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What Single Moms Wish You Knew

It's hard being a parent. When you're a single parent, it's even harder. No one prepared me for this journey eight years ago. I never thought I would be a single parent, and I'll admit to the judgement I passed on single parents years ago. I recently started thinking about the things I wish I had known before this journey, and the things I wish my married friends knew about being a single parent.

1. If you're married, you're not a single mom. This may sound silly or petty, but please never refer to yourself as a "single mom" when your husband is out of town or works late. I get it. Your husband may travel a lot for work—he may be out of town for weeks at a time. Just because you are home alone with the children for a couple nights or weeks at a time, it doesn't make you a single mom. I understand how hard it is doing it alone—I've done it alone for years. But calling yourself a "single mom" when you have your husband's financial and emotional support takes away from the women who actually have to parent alone. 

2. It's hard. It's oh, so hard. It's not single parenting—it's more like double parenting. There is no one to give a "honey-do" list to. There is no one to split the chores with; no one to clean up the dishes if you cook; no one to take out the trash. There's no one to help get the kids out of bed or into bed. There's no one to help you get your car started. There's no one to help you mow the lawn. There's no one to vent to at the end of the night, and there's no one to rest your head on his shoulder when you're just exhausted. 

3. Keep reaching out to us. I know we don't always return phone calls or texts, because we are exhausted and have a ton on our plates. We need your support, and we need your encouragement. Keep sending Christmas cards (we probably won't send themwe're busy, exhausted and probably embarrassed to have a "minus one" this year on the card). Keep inviting us out. Keep calling. It means the world to us that you keep reaching out, even if we don't always say it. 

4. We have to grieve the loss of our children. In addition to grieving the loss of our marriage, we have to come to terms with being forced out of a significant chunk of our children's lives. Being divorced means losing time with our children. There will be Christmases, Thanksgivings, Easters, birthdays and more that we won't get to see our children. Sometimes, we will go weeks without seeing our children, when we thought we would always be there with them every day. Our children will create a life separate from us with their other parent. Unless you experience this loss, you cannot fully understand it. 

5. There's no such thing as a "break." Yes, my children go to their dad's house every other weekend. However, this isn't really a "break" for me. For one, the guilt and sadness overwhelms me that I'm missing out on my children's lives during this time with their dad. For two, I just completed double-parenting for 12 days straight. The house is a mess, laundry is piled to the ceiling, the dishes aren't done, I need to vacuum and mop, and the lawn needs to be mowed. These few days I have "to myself" are usually used to do all the things I physically couldn't get done in the prior weeks. I also need to spend this time preparing for my kids to come home. Saying things to a single mom like, "Oh, it must be so nice you get a break from your kids every other weekend!" can be insensitive and rude. 

6. There's so much guilt. We feel guilt about everything: the demise of our marriage, that we can't provide the home we wished we could for our children, that we enjoy time alone, that we can't be with our children every waking moment, that the dishes aren't done, that the laundry isn't put away, that we don't take care of ourselves well enough. There's so much guilt that we can't be all the things to all the people.

7. We do it because we have no other choice. I've had so many people tell me they don't know how I do it as a single mom. Well, I don't have any other choice. I have to do what I have to do to raise my kids and make sure they are taken care of. I'm exhausted, and I cry myself to sleep a lot. I pray all the time for strength, and I just put one foot in front of the other. 

If you're a single mom, I'm sure that you can identify with many of these. If you're not a single mom, but you know one, talk to her about it. Support her and let her know how much you care. 


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