my fear was the idea that there was every potential for failure as a single parent. Failure in this aspect wouldn't just be a bump in the road for me. Failure would mean a life altering event for my young son.

Weight of realization
The first thing you have to do is make the choice to be a single parent. Most people think the hard part of this choice is whether or not to leave the significant other. I disagree. When that stuff is over, it's over, whether you want it to be or not.
To be a single parent is to know that the entire weight of raising a child is on you. That's a pretty heavy load some days. But don't get the idea that being a single parent is a terrible thing. There are tons of times when I realize without question, that I wouldn't have it any other way.
Enjoy your own company
Social situations become a bit limited when you're a single parent. I spent two years using a chat room for my social interactions. I didn't want to leave my son with a sitter and I needed some adult conversation. As you can imagine, this didn't lead to a real active life. For some reason men actually seem to want to spend time with the woman they're interested in and I just didn't have any to spare.
Being comfortable with yourself also means being able to deal with the shorter, younger version of you. Some of your traits, good and bad are going to wear off on your child. My son argues the exact same way I do. He also giggles when he's in trouble, just like I do. These are not things that go over well when I'm trying to teach him something. Since there is no ""wait 'til your father gets home"" in our house, I have to use that hated word, ""patience"".
Creative accounting
One of the hardest parts of being a single parent is the financial end of things. This just isn't a department I excel in. I'm not a materialistic person, so I have no devotion to cash. But, my son sure likes technology and fancy things like dinner, electricity and a roof over his head. There have been times when I worked three jobs because there wasn't any choice. Even when father's pay child support, the powers that be aren't always timely in getting the paper work in order.
Laugh until you cry
The single most important trait of a single parent is a sense of humor. There are too many times when you want to cry, but you have to laugh. I could sit and worry and stress, but guess what? What ever I happen to be stressed about is still going to be there when I'm done crying. I'd rather do something silly with my son, Hunter.
Multi-task like an octopus on caffeine
I don't care what kind of classes you take or what kind of job you have. No one can multi-task like a single parent. We're talking about things like fixing the car while making dinner and helping with the homework all while making the bills and trying somehow to just smile your way through the day. I would even go as far as to say that being a single parent is akin to running a new gauntlet every day. Sure, it's a fun and challenging adventure every day, but every now and then it would just be nice to take a breath.
Grow an extra layer of skin
The single parent is the one that catches everything. If your child is mad at you, you'll deal with that. When the absent parent breaks their heart, you'll be the one to dry the tears and take the brunt of the anger. The single parent is the parent that the child is most comfortable with. Because of that, we are the sounding board for almost every emotional trauma.
In fact, single parents should expect their kids to act up more with them than with anyone else. That's because the child is so comfortable with the parent they live with. When I ask my child why he doesn't do the things with his dad that he does with me, Hunter tells me that his dad doesn't know his ""dark side"" and that's the way he wants to keep it.
Remember your life
It's really easy to get caught up in the role of the single parent and lose sight of everything else. Then, one day our children take off with their friends and we become the on call support center. We feed the kids. We drop everything if they need us for something and we maintain the level of comfort in the household. This is the point at which we realize that we have lost sight of everything about ourselves but parenthood. It's time to remember hobbies we used to have and dreams we had forgotten.
Room to gloat
So, with all these things being a part of what it takes to be a single parent, you might be thinking that it doesn't sound too appealing. Just remember, every job has its rewards. When my son accomplishes something, I know I was the one right there every step of the way. When he does something kind and generous, I know it's because that's the way I live my life and he's been paying attention. He also has the ability to think for himself so he uses what he knows to be a proactive member of society.
While wiping the tears and paying the bills can be exhausting, those moments of pride and pure elation can't be beat. I might have the responsibilities of two parents, but I also have twice the joy. In fact, sometimes I jokingly tell Hunter that he can't go to his dad's because I don't feel like sharing!
(Source: shine.yahoo.com