I’ve been a single parent for a little over four years (if you count my pregnancy) and I can testify it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But there are also many advantages to single-parenting, advantages I rarely hear discussed. Maybe we don’t discuss them because we are struggling. Maybe people who witness our lives don’t bring up the advantages because they want to give us credit instead of patronize us with the bright side. Or maybe these benefits are overlooked because we think single-parenting isn’t something we should celebrate. When I (reluctantly) had Nora baptized in the Catholic church, the priest requested that it be performed after mass, not during. I have to assume it’s because he didn’t want it to look like the church was condoning single parenting? Supporting my getting “knocked up”? Having a baby before marriage? I didn’t ask. But I wish I would have. And then I would have told him his decision was bullshit. Because the circumstances around how I conceived my daughter should have had no bearing on her baptismal celebration. It makes no sense, especially given the church’s Pro Life Platform. Really church? I honor this platform and you shame me and my daughter?
On no you DI INT church.
Ew, I got political, but it’s hard not to when it comes to single-parenting. It seems to elicit pity parties or shame fests. I don’t benefit from either, so I want to highlight some of the benefits, not only to de-stigmatize the label but as an injection of optimism for the exhausted and defeated parents who need a refresher. It’s easy to get too lost in the minutia — wiping noses, paying bills, pouring bowls of cereal, carting kids around — to see the beautiful portrait made of these small selfless acts. That portrait being the secure and happy life you’ve created for your child.
OK. Hope this helps.
You don’t have as much laundry. That’s not just a time-saver but a crisis-averter. Ever picked up a pair of your partner’s boxers/panties and done a double-take when you saw skid marks? Thrown them across the room like a bug was inside? Right. You can stop crying about being alone because of this special gift alone.
You don’t have to sacrifice “me” time for “why don’t you ever initiate sex?” talks. Yay! We get to roll over and SLEEP! Or paint our nails! Or stare at the wall because that’s all we feel capable of doing at the end of a long day. Sure, you crave it sometimes, but let’s be honest. As soon as you enter into a serious relationship the sex stops being had anyway. Mmmk?
Cooking. Raise the roof for not having to cook (as much). You need not make a three course meal when it’s just you and a toddler. A three-year-old thinks you’re the bomb if you “cook” cereal for dinner. Surely the same is true if you single-parent a teenager. Aren’t they happy eating pop tarts and hamburger patties for dinner? High fives for frozen veggies and mac ‘n’ cheese, frozen pizzas, corn dogs, tater tots, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, butter and bread, and cheese sticks. Or, as I like to call them, protein sticks.
Bonding. My daughter gets more of my undivided attention than she would if I were married. When she is sick she asks for me. When she wakes up in the night and shuffles into my dark bedroom, she looks to me for permission to climb in bed to lay with me and only me. When she writes her name by herself for the first time do you know whose praise she wants? I’m so honored that person is me. Nothing has grown my self-worth and confidence more than seeing my daughter thrive. For every time you feel the warmth of seeing your child(ren) smile and succeed, try hard to allow yourself a moment of pride.
And that is worthy of its own line item. Character. Meatballs on top of meatballs on top of meatballs of character. You are savory with work ethic, trials and tribulations, selflessness, commitment, love and maturity.
What you say goes. In my case, parenting Nora alone was a choice, a mutual choice, one that was the absolute best decision for my child and her emotional and physical well being, a choice that I celebrate almost every day when I think about how hard it would be to co-parent, to share time with her, to still be tied to a person I have absolutely no respect for. This blessing in and of itself makes every lonely, stressful, scary moment of single-parenting worthwhile. I think co-parenting with someone you love is difficult (and I say this with a bit of experience having dated someone who I gradually allowed to discipline my daughter as it was appropriate/necessary/natural) but I can only imagine how messy it must be to make critical decisions about your kids with someone you probably don’t like. At all. Ever. Or maybe you do still like/love your ex and that’s an even more complex set of emotions and challenges.
The mystery of what lies ahead. Married people, don’t get mad at me, but UGH. Meh. Sigh. Are y’all bored? Running out of sexual positions? Feeling undervalued? Taken for granted? Wish you would have married someone who doesn’t think black socks are appropriate with white tennis shoes? I love the idea of marriage and I want it to happen for myself and even more for my daughter. It crushes me to imagine her longing for a father, especially when she needs something from a man I can’t give her. Thinking of her pain suffocates me. I can barely stand it. But this pain is far less traumatic for us both than if she were the child of an abusive or dysfunctional relationship. And we both deserve a man who will respect and honor us, who takes delicate care of our hearts. That is worth waiting for. That is exciting to wait for. That is worth ending sentences in prepositions. So wait we will.
Well? Is this list helping? Do you want me to do a dance instead? I will. If it helps you deal with the bombs of responsibility and pressure detonating all around you, I will. Just place your request in the comments below. These days Nora and I prefer dancing to Katy Perry. Which reminds me… I taught her some of my moves — the Sprinkler, Roger Rabbit, Make a Pizza — and when I got to “Load the Shopping Cart” she corrected me. She told me I was doing it wrong, then demonstrated the “correct” vesion.
Another benefit of single parenting?
Taking all the credit.
My self-righteous toddler dances like a white girl drunk on wine coolers and really thinks she looks good doing it. That is exclusively because of my example and encouragement.
Boom. [Insert Roger Rabbit dance while biting lower lip.]