Do you identify yourself with being a single parent?
What is a Single Parent?
Does it matter?
I have supported so many single parents with living independently, helping them to make informed decisions about their lifestyles choices. Some it has been clear that they are a single parent. One was a father to a 2 year old where the mother was not in his daughter’s life. Another was a mother of three who was separated from the father however, the father was still very much active in the children’s life. Now, I would say that these two scenarios are different. I identify a single parent to be a parent who is bringing up their children alone without the other parent. However, what if the biological parent is not active in the child/rens life but a step parent is? Are you a single parent then?
Definition – A single parent is an uncoupled individual who shoulders most or all of the day-to-day responsibilities for raising a child or children.
I have two children. My second is to my current partner who I live with so I would say that I am NOT a single parent. My partner does for my first son as he would do for my second like attending the barbers or taking him to his weekly sports activities. So why do (sometimes) I feel like a single parent when managing my first son’s needs. Bizarre right? Let me explain. I always feel a sense of guilt – I feel that it is not my partners responsibility so I don’t allow certain things to be shared e.g. funding for clothes, school trips, sports events, and holidays. In my mind ‘he is MY son so ‘My responsibility’. The truth is I think this is my own personal guilt of feeling like I have burdened him with another child. I feel like his life would be so much more straight forward if he only had to manage his biological son. This guilt forces me to take the lead when talking about my first son as I feel like a single parent even though in reality I’m not. This is an internal feeling that I need to manage because I of all people know that there are many single parents out there who really struggle and would feel unsettled with my reasoning.
Does it matter?
Does the label of being a ‘Single Parent’ matter? I asked 10 single parents how they felt with the label ‘Single Parent’. Four out of the Ten have children to more than one partner.
100% of the single parents I spoke with said that although they accept their situation of lone parenting – they do not like the terminology ‘single parent’. When asked why their responses were –
- ‘It sounds negative’ – why and to who?
- ‘It makes me feel ‘humiliated’– For what reason? You’re doing a good job right?
- ‘I feel like I am letting my children down’ – really why? Because you are doing a good job raising your children by yourself?
I went away and thought about the conversations we had.
I believe that a big influence is society today. It makes people feel this way. Two point Four children is the expectation right? Oh and a dog and cat! And then there’s the thought of a ‘blended family’ – a household with more than one last name – now that is also something that people frown upon. You shouldn’t feel like you have to stay with someone because you have had a child with them. You don’t become a ‘doubled’ single parent if you have children to more than one partner right?
“Finding your happiness brings household happiness”
I wonder if the parents I spoke with feel like they are not living to today’s expectation and that they were letting everyone down – everyone being anyone they come into contact with. The secretary at the doctor’s surgery who asks for the family name, ‘erm….. Jones, Simpson and Cummings’ ) The teacher who looks down at you because you have attended parents evening alone– I mean you’re not capable of digesting all the information about your child by yourself are you?
The pressures this can have on people is one we don’t realise; Our Mental Health being one of them. We don’t always see deteriorating Mental Health creeping into our lives and we don’t always realise that stress, of different levels, is one main trigger. The burden of feeling like you’re a disappointment can alone be a trigger. How confident are you with discussing how you really feel? Most single parents I have spoken to have said ‘I can manage’, ‘I am fine’ and some have said ‘I want to share the daily activities with a significant other’, ‘I want to go for Sunday walks in the village and share the responsibility of making a bottle’. Whatever it is you do, think or feel as single parent the most important thing to remember is that it’s OK. You don’t have to feel like you have let anyone down. Don’t let the fickle minds of society control your thoughts. Do what is right for you – if you feel like you want to find someone, it will happen, you will. If you don’t want to find someone, then that is totally fine too.
I would love to hear your views and if you have any specific areas on this subject you would like me to talk about.
Here are some Statistics I have sourced from www.gingerbread.org.uk
- There are around two million single parents in the UK
- The average age of a single parent is 38 years old
- Less than 2% of single parents are teenagers (aged 16-19)
- The majority of single parents don’t receive Child Maintenance payments
- The proportion of single parents who are fathers is around 10%
- 5% of single parents are in work