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Parents Talk: Do Temporary Single Parents Have Any Idea What It's Like?

Do 'temps' get more than an inkling of what it's like for real single parents?

Can parents in a two-parent family ever know what life is like for a single parent?

When your partner in child-rearing isn't available to help out—whether for a day, a week, a month, or even an afternoon—does that offer a glimpse into single parents' struggles?

At any given moment during those times when a spouse or partner is temporarily out of the picture, the challenges may be similar to what real single parent might face:

  • Having to be two places at once for kids' activities or appointments
  • Pulling extended parent-taxi shifts
  • Being the point person for everything else in the household (laundry, cooking, the works)
  • Staying on top of homework, personality crises, discipline, permission slips and on and on and on ...
  • Not giving into exhaustion—or the desire for a beer or a nap—that might impair your child-monitoring 

A real single parent could probably come up with a better list, but those are the kinds of things that came to my mind—such as it is. My spouse is traveling a lot for work this month, and the things falling through the cracks are getting bigger by the day, as are the cracks. 

Actually, I've always thought it would make life easier if kids came with three parents instead of two. But so many operate on a third the labor force of that pipe dream. I wonder whether my brief (but still way overlong) tastes of single parenthood really give me any idea of what it's really like for parents flying solo.

Does being a temporary single parent (or a parent with primary responsibility for the kids) give insight into single parenthood?

Chris Steller April 20, 2012 at 03:20 PM
I'm starting to see how easy I've got it, because we do have family nearby. I too am feeling even more respect than I did before for single parents as I read these comments.
jln April 22, 2012 at 03:59 AM
It's comforting to read that many people in our society recognize the overload and challenges single parents face. The responsibilites include constant balancing of time, money and sacrifice. I raised two boys who are wonderful, but I have always felt as the responsibilities grew, my time for them became less which was difficult. It is wonderful when people jump in to help out with small tasks every now and then, because the life of a single parent is non-stop. You have to keep going at a constant pace because the responsibilities never end, especially if you own a home with a yard too! In addition, it is extremely important for employers in the workforce to recognize the "second" full time job that single parents take on and perform 7 days a week, providing for and raising their children. At the day's end, there isn't much time or energy left for the single parent.
Honoree Corder April 22, 2012 at 02:44 PM
I've been a single mom, a married "single" mom, and now a married mom. Being a single mom is BY FAR a much harder situation. Being married with a spouse who is on deployment or who works long hours is simply not the same. It's hard, but it's much, MUCH easier.
David F April 22, 2012 at 08:23 PM
@Honoree Corder, issues around military deployment and return are a whole new area of discussion. Living in the DC area for a number of years I experienced a little closer the effect of 2 wars on families. I attended several conferences on PTSD issues and how families cope and I did business with what is now called the Walter Reed National Medical Center where you saw the effects of the wars and how the families coped with life changing injuries. My son had a friend who's father was deployed with the Navy and I could always see the excitement in his voice when he told me his father was coming home. Even though his mother was a retired US Navy Lt Commander who knew the drill from both sides it was still tough on the family.
Lynne Marie Belsha April 26, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I voted no. A single parent verses a two parent household, even if one parent is the primary, there are two people to share the burdens. Be it emotionally or financially. The one thing that the country is just maybe beginning to realize is that single parents struggle. But they look at it more as a single parent household being where one of the parents (usually the dad) only has limited access or visitation to the children. Be it that way or 50/50 custody. (which is what i have with my children and ex). Divorce and being a full time mom or dad for 50% of the time, then being say single (when the other parent has them) 50% of the time also is an emotional hardship for the parents and children. The biggest issue in marriages today is the fact that it has envolved to giving up too easily. What happened to the days of fighting, working it out, and becoming stronger for it? Today divorce is no more of a factor than say breaking up between the partners. However it is the lasting effects that affect the children. Such things of the children dealing with living with single parents, visitation (back and forth) emotional stress, financial issues, parents dating, and parents working more to make ends meet. All these issues cause the divorces to be more traumatic for the parents when dealing with one another, which then in turn turns things traumatic for the children. No one really wins. And the biggest ones that suffer are the children.

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