I can’t speak for all single parents. There are some things, though, that I believe a majority of adults just don’t get when it comes to other adults who are raising children alone, and I believe I can share some things on behalf of all single parents – single moms and single dads – that will benefit us all.
1. If you want to talk with me, meet with me, or do something “fun” with me alone, then it pretty much needs to happen while my child is in school or daycare.
At the end of my work day, I am entering another phase of the day that in no way resembles free time. Everything that my child(ren) requires in the way of food, supplies, training and nurturing has to come from me, and all of that unfolds as soon as we connect after school and work.
2. If whatever you’re inviting me to come do is not a kid-friendly event, please don’t expect me to attend.
Dinner for two? Girls night out? It’s not that I don’t want to go. On the contrary, I’d LOVE to go! But, it isn’t as easy as that. If I don’t have a suitable sitter living with me in my house, then that means I have to take my child somewhere (typically miles out of the way if it’s a free/family situation) or else find someone old enough to drive to my house who is also willing to babysit for a menial wage. Beyond the logistics of this awesome night out, it’s going to cost me well above the amount most attendees will pay for food and drink. As fun as it might be, it may not be worth it in the big picture.
3. I crave adult conversation and companionship. I just can’t go to where you are most of the time.
All parents are thrust into a wonderfully frustrating and exhausting child-centric world the moment our sweet and needy mini-me (or mini-him) arrives on the planet. It is overwhelming in the best circumstances, but in a single-parent scenario, it can be crippling. We are constantly weighing our child’s needs – singularly dependent upon us – against our own. Factors will always include safety and finances. And sacrifice becomes our way of life.
4. Want to do a favor for a single-parent family? Offer to take the child to an event (ballgame, play, movie) with your family.
What we accomplish in the lives of our children is simultaneously our greatest achievement and our biggest regret. Often limited in funds and energy, we do our best but cannot ever carry out the seemingly small things that come more easily in two-parent families where both parents are engaged in child-rearing. Including my child in experiences I can’t provide due to my limitations is a blessing to everyone involved. Having raised children since 1989 and alone for all but eight of the 25 years in total, I can say that it has definitely been a rare occasion that someone would offer to do something like this with one of my children. But, when it did happen, it was a rare and wonderful gift.
5. Of all places, church should be a warm and welcoming place for single-parent families, but that isn’t always the case.
Having served as staff in churches for years, I can say that there are congregations who get it and there are congregations who just don’t. If your church isn’t sensitive to single-parent families, then your church probably isn’t sensitive to needs of families and children in general. Churches can do great harm to parents and children of single-parent households when they fail to honor, affirm and support them in their efforts toward mental, physical and spiritual formation of children. Not all children have two parents at home and God blesses single-parent families, too. (What most people describe as “traditional family” is really only about 200 years old – a product of industrialization. Get over yourself.)
Single parenting is old news, really. It’s so prevalent now, but that doesn’t mean it is a “good” thing. It’s a really difficult thing. Whether it was a choice or a consequence, it remains a fact. Be a good friend, be a good neighbor, be a good listener. A bit of care and support can go a very long way.