There’s been a lot in the news lately about the stigma of being a single parent.
I’m not sure why, but the topic seems to have had a revival. Having been a single parent for most of my children’s lives, it’s not something I even think about much anymore
In 2008 when I separated from the children’s father I didn’t really give single parenthood a second thought. It wasn’t a choice, it was just something I was going to do. I don’t recall feeling any stigma and I certainly haven’t ever received any abusive comments from any one that I know. Unless I was just too busy ‘getting on with it’ to notice.
Being a single parent hasn’t ever fazed me anymore than just ‘being a parent’ has. In fact, if I’m honest I feel a certain relief knowing that I can handle any ‘issues’ that arise with my 2 boys my way.
I have many friends who have children who aren’t separated, and their different parenting styles are often apparent. I watch children of these friends, quite understandably, play each parent off against the other as they learn where their parents’ weaknesses lie and which parent is best to approach for which outcome. I spy the ‘’I’ll talk to you later’’ looks that pass between mum and dad after one has given in to a child’s demands. And I secretly congratulate myself that I don’t have to have those conversations.
No – Single parenting is just not an issue for me, but is it for my children? They both say not. They can’t remember any different. They have friends who have single parents too and they have friends who don’t. They recognise the advantages, like having 2 Christmas days, and they recognise the disadvantages, like not being able to do something with both parents together and having to choose who they do what with. But they don’t seem to dwell on either. They are actually far too busy being children.
Is it possible that us parents are ‘overthinking’ the whole single parenting thing? If I ask my children about it, they look at me like I’ve grown two heads. To them it’s as silly a question as my parents asking me whether it bothers me that they’re still together.
If one of my children makes a ‘poor choice’ with their behaviour I don’t immediately presume that that’s because they come from a broken home. I immediately presume it’s because they are children who are finding their way in life. I know just as many children who regularly make poor choices who come from a family that is not separated as I do from single parented children. And I see amazingly bright, conscientious children from both backgrounds too. Similarly, we all see examples of poor parenting in the news, in our neighbourhoods and in schools, and those parents are sometimes single parents and sometimes not.
I think it’s time we stopped giving single parents a hard time and concentrated on the children instead. Maybe instead of putting each other down for our different circumstances we could all work a little harder on creating warm communities that offer help, warmth and friendship, especially to those who may be vulnerable.