What is a single parent?

I have a question to ask you.  Perhaps one that may be very personal to some of you.

Who is classified as a single parent?  When does a parent get to say “Yea, but I’m a single parent.”

I know people who I would consider single parents.  For the sake of this post I will say single mothers but I do understand there are equally single fathers out there.  To me they are the one and only for their children.  They are the sole provider of shelter, love, birthday presents, and bedtime stories.  They are the only person who has a say in their child’s medical care, their child’s chauffeur, chef and nurse when they don’t feel well.  The single parent doesn’t get a break because there is no one to tag in.  There is no one to sit next to them at parent-teacher conferences, no one to bounce ideas off of for raising their child, no one they have to answer to for parenting decisions.  The single parent is just that, the single person taking on the role of both parents.

To me the single parent is just that because they have lost a spouse, the other parent has walked away or perhaps just doesn’t even live close enough to share in the parenting.  There are a multitude of reasons.  These people, I applaud.  These are the men and women that I look at and I don’t know how the hell they do it.

Now, I know some who call themselves a single parent and this is where the problem lies.  To me, they aren’t a single parent.  To me they are 1/2 of a co-parenting team even though that other parent may not be in the household.  Perhaps this is because of a separation or divorce, but that other parent DOES parent.  That other parent takes their scheduled time with the kids, pays their financial part, does their fair share of driving the kids to and from things.  This other parent helps with medical decisions, is there for conferences, is a back-up to stay home with a sick kiddo if you can’t.  Hell, you may even still have access to that extra set of Grandparents that can babysit!  To me, a divorce, with appropriate co-parenting does not make you a single parent.  It makes you a single person.

Am I wrong?  Am I wrong when my friends throw down the “single parent” card to want to roll my eyes?  A card that seems to be thrown down while their children are happily with their father for the weekend and the Mom has the childless time to come and meet me for a glass of wine, that she can afford due to alimony and child support.  Hell, she could even go home and take a nap afterwards.  A card that somehow dismisses the role their father plays in their life. Meanwhile, in my head, I think of all the parents that seem to be real single parents that are not afforded any of these luxuries.

I know every situation is different and it isn’t a black and white answer.  I’m going by my own personal experience for the people in my life.  Perhaps I need to be more forgiving of their circumstance.  Perhaps I need to shut-up and thank God I’m not in their shoes at all.  I know when my Husband is working long ass hours in the summer and not seeing his kid for a week straight I say things like “solo parenting” or feeling like a “single parent.”  Do I honestly mean or know what that is like? No.

So help me out here.  What do you consider a single parent?


14 thoughts on “What is a single parent?

  1. Never really thought about it like that but you are right. I always thought that even though I wouldn’t want to be divorce but they had it made having every other weekend off. I use to call my self a single parent because I did do everything for about 15 years – hubs nothing. That changed when I woke him up. But yes I did the practices, school stuff, homework, cooking, cleaning – everything.

    1. I know some many people don’t have an active ex-spouse. The kind that are behind on child support, never show up….those Moms certainly aren’t getting any breaks either. I just hate that those with the supportive and active second parent use it as some sort of excuse!

  2. I am with you. My mum was a single mother due to being widowed. I saw her as a single parent. Those who coparent, are just single people who happen to have children. Although, at what involvement do you deem someone a coparent I guess? Very few couples coparent well in my experience (but working in family law you just see the awful cases). If custody is shared almost 50/50, then yep, not really a single parent…but is every second weekend, coparenting? So tricky.

    On the flip side, I get very irritated with people who use anything as an excuse or to dismiss someone else’s feelings. I have a small baby, I am tired. But I don’t dismiss my childless friend saying she is tired because of work etc

    1. Kudos to your mom on being a single mamma! That is hard work! I’m sure in your line of work you do see some bad stories. I do know so many families that may have some bumpy moments but it works otherwise. Also, love your ending comment. I think many mammas think if you are childless your life is so much easier. No, everyone can be tired, stretched thin and in need of a vaca!

  3. I am a single mom but I consider myself very lucky. My parents are very helpful when I need a break but its all me financially, making decisions, staying home when my son is sick, getting up with him at night and so on. It does make me a little crazy when people use the word single parent when they have another parent co parenting with them. Those people have two sources of income no matter how much help they are getting that single parents do not get. They also have a certain amount of hours or days where they are child free without having to pay for a babysitter. I like how you said single parent. Thanks for sharing your thoughts you raise a really good point.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. You seem to be my definition of a single parent. It is tough! I don’t know how you do it! That is awesome you have your parents help but yes, at the end of the day you don’t get free weekends and a second income. I don’t know why, it just burns me when people do have a co-parent and dismiss them.

  4. I refer to myself as an only parent. My daughter “father” lives states away and has never made a decision in her life. She’s almost 14, I’ve done it alone all of these years. Therefore, I’m an only lol

  5. I actually disagree. I personally think that if you are single and a parent you are a single parent. I say this as someone that meets your definition of a single parent. I haven’t heard from my LO’s biological father in over a year and he does not contribute financially at all.

    I also don’t see the title of single parent as a badge of honor that you either are or aren’t worthy of. Does the fact that my family helps out sometimes make me less of a single parent? Or the fact that I used to receive daycare assistance? Or does it not count when the help isn’t from the other parent.

    When my ex was around, the box of diapers a month and the few hours a week he spent with LO didn’t make feel any less of a single parent than I do now that he isn’t involved at all.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. You sound the very definition of a single parent to me. I’m struggling with the people who do have a 100% active father in the picture, saying they are a single parent. The mother’s who act as if that ex-husband is NOT stepping up when in fact they are doing everything they are suppose to. They are doing everything a lot of women wish the baby daddy would do.

  6. i completly understand what you are saying. I AM a single parent of three beautiful girls. All 3 have different dads…dont judge me lol…. and all 3 walked away and dont pay child support or see their children by their own choices. I am their everything. I luckily have my grandparents who help me with finances since im disabled and babysit occasionally. But I still consider myself a single parents as I damn near do everything myself. I appreciate youre thoughts and point of view and whole heartedly agree. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story! You sound like a very strong and wonderful single parent! No judging here! Your girls are very lucky to have you!

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