Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Are Single Parent Families Really so Different?

Several themes come up when we talk about single parenting issues that, if we step back a little, aren't so different than the issues we would have if we were nuclear families.

Maintaining Routines. Every family has to change up their routines every so often. As children get involved in activities, families re-arrange their routines to accommodate softball practice or longer homework/study time or to make time for visiting relatives. I've found the best thing is to keep the kids as informed as possible...and yes, to repeat yourself, because it seems to take saying it at least three times before they hear it!

Two Households. While I've always had sole full-time custody, my parents' house has been like a 2nd home for my daughters. When I was getting my degree, the girls spent at least two nights a week at their house while I was in school. I worried about lack of consistency until someone reminded me that the girls will have to adjust to different teachers and classroom rules every year, and in middle school, every class. Once I let go of that concern, I realized that they had adjusted just fine. The girls recognize the differences, and see pros and cons in each. Which make both places home!

Sharing Responsibilities (or lack thereof). I remember during those first few months following the separation giving Riley a bath, wishing that just this one night, someone else was around to give the bath! Then I remembered back when I was married, and the begging and pleading I'd have to do to even get X to consider giving the baths! I realized I'd been doing everything by myself pretty much since the beginning; now all I'd lost was the expectation that someone else would help, and the disappointment when he wouldn't. I could easily let go of that!

Balancing Work and Family. No one is alone in trying to do this. In talking to married moms at work, there is not much of a difference. If anything, I'm having to manage a little less because I'm not trying to manage a spouse's needs, too!

Making the Tough Decisions. This is where we most deviate from married couples, but again, if we look at it from a different angle, we just might be better off! I don't have to worry that the girls will run to Dad if they don't like my decision. I don't have to worry that Dad won't present a united front with me. My decision is the law, period, and if I decide to change my mind, I'm at liberty to do so. (This may be different for parents that are sharing custody with their ex when it comes to some of the bigger decisions, but it still rings true for the momentary decisions we make every day in our homes. We just have to own it.)

Moms - of any relationship status - are put to the test almost every day. And we are united more than we are divided, no matter our relationship status.

Special thanks to Missy for the inspiration.


BigLittleWolf said...

You raise great points, April. There are far more similarities than differences, and in some ways, without the "requirement" to focus on a spouse, there's a bit less work.

On the other hand, that inability to share decisions also means to share worries and possible solutions. And for those of us who don't have support systems - family or friends in the same boat - we really are carrying the load on our own, or very very close. And that may also mean the financial load, something I don't have to tell you.

There is no "soft landing" anywhere, in that case. And kids are still looking to you for guidance, solutions, their soft landing.

For some of us, a single parent household is filled with love and disciplines and all the other ingredients to parenting, but also, a disproportionate amount of stress and fatigue.

It is what it is, and we try to focus on the good stuff, don't we? It gets us through - everything.

Missy June said...

Wow! Thanks for the nod - I often remind myself that the 'issues' I'm dealing with are ones all mothers deal with and even once wrote about not being so different.

You've got a great perspective and I'm glad to see the positive spin on life!

I hope you're enjoying your time off!

DM said...

I really like what you said about letting go of the expectation of help. My husband and I recently separated and when both kids are crying in the middle of the night I wish so badly for help, but I realized that even if I had stayed, my husband wouldn't help anyway. Thanks for the great post!