A question for solo parents: how are you doing?

Monday, February 16th, 2015

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For three days I’ve been on a solo parenting adventure, doing all the things that involves while my partner is off exploring another country. Parents do this all the time and really it’s no big deal. Kids are sometimes good and kids are often bad. But after five days of this always-on-the-clock parenting, I’ll be on my own adventure and when I get back my partner and I will be together again and we’ll once again be able to spill one another off when we reach the end of our proverbial rope.

I’m a good parent. I’m not great, but I’m good. I can keep kids engaged and happy and from punching each other in the head for more than 10 minutes at a time, but when I’m on my own there’s something missing.

As happens every time I’m alone with my kids for a full wake up, go to sleep and wake up again cycle, I’m blown away by the parenting effort put in by solo parents every day.

Ever since our first child was born I’ve wondered how solo parents could even get the simple things done. “How do you find time with young kids to even mow the lawn?” I’d ask my partner every few weeks. “Who in the world shovels their driveway when it snows 10 inches?” I’d ask, begrudgingly coming in from shovelling our own driveway while my partner watched our newborn. I didn’t understand who they’d do the simple and in getting so carried away in that, never realized that it must be even more difficult dealing with the complex.

What I admire them for more than anything is the ability to care and love for kids without having someone else there to constantly check in on them. To ask “how are you doing?” or to offer some non kid-centric conversations after a long day of hide and go seek or Dora the Explorer.

To be clear, this isn’t a case of feeling sad for solo parents or thinking they must lie awake at night dreaming of a life other than what they’re living. Thinking two parents are necessary to raise a good kid is arrogant and incorrect. There is no right life, there is no right way to set up a family unit. I don’t raise kids better than solo parents because I have a partner to do it with. This is simply me stating how spectacular solo parents raising young kids are.

To raise our kids to grow up to be the adults we’d like, we need to rely heavily on the way other parents are raising their kids too. I think it’s important that we understand that not everyone is raising their kids under the same set of circumstances.

I yell at my kids in the morning when they refuse to put on boots. I go to the car to cool down and wait for my partner to make up for my anger.

A solo parent yells at their child in the morning when they refuse to put on boots and has no alternative course.

I get home after a long day at work and picking up the kids and spend 10 minutes in the living room writing while the kids yell “I’m hungry, we want dinner,” at my partner.

The solo parent goes through the long day and gets yelled at for dinner immediately.

Sure, we all have challenges. We all have things we do well or do poorly. That solo parent may have a higher paying job than two parents combined. The solo parent may have a perfectly healthy child while a couple with one child is always in and out of a hospital. None of that changes my appreciation of the solo parent though. I also admire the heck out of a lot of parents playing the game under the same set of circumstances we have. Parents who bring their kids out more than I feel comfortable doing or parents who have more focus when sitting down with their kids to work on a craft. But that admiration is different because I know the situation better.

What I missed the most as I kept our kids alive for the week wasn’t the extra physical energy that comes with a partner spilling you off after a long game of horse rider, it was the lack of emotional release I experienced multiple times a day. I felt I always needed to be ON and that there was no proper outlet for frustration. There was nobody to wink at when the kids made an awkward joke and nobody to co-flip the bird at a child’s back after they told us they didn’t love us for the thirtieth time. Kids don’t understand that you’re upset with them and need a break. My partner does.

We all have different needs as parents and we all have different support networks for our challenging times. I need people asking me how I’m feeling from time to time because the honest answer very often is “not good.” I can say this to my partner but I can’t answer that to my three-year-old. I’m sure solo parents have these set up as well as anyone else but I imagine it takes time to learn what those are and by god I couldn’t figure it our in my short time alone with the kids.

So I can marvel at one person working multiple jobs, helping to get homework done, having the yard mowed, having dinner cooked and having lunch is packed. All of those things are great things to accomplish for any parent on any bad day but what amazes me the most is the emotions. Keeping life under control enough to make kids smile and to keep them happily moving out the door and into bed every day.

Solo parents, you amaze me. And if you need someone to remind of that, check in often, I’ll do it. And if you, like me, need someone to check in on your emotional well-being from time to time, how are you doing?

7 responses to “A question for solo parents: how are you doing?”

  1. Danielle says:

    This is extremely accurate. I am a solo parent; though, I have a significant other who came into the picture 5 months ago. My two year old loves him and they have a great connection. However, it irks me when people say that’s not the same as being a solo parent. I am a solo parent, I tell them. I and I alone am responsible for my son 24/7 on top of working full time and going to college part time AND taking care of the every day stuff. Don’t get me wrong, my bf has really stepped up and when we’re all together he does everything he can to help me. But that’s a few moments every once in a while. When you’re a parent (biological or happen to have just stumbled upon a little family), you don’t actually get “days off.”
    Wow sorry for the rant! I didn’t realize I had so much to say haha

  2. Nicole says:

    Great post. I’ve been divorced for five years and I have 11 and 7yo daughters. I work and I study full time. I have enjoyed my solo parenting years more than my married years. Solo, I know that I’m responsible for everything. Partnered, there is expectation, disappointment, frustration and resentment. I love that I get my kids all to myself and can raise them my way. We don’t do screens (TV, computers, etc) so my girls can play together for hours using insanely developed imagination. We cook together, we do laundry together, we play games, we draw on the driveway in chalk, and they never have to fight for attention. When they go to their father every second weekend, far from being a relief, I miss them and count the minutes until they come home, even though I know they’re happy and safe. We’re a team and we have such a close relationship. When my girls tell me I’m the best mum in the world, I tell them it’s only possible because I have the best kids in the world. Solo parenting is the best thing that has happened to us. ­čÖé

  3. chelle says:

    Seriously, totally get this. My husband travels a few times a year for work and every time I am in awe that people, amazing, strong people do this parenting thing solo as the norm.

  4. Jessie says:

    I don’t know… I have been in several different parenting scenarios: married with a fairly useless parenting partner, single mom of an infant & toddler; and married again with a loving and involved dad & step dad. I have to be honest, none of these scenarios has felt “hard.” I’m the primary parent (as the mom often is) and my kids are the focus & priority of my life. That hasn’t changed regardless of my marital status. We’ve always figured it out as we go, me & my boys.

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