It’s quite common to hear someone say “I’m a single parent this week” when their husband/wife/partner is out of town due to work obligations.
I certainly know that experience; Daddy-o is away on average four days a week. It’s no easy feat for a mama of six and it certainly takes its toll – but however tricky, you won’t catch me referring to myself as a single parent.
Why not? Out of respect for all the real single parents out there. While I may be temporarily the only parent on location, I am not a single parent.
Here’s the difference:
Parents who have a partner away on a business trip may be alone physically, but not emotionally. I can reach out to Daddy-o about a kid issue anytime and we can talk it through and problem solve as a team. I have single parent friends who risk a lot when they reach out to the other parent – the call can be greeted with conflict, criticism or the possibility of it being thrown back at them in court one day. Not being able to use the other parent as a trustworthy and valued sounding board would be lonely – I have the privilege of being able to share both the good and bad stuff. And let’s not forget the single parents who are dealing with an ex who isn’t particularly interested in the kids – on top of carrying all parental responsibility, there is the additional job of somehow explaining why the other parent is disinterested.
How it works around here is that Daddy-o goes to work, his salary is deposited into our bank account and I spend it on the children as I see fit, with no questions asked. I try to imagine not being able to provide for my kiddos because of a parent who won’t fulfill their financial responsibilities. Sometimes I forget how amazing it is that I don’t have to fight for money for my children or hire a lawyer to ensure they’re provided for. Single parents must be exhausted at the best of times – it seems unfair that they have to put energy into fighting for child support.
So, sure, I’m alone a lot and it would be nice to have someone around to do the Scouts drop-off or help when two kids are puking at once. Often I say I’m “flying solo” when Daddy-o is out of town.
But how should the term “single parent” it be used? I know a divorced couple who share custody equally and each self-identifies as a single parent. Would that be considered “co-parenting” or can two people both be a single parent?
Julie Cole is the co-founding VP of Mabel’s Labels, the leading provider of labels for the stuff kids lose!