As a single parent, it can be hard to keep it together and easy to get overwhelmed and stressed when you’re the one carrying most of the responsibility.
Over the past few years, I’ve been working on finding a balance that works for us. Most of the time we do great but other times, it feels like way too much for one person to handle. I know this is true for all parents, regardless of your relationship status, but single parenting comes with its own challenges.
People Want to Give You Sympathy
“Oh, you’re separated? I’m so sorry to hear that!”, they say sympathetically as they look at you as if your puppy just died. Why? I’m not. Sometimes it’s hard not to mimic the pitiful look on their face and respond with, “And I’m so sorry to hear that you’re still in a shitty marriage.” But I’m not that much of an asshole. So, I usually just smile and respond with, “Nothing to be sorry about. It’s a positive change.”
Your Kids Use It Against You
Instead of the typical, “I hate you! You’re the meanest mom ever!” when your child is angry at you, they add in, “I want to live with Daddy! He’s always nice!”
I imagine I would be a lot nicer too if I didn’t have to deal with their shit every day, make lunches and get three kids out the door by 8:15 every morning. The first time they say this, your heart breaks a little but then you learn to grow a thicker skin because kids say hurtful things when they’re upset and it doesn’t mean a whole lot.
It’s All You, All the Time
Your child is up vomiting all night. Guess who is cleaning it up? That would be you. And guess who has to call into work? Yep, you again. Your children pass it all around to each other and you get to call into work a few more times because there’s no one to take turns with.
What if you’ve been up vomiting all night? Guess who still has to get up and feed the kids and get them where they need to go? That would be you too. And it sucks but somehow you find a way to do it. Because you don’t really have a choice.
It Gets Lonely
You count down the days until the kids are with the other parent but then when they’re gone, you miss them. The house is too quiet and you barely know what to do with yourself. Soon you find yourself counting down the time until they come back.
Sometimes you just want a hug at the end of a long day and someone to tell you you’re doing a great job. Instead, you have your kids blaming you for any and every trivial thing that went wrong and complaining about how you never do anything for them. Cry me a damn river.
Sometimes you cuddle up in your child’s bed just because you don’t want to sleep alone again. On the bright side, you don’t have a snoring spouse beside you, annoying you with every breath they take.
Your Guilt is Amplified
We already have enough guilt as parents. But two years later and I still get caught off guard when out of nowhere they ask me, “Why don’t you and daddy just live together again so we don’t have to go back and forth?” I feel bad that they have to be driven back and forth every weekend but not bad enough to ever consider living together again.
If a child is struggling emotionally or not doing well in school, it’s hard not to feel like it’s somehow my fault because I’m the main caregiver. Am I not reading with them enough? What am I doing wrong? Am I not present enough? I have to constantly try to put things in perspective and realize that every issue is not a result of being separated and most are related to my children’s personalities and stages of development and do not mean I’m failing as a parent.
Every family struggles in different ways. It helps to focus on the positives, the most significant one being that you’re no longer in an unhealthy or unhappy marriage. I love having my own space where my kids aren’t witnessing tension or arguments. As a single parent, you get to call the shots in your home, make the rules and set the routines that work for you and your kids. Also, you get the closet all to yourself and you don’t have to clean anyone’s beard hair out of the sink.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.