As a living statistic, I’ve decided to highlight the reality of what living as a checkmark in a data category means. The gloriousness of being classified by a society that does its best to separate us all. If not by race then by age, next comes gender and on to sexuality. How about the economic class or income bracket? Lastly, comes the almighty tag that determines if you are fit for sale. Single or not single. But wait! For the plot twist that Shakespeare missed, single parent or not a single parent. Sorry to my single childless folk this article won’t be for you. Yes, you’re just as important however the ridicule you face differs from ours. You’re marked fit for sale, our label is final sale in the clearance section.
In America, we run on the honor system. The goal is to raise children with an understanding of integrity, right from wrong and is responsible for the outcome of choices. I can pull hundreds of thousands of articles that discuss single parenthood from inside and outside perspectives. As a single parent, the majority I have read seeking to find the normalcy everyone else says I am lacking has done little other than tell me things I already know. “You’re isolated, everything will be harder for you, people will leave, find a support system, don’t close yourself out to love again, people will take advantage of your vulnerability, don’t pity yourself”, and the list goes on. The articles also say if I fall into any of these traps I am a monster because I do not consider the effect this will have on my child. I mean already being ridiculed for living in a one-parent home isn’t enough, let me add in some spice with all kinds of foolish by having a life aside from being a parent and really torture my child. Yet the transparency lacking in this perspective is done on purpose. Where are the articles that discuss, “Being a parent is a choice and if you don’t want to be one abandon your child”, or “Give up hope on finding a life partner who is a mature adult because you’re a burden”, “Your friends will never include you in outings again: A guide to “We didn’t want you to feel bad coming alone”, “Didn’t think you could get a sitter”, “It was last minute”, and how about at least one article that praises a single mother the same way men get put on a pedestal for choosing to dedicate their entire life to their children. I’d kill for one of those. To be able to see in my newsfeed “Woman wins mother of the year for working three jobs, making every soccer game, with no support system and none of her children has died!”. Now that’s a headline I’d give a standing ovation for. America does not want to make single parenthood normalcy because it means we’ve failed. Morals and values are items upheld by discipline, effort, the will to try, the ability to accept change, and even a pinch of common sense. Morals and values are only meant to be upheld in households of couples. The cookie-cutter of American society. A reality that doesn’t exist. To my fellow single parent monsters that have broken the mold here is your moment in the spotlight.
I Walked Away from a Bad Relationship
I can promise 75% of the time the reason for invoking your single parent card is for the simple fact you had the balls to leave. Simply that. You left a bad situation. The reason does not have to be sinister. Maybe you were just unhappy, the love went untended to by both sides, or hell you just got tired of dealing with an immature, or a lazy life partner. Because you have children does not mean that any relationship should eternal. In fact, a child’s parental environment sets a tone for the adult they will become. If you are miserable you’re going to take it out on them the same amount as you do with your spouse. Misery loves company. To survive the aftermath of walking away be honest about it. Transparency does not mean give every detail. It is time for you to reveal your truth. Tell your married friends you were unhappy and felt it best to leave. Let your single friends know that just because this didn’t work out doesn’t mean it was all bad. When relationships end this scares people around us. It drudges up issues in their own lives and own relationships that they have buried. I lost more than half of my contact list when I divorced. It was wild. I narrowed it down to three reasons. The significant other was afraid my influence would enact their partner to do the same, I now became a free agent and it tickled some insecurity bones, and the single folk did not want the burden of carrying a person in the group who they had to make exceptions for. “She has a kid we can’t stay out too late” it’s like a shackle to their already well-attained fluidity. It sucks, but understand they are showing you their truth. We only shun adults who leave children behind. Those who relinquish their parent card. Why is it we allow adults to walk out of our lives and in return give the satisfaction of being let off the “hook” ridicule free? No sister, it is not OK for a person who called themselves your friend to walk or push you away because your new relationship status cramps their style. That’s a monster.
Let’s Keep it Casual
OK, kids, we have the baby in the baby carriage without the marriage and the sitting in the tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g. When you are ready to get back on the saddle prepare to meet the casual monster. This individual is a person who should be taken as seriously as they take you. What does that mean? A single parent is seen by a single person without children as a big responsibility. This will draw out a few types of casuals, those seeking platonic and romantic relationships alike. Meeting new people for some will be easy, keeping them aboard is hard. Unless your perspective is set correctly. The person that admits they are not ready for undertaking the responsibility of a family is honest and someone to keep around if they ask to stay. For a person to openly admit they can’t help you carry weight is a person of integrity. Try and avoid allowing loneliness, or anxiety pin them off as a coward and ensure you aren’t taking on weight for them. That’s not fair. Their actions afterward will speak for themselves. This situation is a no-pressure one on both ends. You are essentially stuck between a rock and a hard place being a single parent, avoid doing that to someone else hoping they will see past something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Your role as a parent. On the flip side keeping them around might change their mind in the sense they underestimated themselves and overestimated the situation. I’ve learned along the way societal influence makes single parenthood appear to be parasitic. In the romantic area especially. It’s seen as more than what it really needs to be, a person willing to care for and be a stable, positive role model to a child.
There are casual monsters however that are cowards and should be immediately cut off. Friends and romantic partners alike. In my experience, the assumption is you have no life other than your children. As such you’re seen as always available. You’ll come across people who make plans with you until something else they find more exciting or possibly less restrictive comes along. As well as, the demanding individual who feels being your life revolves around your children you should jump at every chance for attention offered. The single parent also tends to be back burnered. On more than one occasion you will hear the terms, “I’m not sure what I’m doing yet”, “I’ll have to see”, or my personal favorite, “I’ll let you know the day before”. Mostly this is a way of saying no without seeming inconsiderate. Which it is. If you are not interested in saying no is the way to go avoid being the causal monster yourself. In general, humans are always busy. If a person is asking for time with you it means they are making you a priority. Being left hanging out to dry is a telltale sign you’re being kept around to simply fill in the spaces when needed.
However, we also can’t always expect others to drop everything and come running when we ask. Yes, you are alone more than what is normal but others have lives too just as you do. To draw in the right people assumptions and notions should be kept to a minimum. Anxiety taking the wheel has no benefit to anyone. One tip is to avoid dating the casual monster altogether, no matter how awesome she is or how great of a sense of humor he has. Keep it friendly. Developing genuine feelings for someone should be given to that person who returns the genuine forthright, who has healthy boundaries, and without having to dig for it.
I Want a House Like….
Being a single parent means sacrificing more than just companionship. Your individuality is stripped from your being complete. This is the fine line that divides the single parents between the monsters. Adulthood in itself takes a toll on our being. The hamster wheel of work, bills, eat, sleep, and repeat is already tough. When you have someone else depending on that routine for their survival who rightfully is not able to pitch in, you will meet resentment. That perspective training you had a meeting the casual monster will pay off largely here. That emptiness you feel from your loss of individuality is also felt by your children. It’s difficult to have a child understand why a relationship went sour without tainting their view of relationships period. So we shelter their feelings. We spare them the gritty details and explain all households are different for different reasons. They rebut with hurt telling you stories of wishing they had a family-like Dustin’s family, not knowing Dustin’s dad constantly cheats on his mom. They want to sleep over Maxine’s house every other weekend because her mom bakes fresh muffins for breakfast every morning, not knowing Maxine’s grandmother lives with them and takes on most of the child and house care. Then come the only children, like at my house. The children that have no siblings and are part of a single-parent household build the greatest amount of resentment against the parent and to society. No matter how hard it gets you can not be angry at a child who has to bear the weight of societal pressures children their age never dream of. Children should be given a realistic understanding of why they are part of a single-parent household as a means of combating resentment into adulthood. Resentment creates an adult with unhealthy attention-seeking boundaries. This will attract the wrong type of people and the cycle will continue. End it with you.
My daughter constantly asks me why I don’t have a boyfriend or life partner. Like most single parents, I lie and place the blame on myself. Guess what swallowing pain to spare a child is admirable. “Oh mommy doesn’t want a boyfriend, that will take time away from you.” The day’s resentment hits are when it gets hard. How do you explain to a child because their parent doesn’t have a solid support system, they can’t go on dates. Dates require time- that we have to take from our children. Dates require child care- from a stranger we don’t really trust or a selfless friend that is willing to possibly give up their only date night so you can go on yours. Dates require friends to fix you up with their friends because you have no time to search one out. While all your friends are married and only have married friends. Dates require you to find your individuality, the same thing lost when you became a parent. How do you explain that you’re waiting for someone to take your humanity seriously and accept the fact the child exists and will refer to them more respectfully than “your kid”. You don’t, just like you never resent the existence of that child because you can’t control other people’s feelings. You can only control how you react.
Is it ok to lie, no yet it is ok to show strength to your child in their weakest moments and in yours. Single parent is the statistical category we choose to put ourselves in. Your survival depends on your willingness to remove yourself from being categorized period. Society is the only monster.
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want to join our calls on a regular basis, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo courtesy iStock