Being a parent is hard work. Yes, there are lots and lots of rewarding times thrown in but when you get right down to it, it’s tough. Being a single parent is doubly tough. In a 2 parent household, in theory, you have a partner to help you out with those rough patches. You have back-up. When you’re a single parent you have no back-up. It’s all you, baby! I have all the respect in the world for military families who have one parent deployed while the other is manning the home front. Those are a different kind of single parents. Having to parent without your partner and having the extra worry for their safety would be unimaginably hard. I can’t imagine the stress that would add to a family and I’m grateful from the bottom of my heart for each and every one of those who are defending our country and making the world a safer place. Please don’t think I’m discounting those parents in that situation. I’m not! It’s just different.
You see, when you’re a single parent, whether by choice or by circumstance, you don’t have back-up. Ever. You have one income that has to work for everything. Food, clothes, housing cost, medical bills, utilities, transportation, repair bills, hair cuts, toothpaste. All of it costs money. Lots of it! When you’re a single parent you don’t have the luxury of an extra income coming in to help with that. Some are lucky enough to get child support from the absent parent. Not everybody is. Sometimes the amount of money you get in child support is such a small amount that if I told you what it was I’d be laughed right off the internet.
In the last 20 years I’ve done it all. The 2 a.m. feedings? Yep, that was me. The 4 a.m. run to the E.R because your child won’t stop throwing up and you can’t get the fever down? Done that, too. Sleeping in a chair for 3 nights with your 2-year-old who has the chicken pox and won’t lay down? Been there. The preschool assessment lady asking your 3 1/2-year-old her name and being told “My name is Shark Bait Hoo Ha Ha!”? Not my finest parenting moment. Really funny and a great story now but at the time? Not so much. The call from the school that your child was in a “situation” on the playground and they are considering suspension, IN KINDERGARTEN? Yeah, that really happened.
When you’re a single parent with a single income trying to raise a family sometimes you have to make a choice between eating lunch (even one you brought from home) or putting gas in your car. Wearing the same coat for 3 years just so you can get a new one for your child at the thrift store is sometimes just the way it works. Losing your job can mean losing your home. I’ve been very lucky that I have family around that has, more than once, taken in my girls and I so we could get back on our feet. I’m lucky. Not everybody has that kind of safety net.
Being a single parent has also been the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. Now that Beauty is almost 20 (How the heck did that happen???) I look at the beautiful young woman she is becoming and I am proud. I did that! I look at MiniMe who just turned 14 and I know that even though some days she still makes me crazy, she’s a good girl who loves her family and cares about those around her. I did that too!
Yep, being a parent is the hardest, most rewarding job I’ve ever had.