Friday Free-for-All: Let's Hear From Single Parents

Although just about every day feels like a free-for-all on this blog, today really is one. The topic is single parenthood. On the live chat yesterday, one of the questions was about issues facing single parents. Rather than me spouting off, let's hear straight from single parents.

How do you balance everything when it's just you doing the balancing?

What's the upside to single parenthood?

What's the hardest thing you do every day?

What's the biggest misconception about single parenthood?

If you could change one thing (anything) about the world to make single parenthood easier, what would that be?

Give us examples, anecdotes, anything that you think illustrates your lives.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  April 7, 2006; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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Comments

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Do you really think single parents have the time to contribute in-depth to a blog?

I think broadly lumping all single parents-- be they widowed, divorced or never married-- is simply wrong-headed.
There are unique stresses to all three situations.

It's nice to hear from other parents that the juggling act is hard for everyone, but the navel-gazing gets a little maddening sometimes. Parenting = sacrifices. That's the cold, hard fact.

I'm a formerly single parent. I struggle every day with the old and new situations. A divorced mom or dad won't have the same struggles. Likewise a widow or widower.

To make this discussion productive, it should be broken down into the "sub-groups" of single parents.
We're not all the same.

Posted by: Kim P | April 7, 2006 8:47 AM

KimP:

Give it a rest. We're not doing sociology here. People can describe their own circumstances. We don't need Leslie to tell us that people's circumstances are not all the same. She's asking people to tell us about their circumstances, so let them tell.

And, hey, if you don't have time to blog, don't blog.

Posted by: Judi | April 7, 2006 9:16 AM

What's hard about it? Well, everything... but you work through it and do the best you can. I work a 40-hour-a-week job and my son is in daycare while I'm doing it; I wish I could spend more time with him during the day, but my job keeps us in our one-bedroom apartment and puts food on the table. (No BMWs or fancy vacations here. :D) I try to make up for this by spending the rest of my time with my son and making things as good as I can for him.

Posted by: NewlySeparatedMom | April 7, 2006 9:33 AM

Anytown, U.S.: Have either of you considered that this "issue" is really an upper-middle-class dilemma, i.e. that lower-income folks do not have the luxury of choosing between working and staying at home because, without two incomes, they'd be living in a shelter?

Brian Reid: You're absolutely right -- a huge chunk of the work/home discussion focuses on a tiny sliver of the population (I'm frequently guilty of


Leslie Morgan Steiner: Actually, the majority of stay-at-home moms are young, low-income women who haven't gone to college. Their salaries add

Are you kidding me , one of these " experts " is not doing their research and it is one of the reasons this blogs needs to go . It is like watching the Jerry Springer show . Whoever is most uniformed and yells the loudest wins. Time for WaPo to kill this blog and let Leslie market her own book .

Posted by: shoreman | April 7, 2006 9:37 AM

sorry , that is an excerpt from leslie's Q&A yesterday with Brian Reid.

Posted by: shoreman | April 7, 2006 9:40 AM

Balance? You're kidding, right? There is no balance. My kids (18 and 13 1/2)come first, head and shoulders above everything else. Next comes my job. Then the rest of my family. Then taking care of my house. If there's time, money or energy left, I put myself on the list. Sure, I get satisfaction from my career. But let's get real. I'm 50. I'm past the point of wanting or needing to claw my way to the top of some corporate ladder, and that's not where my value system lies anyway. At my age, and staring 2 college educations in the face with no support from the father, I'd much rather be thinking about my retirement. That's not ever going to happen: I'll be paying off the college loans.
Biggest challenges? Trying to figure out why their father never has money. Finding time for myself in a day that starts at 6:30 and generally doesn't end until 1 am. Figuring out where the single men are. Trying to stretch one paycheck to cover three mouths.
But it's all relative. My kids are smart, they're independent, we all respect one another, and we all cherish one another. Most importantly, we like each other, and we like spending time together. We're truly a nuclear family in the best sense of the word. So despite all the challenges--and there are plenty of them--we've found our own way. It's unconventional. But it works for us.
Would I like it to be easier? Hell yes. Am I sorry I'm divorced? Of course. If only for the loss of constant companionship, true love, and the regular male presence in my children's lives. (Big "if only.") But do I feel successful? Absolutely. Ask my kids: they'll tell you they're happy, reasonably well-adjusted, and having fun every darned day. And so am I.

Posted by: Jane Doe | April 7, 2006 9:49 AM

I have been a single parent for more than a decade. My three children are productive, studious, people with a strong sense of community service and very much feel a part of their school, church, neighborhood. The fact that there is not a father in the picture is a sad ommision in our lives but it certainly is not the defining factor. The only difficult piece is sometimes being excluded from social events becasue I am not part of a couple.

Posted by: giver of life | April 7, 2006 9:50 AM

I'm a single parent. I believe there are two subsets of single parents - those who may have the bulk of the child-rearing responsibilities but do have the part-time help from another parent, and those for whom there is no other parent involved. I'm one of the 2nd subset. There were no "every-other-weekend" windows of time for myself. There was no financial help. There was the guilt of not having a father for my son. There was the guilt of knowing I wasn't giving 100% to either my career OR my son, and shortchanging both. I think anyone who makes the decision to be a single parent purposefully is being naive and selfish.

I also feel having a child, knowing you want to also focus as strongly on your career, is selfish (whatever gender you happen to be). Children should only be granted to people who know what a special gift they have, and are willing to make that gift the number one priority in their lives. I only wish that could be the case.

All that said, I am not condemning unconditionally the choices people make. I'd rather not throw stones. If you choose to be selfish, admit it, and do the best you can with the situation you have. It isn't easy.

Posted by: Alli | April 7, 2006 9:52 AM

Jane Doe: well said - and well done.

Posted by: DLM | April 7, 2006 10:03 AM

'I also feel having a child, knowing you want to also focus as strongly on your career, is selfish (whatever gender you happen to be). Children should only be granted to people who know what a special gift they have, and are willing to make that gift the number one priority in their lives.' - is this true for married/partnered people too? if not, i'm afraid you're being narrow minded and judgmental. a lot of couples bring children into the world for 'naive and selfish' reasons.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 7, 2006 10:05 AM

I'm a single parent of a 7yr old and a 3yr old since December. I do get some days off when their dad takes them, but no financial support. Between work, college, kid's homework, baths, etc. there isn't a whole lot of time to think.

If we are comparing the standard 2 parent family vs. the single parent family I can definitely see some differences.

1) Post-divorce I have more and better time with my children to focus on them.

2) Since I make all the rules now, I can enforce bed times, behavior, etc. without having my partner turn wishy washy or feeling like the one "bad guy" parent because I know it's up to me and me alone to do it.

3) Money. Going from two incomes to one is difficult. This is particularly true when their father still has plenty of money to take them on shopping trips, but sees no reason to take them to the library & park (OUR main source of entertainment since it's FREE)

4) Other women. Some people who saw you as wife/mother peer often see you as a threat for some reason. You don't have your husband anymore so maybe you want theirs? I don't understand that one very well.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents. As for the "Mommy War" issue, it definitely exists. Try being the only female in an extended family who doesn't have her degree yet AND the only one who has a job. Yes, it would be wonderful for us all to sing Kumbaya and not think of such things. I'll manage that as soon as I quit hearing the "omg I am so busy! My maid is sick and the nanny is late! I will NEVER get to my tanning appointment!" I don't say a word but I know darn well the "war" exists. It's flat out naive to think otherwise.

Posted by: Meg TX | April 7, 2006 10:26 AM

Jane Doe: I am SHOCKED to read that you think you're somehow responsible for your kids student loans. It's THEIR education, therefore the loans should be THEIR responsibility. Parenting doesn't continue indefinitely. There is no reason why you should have to be paying for them for the rest of your life. I don't know ANYONE who's parents are paying off their student loans.

And don't bad-mouth your ex. It's not good for the children, and it makes you look bad.

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 10:29 AM

Having children is inherently selfish. But that doesn't make it a "bad" thing.

After all, for what other reason do people decide to have children than to have someone to love, and love them in return? I suppose you could do it for "altruistic" reasons, like wanting to grace the world with the continuation of your genetic line, but I'd rather be selfish than a megalomaniac.

Posted by: proud to be selfish | April 7, 2006 10:34 AM

LKB: Let Jane Doe bad mouth her ex all she wants here. As long as she's not doing it in front of her children (and I think it's a safe assumption that they don't read this blog), who are you to judge?

Posted by: Incensed | April 7, 2006 10:36 AM

giver of life wrote "The only difficult piece is sometimes being excluded from social events becasue I am not part of a couple." This is something I face quite a bit. I thought it was just me. Do other single mother's face this and how do you handle it? It's hard enough being a single mother, but also getting excluded from social events because of it makes doubly hard to accept.

Posted by: love being a mom | April 7, 2006 10:36 AM

I agree with "proud". The decision to have kids is entirely selfish. You certainly don't have kids for the kids sake. Why would anyone in their right mind want to bring a kid into a world full of war, murderers, rapists, child molesters, and nasty, hate-filled bloggers?

A truly altruistic person (if that's even possible) would adopt one of the millions of children who doesn't have parents. Some selfish individuals will even go so far as to dole out tens of thousands of dollars for IVF, just so they can have a child that looks like them. Imagine all the ways an orphan could benefit from that kind of money.

Selfish, selfish people. And Father of 4, you're selfish 4 times over! (Or maybe just 3 times if the 4th kid was an accident.)

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 10:43 AM

I'm a child of a single(widower) parent family. It wasn't easy. There's certainly a sense that the grass-is-greener over in the 2 parent household. However, as an adult, I realize I was and am much closer to my dad today than my friends ever were with their parents. And I have much more respect for how hard my Dad worked to keep a roof over our heads and to keep me out of trouble in a pretty dangerous neighborhood. I don't remember lots of candy canes and petting zoos in my childhood and I'm sure those memories are great (I actually want them for my kids), but as an adult I am glad that I got the work ethic and serious-mindedness that comes with being successfully raised by a single parent. I know that I can accomplish anything.

Posted by: Different Perspective | April 7, 2006 10:44 AM

to love being a mom...have you found social events (without children) that are not totoally focused on finding new mates?

Posted by: giver of life | April 7, 2006 10:46 AM

Incensed: If she can bad mouth her ex all she wants in this blog, then I should be able to judge all I want. Right? Only fair.

Obviously you have some hang-ups about your own ex, but don't worry I won't judge you.

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 10:47 AM

Jane Doe said: "I'll be paying off the college loans."
Um, how about your kids pay off the college loans? My parents both worked and helped with what they could for college, but b/c I chose an out-of-state university (more expensive than the in-state schools I could have gone to) I picked up student loans which I've been paying on since I graduated. (I've also since then racked up lawschool loans from a private university) but my pay is now almost twice as much as my parents and I am able to afford those (much-needed and helpful) loans.
If your kids go to state schools (or get fin. aid and/or scholarships, if applicable) then the loans they take out won't have to be too burdensome once they graduate.
Just an option.
(but it's definitely great to see how much you're willing to sacrifice and do for them- your support will mean so much to them!)

Posted by: Idea for Jane Doe | April 7, 2006 10:57 AM

How do I balance all my responsibilities? People always ask me this and tell me how "driven" I am to be doing well at my career and have two relatively well-adjusted kids. Well, I am just doing what I have to do. It does come at a cost-very little "me" time and an extremely limited social life with friends. I used to get a weeknight and every other weekend off, which allowed me some time for me, but lately, that has been reduced to two overnights a month (his choice).
Still, it is better to be single than being in the destructive relationship I was. Luckily for my kids, I was always the one who took care of them, and that has not changed. I also have a job that is very flexible on sick leave and gives me four weeks vacation which helps a great deal. It does help to have a laptop to take care of urgent projects after hours or when the kids are sick.
I often worry about the effects of the divorce on them and took them to therapy for years. I think the biggest misconception of single parents is that their kids are disadvantaged and will not turn out well. When I mention the problems I have with my kids to other (married) parents, it seems they have the same issues to deal with. My kids are doing very well is school and teachers always tell me what nice and agreeable children I have. They are also very happy for the most part.
I think the only way to make single parenting easier is to have family in the area. I don't, unfortunately, but at least I know, that as my kids get older and more independent it will get easier. For now, I will have to give up "me" time to concentrate on their needs and building a strong relationship with them, which will make us all better people in the long run. I'll have plenty of "me" time later on, but I only get one chance at being a good parent as they grow up.
Honestly, some days, I get everything done and feel on top of the world. On other days, I'm late, the kids are missing something they had to take to school, the house is a mess, and I get to work, only to realize I left my laptop at home.

Posted by: SingleMom | April 7, 2006 10:57 AM

"'I also feel having a child, knowing you want to also focus as strongly on your career, is selfish (whatever gender you happen to be). Children should only be granted to people who know what a special gift they have, and are willing to make that gift the number one priority in their lives.' - is this true for married/partnered people too? if not, i'm afraid you're being narrow minded and judgmental. a lot of couples bring children into the world for 'naive and selfish' reasons. "

How the heck do you turn that statement into something that DOESN'T include married couples? OF COURSE it applies to ANYONE contemplating parenthood. What word or words (or omitted word or words, or even comma) suggests that it is limited to single individuals? Having two parents avaiable allows the responsibility to be shared (in a variety of possible ways), but does not in any way lessen that responsibility.

Why would you suggest that anyone is saying it does? Do you have an ax to grind relative to either single parents or married parents?

Posted by: Come On! | April 7, 2006 10:57 AM

LKB = "wack job"

Why are you even posting here in the midst of people who's lives you hate? Go back to your CF echo chambers.

Posted by: Can't help but notice that | April 7, 2006 10:59 AM

LKB, I have seen your posts before and consistently, YOU are one of the most judgmental people who comment. I don't have an ex, so I don't have any hang-ups about it, but you CLEARLY have issues way beyond the scope of this blog. I'm not sure why you feel compelled to post comments, because you almost never have anything constructive to say -- you just take swipes at other posters. It must be hard work being so negative all the time. I suggest a yoga class and some deep breathing exercises.

Posted by: Incensed | April 7, 2006 11:01 AM

When I read Jane Doe's post, I assumed that she meant that she was going to be paying off her OWN college loans. (Lots of women I know go to school at night to get a degree)

But even if she is talking about paying off the loans that put her children through college... So what? My parents (god bless them) paid for me to go to school. They had the money to do so, and they wanted to. So what if Jane Doe wanted to send her children to college but couldn't and therefore helped them get loans and now is willing to pay them back? Isn't it (roughly) the same thing as paying for their education in the first place?

Posted by: DLM | April 7, 2006 11:01 AM

To Jane Doe:
I hate to agree with LKB, but you do have a responsibilty to take care of your retirement before you worry about your kids college. I went to one of Michelle Singletary's lectures (she also appears in the post). She compared it to on a plane the attendents instruct you to put on your oxygen mask 1st, then help the ones around you. You have to ensure your own financial stability first and lead by example, only then should you help your kids with their future...which is ultimately their responsibility.
Good luck!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 7, 2006 11:03 AM

Jane Doe:

I support your choice to take on the student loan debt yourself. My parents shouldered the full cost of my college so I was able to "start" out in the world without any debt. Made saving for retirement/house/my future kids' (now a reality) college/etc. a whole lot easier.

If you feel you can do it, more power to you. I'm sure your children will be grateful.

Posted by: Father of 2 | April 7, 2006 11:04 AM

My husband died when our daughter was 7 months old. For me, the drawbacks of being a single parent were numerous. I don't have family in the area, so I wasn't able to have much help. No breaks, no dropping her off with anyone while I ran errands. I also had a huge amount of pain from knowing that she did not have a father in her life, as I am very close to mine. My career in research slowed significantly because I could only put in 9-5 days, 5 days a week. Also, its really hard when you are sick and still have to take care of your child when you really need to just crawl into bed. I had no idea how I was going to ever date again when the time came. But my daughter has always come first and always will.

On the plus side, we have a very close and special relationship that stems from the fact that I was her only parent. She has also become very outgoing and independent because she only had one parent and if I was busy, she had to entertain herself. Because it was just the two of us, I got a lot more story time and snuggle time with her.

When I fell way behind on housework/yardwork etc., I would take a day off from work but still take her to daycare. That way I had a full day to catch up and she got to keep her routine and play with her friends. So I found ways to cope and get things done, but I have since re-married and for me, things are so much better having a partner to help. But from time to time I do miss when it was just me and her.

Posted by: Karen W | April 7, 2006 11:04 AM

CF echo chambers? What are these and where can I find them? I am intrigued!

I'm sorry. Is my no-nonsense approach to this blog too much for you to handle? Just because I like to point out the inherent truth of the situation doesn't mean that I'm a "wack job". Maybe you should actually consider some of the things I'm saying. I'm sorry if I don't express myself in a manner you find appropriate, but I don't feel like sugar-coating all my words today.

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 11:09 AM

For all of you who have misunderstood the nature of my posts, I would encourage you to go back and read yesterday's commentary.

I stand by what I said to the single mom, and all single moms for that matter, about bad-mouthing your ex. IT MAKES YOU LOOK BAD, AND IT'S NOT GOOD FOR THE CHILDREN. If you consider that abusive, you really do have problems.

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 11:13 AM

I am a single mom after the death of my ex husband 2 years ago. My ex was not your stereotypical ex and had a close relationship with me and our son. I guess I am not your stereotypical single mom. I make enough money to support us, we live in a nice neighborhood in a nice house. My employer is very flexible and I utilize a network of friends and family to help out. My son has 7 years until college and we have college funds. My days are long but not overly hectic. The one thing I do share with other single parents is having a little more time for myself, but I think that is a parent thing not a single parent thing.

Posted by: Angela | April 7, 2006 11:15 AM

SingleMom, I second your post. You do what you need to do. This was my motto as a single parent. I raised one son who is now 19. It was hard, yes, but I took the responsibility head on, unlike his father who did not.
I do have family in the area, so that made it a little easier.
The biggest misconception is that kids of single parent automatically will have bad outcomes; that is simply not true.
The hardest thing about single parenting for me was not having someone to back me up when a decision was made, such as regarding discipline.
Also being the only one to transport/pick up your child to the various activities they would want to be involved in was difficult, but I did it.
Some married parents do seem to look down on single parents in pity. Some think they are better than singles and look down on them and in some cases (the wives) are threatened by their presence.

Posted by: Dodie | April 7, 2006 11:19 AM

I am a single parent who has raised my children from ages 4, 6 and 8 to their present ages of 16, 19 and 21. One is moved out, two still live at home.
What makes my situation unusual is that I am a man and that I am divorced and their mother provides no support or has contacted them since 1994. I did not nor have I ever sought preferential treatment. There are plenty of women who do the same as me.
My biggest irritation is the assumption made by others that I must have a wife at home, or she must have died, or the kids must be with her.
I took this responsibility freely and I have sacrificed to execute it. I worked two jobs for six years. I went back to school. I changed careers. I didn't date for years. I have found that many women shy away from "instant families". I never sought to obtain my children a new mother. They have a mother. And they will have to work their issues with her on their own. I have been careful not to undermine her in their presence and I have bit my tongue when they blame me in favor of her. She's not here to answer their questions or defend herself.
I did this without handouts, partly pride, partly because I really didn't know what assistance was available to me. I am now in a position where I am not quite so check to check as I used to be. I have learned to make things last much longer than the average person. I kept my car for 11 years, me appliances are from the mid 70's, my carpeting is 12 years old. This was driven from necessity, the drawback of only one income. I don't think this was all negative. My kids have had to get jobs and earn money for their own cars and college. This has made them more responsible. They are more appreciative of what they have and don't tear their stuff up like some of their friends.
If I could change anything, it would be to make the tax laws more fair to single parents. We are in a higher bracket than married. Our earning limits for education credits, like the Hope Credit are half of a married couple. Believe me, my mortgage is not half. Single parents are much more common. It is not the government's place to punish us for our sins.

Posted by: Lou A | April 7, 2006 11:23 AM

"LKB, I have seen your posts before and consistently, YOU are one of the most judgmental people who comment. I don't have an ex, so I don't have any hang-ups about it, but you CLEARLY have issues way beyond the scope of this blog. I'm not sure why you feel compelled to post comments, because you almost never have anything constructive to say -- you just take swipes at other posters. It must be hard work being so negative all the time. I suggest a yoga class and some deep breathing exercises."

This one I'm particularly proud of. In fact I'm going to print it out and hang it on my fridge. I bet you can't get this kind of ire, Father of 4!

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 11:29 AM

Ok, I'll bite:
'How the heck do you turn that statement into something that DOESN'T include married couples? OF COURSE it applies to ANYONE contemplating parenthood.'


The original poster wrote:

'I think anyone who makes the decision to be a single parent purposefully is being naive and selfish.'

followed by:
'I also feel having a child, knowing you want to also focus as strongly on your career, is selfish (whatever gender you happen to be). Children should only be granted to people who know what a special gift they have, and are willing to make that gift the number one priority in their lives. I only wish that could be the case.'

I read that as: any single person who has a child is selfish. whereas, i agree with other posters that stated that becoming a parent is inherently a selfish act. i also think childless people are often unaware of the commitment they are making when they have a child. it's a world of grey area out there. parenting is difficult. why pick on single people who want to become parents? i don't think categorizing people based on their marital status, work status, etc. is useful. good parents come in all flavors, as do those who probably should not have children.

Posted by: c | April 7, 2006 11:35 AM

Jane Doe: Your comments about your ex did NOT make you look bad. As someone else said, talking bad about an ex isn't great for the children, but I doubt they're reading this blog. And besides, I understand all too well the challenges that come with having an ex who doesn't provide support for his children. This blog asked single parents to talk about the challenges they face, and that is certainly a big one. LKB: it's not like she went off on her ex. She made one simple statement. Get a grip!

I have to agree with something someone else wrote about enjoying the one-on-one time you get to have with your child when you're a single parent. I can't imagine giving that up. Sometimes it's nice just to be able to spend time with my son without the interference of anyone else.

Posted by: JJ | April 7, 2006 11:37 AM

Different perspective looking in. When I met my wife she was the primary single parent. Her ex was around the corner.

What did I think was her biggest problem, dealing with a sick child and adjusting to one paycheck.
What was the biggest advantage, a lot of one on one time with the kids without other adult interference.

We have been married for a couple of years now and I see the kids yearning sometimes for the intense focus she used to be able to give them which I have obviously taken away form them. In general I think my step children are happier being in a two parent house and my wife enjoys my being able to take care of the kids when sick, or she has to work late, but they all miss the previous closeness once in a while.

Posted by: Chet Brewer | April 7, 2006 11:55 AM

How do you balance everything being a single parent? By not thinking about all the things that have to be accomplished, but instead just doing it!! If for one minute I stopped to think about the 50 million things that have to be done, I would fall into a depression.

The upside to being a single parent? Not having to check-in with anyone if I want to take my kids out-of-state or put them in an activity.

Posted by: Janis | April 7, 2006 11:55 AM

Unbelievable. The squabbling is rendering this resource worthless and unreadable.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 7, 2006 11:55 AM

One of the hardest things of being a single parent is the summer. When most families are planning summer vacations or extended holidays, single parents (at least I am) are worried to death about how to keep their kids properly supervised, engaged and away from the t.v. during summer while they try to maintain at their jobs while not worrying what their kids are doing. I have to somehow manage to pay for full time summer camps covering a time period of 10 - 12 weeks at anywhere from $150 to $900 per week, depending on the quality of the program. My son is 14 and because he is a teenager, keeping him active and interested during summer is my chief concern. Each year that he grows older, the expenses grow. I have little family and his father only contributes a small amount each month which does not cover the summer. If he was to stay with his father during the summer, he would be hanging out on the streets while his father went off to work every day.
For this reason, I hate summer!!!

Posted by: Belinda | April 7, 2006 11:59 AM

told ya ' that 2 hrs ago.

Posted by: shoreman | April 7, 2006 12:03 PM

The upside: my kids have grown up tremendously responsible and independent. They do a great job taking care of themselves and others and have a wonderful sense of family.

There are downsides, too. I can't say their lives wouldn't have been better with happily married parents. But the thing that matters most to me is that they know that they are loved and that I am always there for them.

They've turned out great.

Posted by: Single dad | April 7, 2006 12:06 PM

"Biggest challenges? Trying to figure out why their father never has money."

Maybe I'm completely out of line here (or, as some of you suggested, I'm completely out of line everywhere), but I see a subtle slap in the face with this comment. And if I can discern an underlying hostility in two sentences posted on a blog, I would imagine her children are well aware of her feelings.

I think that one of the most challenging things for a single parent is trying to hide any negative feelings regarding the ex from the kids. However, it is also one of the most important factors in raising healthy, well-adjusted kids. Let your kids form their own opinion of your former spouse. If s/he is truly an a**hole, your kids will figure it out soon enough.

I know all of you feel some need to defend Jane Doe from the manical ravings of the "wack job," but don't let that cloud your judgement.

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 12:09 PM

From Janis "The upside to being a single parent? Not having to check-in with anyone if I want to take my kids out-of-state or put them in an activity."

This reminded me of when I took my kids to Niagra Falls a few years ago. I took my kids, my neighbor (female, single parent) took hers. I got stopped at the border and had to go inside to prove I wasn't kidnapping them. She was in the car in front of me, and got through no problem.

Posted by: Lou A | April 7, 2006 12:10 PM

I have re-read Jane Doe's post and agree about the college. I always believed that it builds character for kids to work their own way through until my kids became high school seniors. I wanted them to attend a school that would be a good fit so that they would really be able to focus on learning and to do it without working and being distracted. I also wanted them to graduate without a boatload of debt. They are girls, and I wouldn't want student loans to be the obstacle to them staying home with their kids, if that is what they choose to do. So, I am perfectly willing to delay retirement in order to help pay off the loans.

Posted by: amused | April 7, 2006 12:17 PM

First, I would like to say thanks to Leslie for giving blog time to single parents today (I was the poster yesterday who made this request). Single parents do face different challenges: one income, dating, keeping on good terms with the other parent, etc. Then there is the challenge of how children cope with the circumstances that led to a single-parent home.

I am fortunate because I have a good job making decent pay that allows us a middle class life-style (a friend noted that I am a "Murphy Brown" single mom, but my income is not quite on par with Murphy's). Also, my employer is flexible.

I moved to Phoenix from NoVa nearly two years ago without knowing a soul in Arizona, but I have built a close network of friends who offer to help in times of need. My ex-husband moved to Australia, so he's not really any help. Fortunately, he does keep in touch with our daughter via phone, web cam and e-mail.

I do try to manage my daughter's expectations. I bought a small house in an affluent neighborhood (school district), so I had to explain that just because others are wealthy...we are not. Like an earlier poster, I seek out activities that do not cost a fortune. Arizona has a great outdoor life, so we take advantage of that. She is happy as long as we are spending time together.

Also, she earns an allowance and is an incredible help. She takes care of her pets, cleans her bedroom, helps with household chores. She has nearly $700 saved in her bank account; she is turning 10-years-old in three weeks. So, I have taught her responsibility.

Dating is another BIG topic for single parents. I was single for a year before I met a man here that I wanted to include in our lives. There was a lengthy courtship involved before I made that decision (I have no intention of having a stream of men in and out of our lives). He is very understanding and respects that my daughter will always come first. When he and I have plans and I am unable to find a babysitter, we change our plans to include my daughter (i.e., all of us go to an age-appropriate movie). Now that's balance!

I do recognize that I have it easier than most single parents, but I still sometimes feel guilty over the divorce, and I feel sad because my daughter's friends have their fathers at home.

More than anything, having a close friend to confide in helps me through this. I hope that all single parents have that one good friend or family member that acts as a confidant on those tough days.

Posted by: western single mom | April 7, 2006 12:18 PM

LKB - Being honest and upfront about not getting the help you need and about the other parent not holding up their share of responsibility is not the same as bad-mouthing - particularly when you're talking anonymously to other people and NOT your kids. That would be something totally different. Sometimes, people like yourself tend to jump to conclusions about us single mothers and assume that we are bitter or hateful towards the fathers when the truth is we're simply wondering why it is the father's fail to realize that raising the children they helped to create is a shared responsibility and a constant one - not one you can just decide to jump into on a whim whenever it is convenient for you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being honest and upfront - LKB you should know that because that is what you are claiming to do - when actually you are being judgemental...you don't know Jane Doe's situation. You're on the outside looking in. Take some time to listen/read and try to understand her perspective before you conclude that she's bad mouthing.

Posted by: A&A's mom | April 7, 2006 12:27 PM

Thanks for bringing up this issue and giving us single parents the opportunity to share our experiences. I’m a single mother of a three and a half year old boy, holding down a stressful, full time job. I work in the non-profit sector and technically my work week is 37.5 hours, but to keep up with the non-parent and two parent family colleagues, I average minimum 45 hour weeks.

“Balancing” implies that everything is stable, secure and perfect. In single parenthood, none of this is so. Nothing is ever balanced. If I have a day where I get my son out of bed on time, dressed and fed without a major tantrum (and I also manage to dress myself in cleaned clothes, put a pair of earrings on and brush my teeth), I consider it a perfect morning. But then, I have to deal with traffic, I have to hope and pray that daycare springs no surprises on me (“Oh, we need all parents to cook a dozen cookies for tomorrow’s valentine-day celebration!”), and if I’m lucky I’ll manage to get to work in a timely manner and not have colleagues ranting at me about one thing or another.

Parenting is hard for everybody. The hardest part of single-parenting is that you have nobody to necessarily back-you up, either emotionally or physically, when the unexpected happens, as it so frequently does when parenting.

The key to “managing”, as opposed to balancing, things is an incredible network of friends to support me and who make me feel good about myself, and a relatively flexible job environment with a trusting and sympathetic supervisor and a place where my need to run out exactly at 5pm because I have no toilet paper in the house and need to stop at the store before I pick up my son at 5:30 doesn’t even cause a raised eyebrow. But my friends, my friends are KEY. I’ve cried on their shoulders, called them for advice at 4am when my son had a fever of 104, dropped my son off with them when I just needed an hour by myself in peace, no questions asked, etc, etc.

Also, single parenthood requires extreme organization. There is no room for feeling lazy or incompetent, unfortunately. Most single parents will tell you that there is “something” they give up in their lives – whether it be a clean house, fully nutritious 3 square meals a day, 100% high quality time when you are with your child, the new dress they want, the brand new car they desperately need. There’s a greater acceptance that life is not and will never be perfect, and its important for you and your child to accept that and still try to get the best out of what life has to offer.

The upside of single parenthood is that nobody (except yourself!) ever questions your way of doing things or your judgment. I also feel that I have a much more intimate relationship with my son than parents of 2 parent households do, because we’ve seen each other through the worst and the best of times. We can just look at each other and know exactly what the other is thinking and feeling. It’s pretty remarkable to me.

It’s also nice that when I do have time to myself, in the evenings for example after my son is in bed, it is complete ME time, nobody else is invading my space. I also find that it requires me to be more cognizant of ensuring that I take care of myself and have my own interests, I don’t see that a lot of mothers in 2 parent homes do this so much.

And lastly, if you’re lucky enough to have a shared custody arrangement, the exclusive time without your children is something that most 2 parent families don’t get without a lot of fuss. The two 36 hour periods of time each month that my son spends with his father are priceless to me.

The biggest misconception about single parenthood is that most single parents are uneducated and on welfare and they caused this to “happen to themselves” and that single parenting only results in “bad” kids.

When I chose to conceive my child with my husband, I had no idea that he was going to cheat on me and pack up and leave the house when my son was 8 months old. I don’t think I would have ever chosen parenthood had I known that would happen. But it did, and I now I put a ton of effort in making sure that with only 1 parent, my son gets everything he needs.

If you could change one thing (anything) about the world to make single parenthood easier, what would that be?

That in general, the world becomes a place that appreciates and recognizes motherhood and the beauty of children. I can’t tell you how many places I’ve been and I’ve received dirty looks for my child mis-behaving. I was at the Cherry Blossom festival last weekend and I even heard one lady remark as she past me, “I don’t understand why parents would bring children to an event like this!” People forget that we were all children once.

Posted by: Single Mom in MD | April 7, 2006 12:30 PM

Ok now that I've made my peace about LKB :).

There's absolutely nothing simple or easy about Single parenting - or parenting in general for that matter. But, to be a parent period is a privilege, no matter the circumstances. And, that is exactly my approach to raising my children single-handedly. And, I'm one of the ones who thankfully enjoys some involvement from the other parent. I am afforded consistent weekly/bi-weekly breaks; however, on many fronts (particularly financial) the majority of the burden falls on me. And, yes, that is extremely stressful and difficult. But, it's what I have to work with. And, I have an obligation to ensure that no matter what my children are afforded the necessary nuturing and nourishment in order to develop as independent, productive, well-rounded adults. My greatest wish for those who are fortunate not to have to raise their children singlehandedly is that they not assume that everything is so dire on this side. My children can be and are still happy, productive, healthy and on their way toward conquering this world. I as a single mother am still happy and valuable. Don't discount our situation because it's different from yours.

Posted by: A&A's mom | April 7, 2006 12:35 PM

Being a single parent was the hardest thing I have ever done. Was I selfish for doing it? After being told that I could not have children, and divorcing after 4 years of being on an adoption waiting list, I considered myself blessed to find myself pregnant in my 30's.

Upside:
- Being able to make all the decisions
- Having a particularly close relationship
- Experiencing the joy of parenthood

Downside:
- Having to make all the decisions
- Putting my social life on hold
- Having no break even when ill or tired

Was it hard? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes!

Posted by: fdp | April 7, 2006 12:40 PM

How do we balance everything? Simply put, we don't have a choice not to! We know there is no one to fall back on to help out so you are in constant "got to get it done" mode.

Upside to single parenthood, I believe, is the lack of ridiculous argument if you and your childs' father don't agree on child raising...while they, in some instances, are still involved, the daily parenting is in your hands only.
Hardest thing I do everyday .... not sure, I find that being in a constant gotta get it done mode doesn't allow for much "woe is me, that was hard" time.
Biggest misconception from a young single parent stand point is that you are irresponsible and maybe even "less moral" and less of a parent than your married 30-something couterparts.

What to change: the misconception that young single parent = irresponsible, not so good parent.

Posted by: Wash DC | April 7, 2006 12:51 PM

Can an adult child of a single mom give her opinion? My mom was a single mother of 8 children. The happiest day of my life was the day she got a job and we began the climb out of poverty. At least one parent should be working, and if a single mom, she is doing a great thing. I am a stay at home mom now, but I worked for years to guarantee I will never be in her position. Bless the single moms (or dads) who work and set a wonderful example for children. Your is a truly noble role model for your children, and while it is hard, your are doing society and your children a huge favor. If not you, then who?

Posted by: Karen | April 7, 2006 12:59 PM

It's heartwarming that our children are now our first concern? It wasn't always that way, especially among people of old who were forced to have huge families they struggled simply to feed.

I'm a single mom, and my 17-year-old daughter comes first in my life. In a couple of years, when she's off to college and work, I can focus on my own desires. But right now, my desire is that she knows that I am her best friend and that I do everything I can for her.

Nothing in the world beats parenthood, if you ask me. If you're a single woman and you want a child, DO IT. You will never regret it, difficult as it may get now and then.

Maggie

Posted by: Margaret | April 7, 2006 1:10 PM

A&A's mom:

I am fully aware of the challenges of not receiving financial support from your ex. However, I believe there are numerous ways of expressing this concern other than the way that she chose. "Trying to figure out why their father doesn't have any money" is really none of her business. If he pays the child support on time and in the correct amount, this is the only thing with which she should be concerned. If he doesn't, she really ought to take it up with the courts.

Perhaps I misinterpreted Jane Doe's words, but since she won't speak up to offer further explanation I just have to trust my gut. On my first reading of those words, I read them as a subtle slam against her ex. I also interpreted her comment about paying for her kid's student loans as being something she felt she HAD to do, not something of which she CHOSE to do. ("I'd much rather be thinking about my retirement. That's not ever going to happen: I'll be paying off the college loans.") When people make the conscious choice to do something, they generally don't complain about the results. I thought I was helping her out by pointing out that she had other options.

I don't know why I'm even bothering to defend my opinions against all of your accusations. All of you have already labeled me as a judgemental wack job who jumps to conclusions and is in dire need of yoga, so I guess all my views are pretty much invalid at this point.

Can I just point out, however, that calling someone "judgemental" is being judgemental in turn? Oops, there I go being rational again.

Posted by: TheWackJob | April 7, 2006 1:10 PM

The Wack Job: I spend a lot of time figuring out why my daughter's father doesn't ever seem to have any money to pay for child support or anything else for his daughter, though his style of living indicates otherwise. And the court system is a tool you can only use if you have the money to do it. I don't have the funds to hire a private investigator to determine why my husband is for child support purposes "unemployed" yet still manages to support his lifestyle to the extent that he drives a 2005 BMW and is frequently going on vacation. He seems to have plenty of money for the things he wants, so where's my child support check?

There are a lot of women who have plenty of ammunition to go at their exes, and frankly if we're not naming names, what is your beef about it? Except that I think you like to argue ...

Posted by: Lisa | April 7, 2006 1:24 PM

The Wack Job: I spend a lot of time figuring out why my daughter's father doesn't ever seem to have any money to pay for child support or anything else for his daughter, though his style of living indicates otherwise. And the court system is a tool you can only use if you have the money to do it. I don't have the funds to hire a private investigator to determine why my husband is for child support purposes "unemployed" yet still manages to support his lifestyle to the extent that he drives a 2005 BMW and is frequently going on vacation. He seems to have plenty of money for the things he wants, so where's my child support check?

There are a lot of women who have plenty of ammunition to go at their exes, and frankly if we're not naming names, what is your beef about it? Except that I think you like to argue ...

Posted by: Lisa | April 7, 2006 1:24 PM

LKB - TheWackJob - whichever you choose to be

No one is saying your opinions do not matter, but that's just the point. Keep in mind that the entire point of this commentary is to recognize that it is a venue for you to express your opinions not to jump on someone else for sharing theirs.

But, since you addressed me specifically and called yourself being rational...here is some rationality for you: Child support is helpful if and when you can get it. (1) You can go through the courts, have an order in place for money to be taken out of the father's paycheck and STILL not get the financial support you need. (2) Child support barely covers only the basics and is based on both parents income - so both parents are paying child support, but if he makes way less than you, you're still carrying the burden (3) The child's needs do not stop at child support. Often, the custodial parent finds it necessary to contribute above and beyond what the courts say is necessary, not just what the order says - responsibility doesn't stop there. Perhaps that's where JaneDoe is coming from about him never having any money! It would be very convenient for him to say, "Oh, I paid my child support; therefore I owe no further financial obligation to this child's needs!" Not so!!! And, it is her business if she constantly has to foot the bill and he's never able to contribute...that impacts her household. That's money that has to be taken away from other needs that he could be contributing to, as the child belongs to him as well as her.

I think the point here is that the single parent, the primary parent often is much more keenly aware of ALL it takes to raise the child and often has to deal with the other parent having a "choice" to do whatever, whenever they so want to. And, if JaneDoe is upset about that...who's to say she doesn't have to right to be and to express that however she so chooses.

Posted by: A&A's mom | April 7, 2006 1:38 PM

Lisa:

I'm curious to know, was all that time spent trying to figure out where your husband's money went well-invested? Did you come to any definite conclusions? Were you able to secure any of those funds?

Look, we all have out short-comings in life. We can sit around complaining about how unfair life is, or we can do what we need to do to better the situation. For you, I would suggest writing off your husband as a deadbeat, and moving on with your life. "Trying to figure out where he spends his money" seems like a huge waste of time to me, but that's not really my concern. My main concern is the welfare of the children. I really have to wonder what kind of impact all this negativity has on their emotional well-being. But they're your kids, so what do I care?

And no, I don't like to argue, but when 10 different women start attacking me and calling me names, you better believe that I'm going to stand up for myself. I'm not going to roll over and play dead just because someone doesn't agree with me.

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 1:43 PM

LKB, You are not worth the time it would take for me to tell you all the ways that you're wrong. I suspect you don't have a very happy life. In case you hadn't noticed, this is supposed to be a venue today where we talk about the problems of single moms, not where you get to throw hissy fits and defend yourself all day.

I wish you well, but as well I wish you'd stop posting. Hopefully your postings will go the way of Father of 4's, which everyone now simply ignores.

Posted by: Lisa | April 7, 2006 1:50 PM

Is the NYT article you referenced written by Terry Martin Hekker, author of Ever Since Adam and Eve? She recently wrote another column for the Times about how her husband has left her after 40 years of marriage. She now writes, "I read about the young mothers of today -- educated, employed, self-sufficient -- who drop out of the work force when they have children. "And I worry and wonder ... Maybe they'll be fine. But the fragility of modern marriage suggests that at least half of them may not be."

Posted by: BTD | April 7, 2006 1:56 PM

LKB:

Fortunately there are laws that say that deadbeat parents must pay up or go to jail. Here in Maricopa County, Arizona, they take this quite seriously. Although failure to pay child support is a civil violation, there are criminal penalties tied to this violation, which is considered contempt of court. Here, deadbeat parents are thrown in jail unless they pay up. In jail, they are allowed work furlough so they can leave during the day and work to pay down child support arrearages. Mr. 2005 Beamer would be wearing pink undershorts and eating baloney sandwiches in Sheriff Arpaio's tent city if he were a resident of Phoenix.

I never sought child support from my ex-husband because he cannot adequately take care of himself. If he had the money, he would help. However, not all other single custodial parents are in the same position, and if the non-custodial parent has the resources, he/she should pay up.

ANY parent out there who has trouble with this should seek legal assistance from the county where they reside. The state of Virginia was at the forefront of holding deadbeat parents responsible.

Also, deadbeat parents are not just a problem for the other parent and for the children who are left in need. Consider this: Last year Congress appropriated some $2 BILLION to assist state and local jurisdictions enforce child support laws.

That's your tax money, LKB. And mine.

And that doesn't even start to address how much is spent on public assistance (food, housing) to support children who are abandoned by one parent.

Posted by: western single mom | April 7, 2006 2:05 PM

LKB,
As probably the only male with custody here, let me quickly weigh in on the issue of child support.
My ex pays nothing, has never paid anything and never will pay anything. So moms can be "deadbeats" too.
With two grown up and one graduating in two years, I really don't want her help now anyway. I'd just as soon not "owe" her anything.
Regarding Lisa venting - let her. Better here than at home. I too have found it difficult not to remind my kids that I get no financial support when they want to know why I can't buy them things the way their friends parents can.
If you are truly without a support system, as I have been, no ex in the picture, no money coming in, no relatives to help then you find the lack of a break can wear on you. If venting in this forum helps you to not vent at home, then I say vent away.

Posted by: Lou A | April 7, 2006 2:05 PM

I'm a single parent whose 18 year old is just about to graduate from high school. For most of those years, my son had regular time with both parents, although I had primary custody and was the primary financial support.

There were times when I was worried about money, but not because I was a single parent. I was worried because I didn't make enough money. So I went out and got jobs that paid more.

When he was 14, I was able to take a major cut in income and go back to grad school. Since that time, I've been enjoying a different career that doesn't pay as well, but has been extremely rewarding in other ways. I also began an online forum that surprisingly became a major source of income as well. I'm the parent in the community who helps with homework (up through calculus), who gives advice about college applications (several kids are going to be attending UCs instead of community colleges because I told them their high school counsellor was full of....inaccurate information), and who has the best food and the messiest apartment. I never wrapped my life entirely around parenting, never found it difficult to balance parenting and career, and have never seen parenting as anything other than a joy and a privilege. My son is a terrific, well-educated, funny, happy, talented kid who loves both his parents and is appropriately looking forward to being on his own in college--although he still reserves the right to ask for the occasional assist in understanding math or editing an essay.

Most single parents expected someone else to do the financial heavy lifting. Their difficulties spring from their lousy preparation on this front, and their annoyance that they're expected to provide for their children.

Others, whether or not they have the finances tied down, tend to pride themselves on their self-abegnation--if single parenting weren't a calling requiring a monk's life, where's the value in it? Thus they must devote their every waking hour to being a parent, to show how dedicated they are, to show how little their children will suffer.

It's all nonsense. Middle class and upper middle class single parents give their children far superior lives than the lives of kids of working poor married parents--and an infinitely better life than the poor kids stuck with "stay at home mom" on welfare. Most single parents reading this paper are less financially prepared than they should be, so their stats won't be as good as married parents, and they'll have fewer resources to deal with problems. But that's a failure of their own planning, not a function of being a single parent.

In pretending there's a big difference, everyone is further validating the nonsense that parenting is terribly hard work that requires two people--one, ideally, to foot the bills, and one to whine about how the billpayer doesn't do enough around the house and provide a little daycare.

After all, if it weren't hard work, why are women complaining so much?

Posted by: Cal | April 7, 2006 2:15 PM

I will be a single father in Sept. My wife and I are "seerated" but live in the same house until she moves out of Virginia in June and lives on the West Coast. Coming in September I will be a Single Father with Custody on a FT basis.

As of right now we are all in Counseling and trying to deal with the seperation anxiety we will all be feeling. I can't imagine not having the support of my wife but I can't change what will happen. My life will change dramatically but I feel myself and my two girls (9yo and 7yo) will be better for it.

I look forward to being a FT father even though I have to accept these changes will affect my everyday life. I appreciate all the opinions here and realize that I am not alone in the struggles I know are sure to come.

I have noticed, and this is my opinion, that single mothers tend to lash out at each other and single fathers seem to bond. Am I alone in this opinion?

Posted by: C | April 7, 2006 2:24 PM

Cal brings up good points.

I was never willing to throw my faith into allowing that my husband would always be around or that he would contribute if the marriage failed. As such, I planned for the eventuality of being a single mother.

First: I only had ONE child. I am able to provide well for my daughter because I did not breed out of control and mortgage her future.

Second: Three years into the marriage, I separated my finances. My ex-husband, who has a number of good qulaities, was terrible with money. And he would not give me primary control over financial affairs, so I separated mine (this was after he hung me with $7,000 in his taxes; he was self-employed and didn't pay, and we filed jointly, so I was on the hook). Also, I bought my home, and I made all mortgage payments (and paid many of the other bills). When the marriage ended, I kept my house.

Like the posters who referenced Terry Martin Hekker, I too, do not look enviously upon women who give up careers completely for years on end to stay at home. They are taking huge risks with their well being, and their children's. The quickest way for this kind of woman to lose her socio-economic status is for her husband to walk out on her. And it happens frequently.

My own mother had three failed marriages, five kids and was a single mother in her 40s with no job skills. I grew up in poverty as a result. I vowed this would never happen to me, and I prepared. Marriage is a contract, but most people think of it only in romantic terms (think about how much planning and funding goes into the wedding, but how little preparation is made for the actual marriage).

I went into my marriage with the best intentions (we had lived together for several years before marrying). But, I planned for the worst. As such, I escaped relatively unscathed, and my child is well cared for financially and emotionally because I am not stressed out about finances.

Again...hope for the best, but have a Plan B just in case...

Posted by: western single mom | April 7, 2006 2:30 PM

I have been a single parent since day one. My son will turn 17 in June. When he was 10 I finally took his father to court to get some child support, which after some bumps was finally established to arrive in a timely manner. My son and his father met for the first time when he was 14.5 years old and have met only once more since then. So he is truly from a single parent home.

Having said that many people helped along the way. So I think the biggest misconception is that you raise your child(ren) truly on your own. My parents and sister helped babysit when I had to be away for business or when he was on vacation. A friend let him walk to her house after school when he was old enough and after school programs got too tedious. Other parents helped with carpooling from time to time. And I was very fortunate that the places I worked understood that my son had to be a priority and that he had to come to work with me some days or I had to take him to the doctor on others. In that sense, it truly took a village to raise my son.

You balance everything by putting your child on one side of the scale and everything else on the other. I had to figure out a way to make things work and if I saw that any of my choices for work or personal relationships were in any way not working for him I chose him instead. He always came first, even today now that I am engaged and my fiance knows my son comes first. Period.

The upside of this situation is that you are the good guy and the bad guy. You are not having to struggle with someone else who may have different ideas about how to raise a child. You have final say in all decisions. It has made for a very strong bond between my son and me, even on days when things get strained between us he knows he can count on me and I will always be there for him.

Being the sole decision maker also means that there is plenty of room for second-guessing oneself, which I do a lot. Not having someone there to help you think things through and make the best decision is tough day in and day out. When your baby wakes up with a fever at 2 in the morning and you wonder whether you should call the doctor or not, it would be nice to have someone offer you their opinion in addition to what your gut says. It is also very difficult knowing that your son is growing up in a home without being exposed to the male qualities a father can provide.

I would like to change the perception out there that all children raised in single parent homes, specifically boys raised by moms, are doomed to failure. My son skipped 2nd grade because he was reading at 8th grade level and now has received early admission into Princeton. He also found out that he has been selected a National Merit Scholar. So some of us do a good job on our own thank you, we don't all raise problem kids...

I remember feeling overwhelmed at one point when he was about 5 years old because dinner was from McDonalds, again, after I had picked him up from after school care where he was the last child to be picked up, again... I was crying and he patted me on the shoulder and said, "its OK Mom, I really like McNuggets, don't worry, you want one? it will make you feel better!", which made me cry some more. So I always say we raised each other. Now he is ready to leave the nest and I know he is ready and I am so proud when I look at him that I sometimes I feel my heart could burst. And I feel pretty good knowing that all that hard work and balancing was worth it in the end.

Posted by: suzkin | April 7, 2006 2:30 PM

I realize this isn't the focus of the blog today, but I have to put in my 2 cents about paying student loans for your kids. I'm 26 and am paying off my student loans. Many of my friends had their college tuition paid in full by their parents, not to mention have no car loans or any other kind of debt because their parents got them everything they needed. That is all well and good, but it gives me a lot of pride that I pay for all those things myself and am doing just fine. I know my parents probably would have paid my tuition up front if they could have, and I certainly wouldn't have said no, but for those of you who can't, please don't delay your retirement or anything to pay back your kids loans. There is no good reason not to let them take care of themselves when they are 22. You have done enough getting them that far and, after all, isn't that what they are going to college for anyway?

Posted by: payingmyloans | April 7, 2006 2:33 PM

Cal,

"Most single parents expected someone else to do the financial heavy lifting. Their difficulties spring from their lousy preparation on this front, and their annoyance that they're expected to provide for their children."

This statement is truly offensive. Most of us never planned on becoming single parents, and not all of have exes who can be expected to contribute financially. I did not ask to be widowed with a baby, but it happened. I had no ex to ask for child support, although my daughter gets SS benefits. The benefits cover the cost of daycare and not much else. I have no idea how one prepares financially for an event you cannot anticipate, and this includes divorce in many cases. It is nice that you were in a position to get a job that paid more, but that isn't an option for everyone.

I also never played the martyr card, as if I lived a monk's life in order to provide for my child. I did, and continue to do, what I need to do to raise my daughter. Bully for you that you were able to have a career you enjoy and be so involved in your son's life. But don't lump all single mothers into some category of money-grubbing complainers with a martyr complex. Most are simply trying to do the best they can for their children, just like you.

Posted by: KarenW | April 7, 2006 2:33 PM

Cal,
I'm glad you found single parenting such a breeze, but to infer that your experince means it should be easy for everyone else is just plain wrong.

"For most of those years, my son had regular time with both parents, although I had primary custody and was the primary financial support."

Some people have no support.

"I was worried because I didn't make enough money. So I went out and got jobs that paid more."

This is an oversimplification. In order to make more money you need to have greater marketable skills. This usually involves education, which takes time from an alreay busy schedule and costs MONEY. Something already in short supply. I'm not saying it can't be done. I did it. But it took YEARS.

"Most single parents expected someone else to do the financial heavy lifting. Their difficulties spring from their lousy preparation on this front..."

Does anyone plan to raise their children alone? Do they expect the persone they fell in love with to turn into a deadbeat?

"Middle class and upper middle class single parents give their children far superior lives than the lives of kids of working poor married parents"

There's the rub. You need to be comfortably middle class prior to the breakup. If you're not, what do you recommend - stay married?

"In pretending there's a big difference, everyone is further validating the nonsense that parenting is terribly hard work that requires two people..."

That depends much on the child. I have three and I can assure no two are the same. Some don't require much effort and some will consume you. That's reality. You have to manage each child according to his or her needs. And beyond that, the daily functions, working, packing lunches, making dinner, cleaning, laundry, yardwork, etc. will really eat up most of your week(especially if you are already working 70-80 hours a week to pay the bills) Now throw in school 2-3 nights a week and see how well you do.

Posted by: Lou A | April 7, 2006 2:41 PM

Ironically, Karen, you confirm my "offensive" statement. You expected someone else to do the heavy financial lifting--your husband. I'm very sorry for your loss. But you are using your husband's death as an excuse for your financial status, when all his death should have occasioned is your grief.

Women think that supporting a child is a choice, when in fact it's an obligation. About 60% of these women are protected from their irresponsibility by always having a man around to pay the bills. Around 40% discover, either through divorce or widowhood, that they weren't exempted from their responsibilities, but rather enabled in a choice--and the bill is now due.

Your financial struggle was occasioned by your choices, not your husband's death. My easier time was not brought about by luck, but my own choices.

Obviously, we can all be hit by genuine bad luck. But "luck" isn't the accurate term to discuss women's decision to opt out of financial responsibility for themselves and their children.

Posted by: Cal | April 7, 2006 2:50 PM

C said "I have noticed, and this is my opinion, that single mothers tend to lash out at each other and single fathers seem to bond. Am I alone in this opinion?"

I do not share your opinion. Anytime I have met another single mom, there is an instant bond. I can't imagine lashing out at somebody who has been through a "common battle".

Posted by: Single Mom in MD | April 7, 2006 2:58 PM

I just want to say thanks to everybody for sharing their stories, especially those long time single parents with "almost" grown children - your stories are an inspiration to me.

And suzkin -your words brought tears to my eyes, the McDonalds story is one all too familiar to me!

Posted by: Single Mom in MD | April 7, 2006 3:00 PM

I am a single mother of 2, both are in their 20s now.

I "balanced" life by chucking out everything we didn't have to do, and trying to relax with the kids whenever I could and however I could.

The hardest things, well my commute to/from work was always really hard, such a time squeeze on both ends between when I could drop off/last time to pick up the kids and when I needed to be at work... any traffic delay made me nuts... and I would sit in meetings that wouldn't end at work watching the clock and sweat. That and dealing with the ups and downs of dealing with the ex and keeping any hostility and conflict away from the kids.

The upside was not having to deal with my ex anymore... every day anyway. What a relief.

The biggest misconception out there is IMO the widespread notions that growing up with a single mother will make your kids end up in jail etc, those headline grabbing "statistics" are such a load of BS... can't go into how slanted and incorrect most of that data is in this forum but it always burned my you-know-what to read that yet again...

Hey a hint for the mother about dealing with summers - when mine got to their young teens I would hire a college student to be with them, more like a responsible companion than a babysitter, it's generally cheaper than camps and she/he can take them on outings. Worked for me.

Posted by: mary | April 7, 2006 3:00 PM

My dad died when I was three, and the inlaws looted all of his accounts leaving us with $16/mo from social security. My mother did everything, and my grandma and I would celebrate her on Mother and Father's day both. (She worked 3 jobs, and is an amazing individual, who volunteers as well as still works, and is really someone to be proud of)

I have found now that she's been single for all of these years, that she didn't end up making many friends, and is very lonely. How have other single parents dealt with that aspect?

Posted by: ljb | April 7, 2006 3:00 PM

And now Lou chimes in to prove my point as well.

She had three kids and *then* went to school to become more marketable.

If she'd expected to provide for her own children, she'd have reversed the process. Instead, she had kids without giving a thought to how she'd provide for them if there weren't someone else around footing the bills.


Posted by: Cal | April 7, 2006 3:03 PM

What I've seen on this blog whenever the discussion is about parenting is that all moms tend to lash out at each other, because there is such a competition on who can be better at being a mom. We have working mom v. stay-at-home mom. Single mom v. two parent homes. Moms with money v. moms who are poor. Single moms with support from dad v. single moms with no support from dad. The list can probably go on and on. I don't think we're as supportive of each other as we can be. For the record, I'm a single mom, who has a good career and gets little to no support from my son's father. I feel lucky that I can afford to care for him without the financial support from his father. Unlike Cal, I don't condemn those who became single parents and don't have the career I have to be able to single-handedly support their children. The reality is they shouldn't have to if there is another parent alive and who can work.

Posted by: JJ | April 7, 2006 3:08 PM

LKB,

Please stop posting. Your comments are mucking up the really pertinent and useful postings.

Pick a fight somewhere else please!

Posted by: Chausti | April 7, 2006 3:09 PM

Cal - you seem to speak as if the single parent is the ONLY one that contributed to the child's creation and arrival on this earth. Both parents contributed to the child's existence and both parents should be responsible for EVERYTHING that child needs. It is ridiculous to say that a woman should EXPECT to provide for HER own kids and not expect the man to make some contribution. That is ludicrous...whether you are educated and marketable or NOT. BOTH parents should EXPECT to and be held accountable for the children they create. PERIOD! And, the problem for MOST single parents is that it does not play out that way, and there enters the struggle.

Posted by: A&A's mom | April 7, 2006 3:16 PM

Cal,
Actually A**hole, I'm a man. I always provided for my kids, My ex-wife never worked a day in her life. The lack of money stemmed from having to change careers (my old job was as a Restaurant Manager working usually 3 pm to 1 am 5 days a week. Try that schedule with a 4, 6 and 8 year old) and paying a boatload of money for babysitters and child care.
Given the opportunity, I'd do it all over again. But don't sit there and judge me. You weren't there.

Posted by: Lou A | April 7, 2006 3:16 PM

To western mom: Your comments regarding seeking court assistance to help deal with deadbeat exes were right on the money.

To Lou A.: Thanks for taking my comments seriously and not writing me off. I appreciate the respect you've extended to me.

Both of you seem very patient and level-headed; I'm sure your kids are lucky to have you.

And to A&A's mom: Nobody likes being called "wack job". I simply signed off in that manner to emphasize the cruelty in that remark.

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 3:27 PM

Lou A -- You sound like you've done a great job as a single dad. And thanks for being understanding about venting about my ex. I make it a rule never to talk negatively about her father to my daughter, although I have almost bitten my tongue off at times. As a result, when she complains about how she never sees him and he forgets special days, I am now his defender! Go figure. It sounds like you have gone a similar route with your ex.

I also was wondering, for the single fathers, if you have found that the courts seem a bit prejudiced in favor of the mother? Kind of like she gets a slap on the wrist when if it were a man, it'd be a big deal? I ask because I have single dad friends who REALLY think the courts are against dads.

Posted by: Lisa | April 7, 2006 3:33 PM

Chausti: I'm sorry, I didn't realize my opinions regarding single-parenthood were so upsetting.

If it makes you feel better to call me names, go right ahead. I don't mind being the human-pinata for the day.

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 3:40 PM

As a 44 year old single mom by choice of a wonderful 4 year old daughter, here is a short and sweet list of pros/cons. It is meant to be taken lightly so no need for dissecting for negative comments.
Pros: I make all the rules – no second guessing or contradictions. Okay if dishes/chores don’t get done right away and house not always neat. Okay for the kid to crawl in bed with me. We can go on trips, movies, parks, etc. whenever and where ever we want. Quiet or fun meals with just the two of us. Quality time for the just the two of us instead of just me, me, me. Not depending on anyone else. Okay to do without some luxuries in life.
Cons: See Pros.
I feel that by waiting until later in life, I had more money, experience, flexibility in work place, etc. to take off time and restructure my working schedule. Although an unexpected event, since it was my choice to keep the baby (and he did not want a child), I chose to support my daughter 100%. Friends and family have let me down too often for babysitting so I do not even ask any more and I cannot afford to pay the $10-$12 per hour for a babysitter.
There is no balance, but when in your life has there ever been an exact balance.

Posted by: Vienna Mom | April 7, 2006 3:45 PM

I have a question about the "bashing the ex" issue that maybe others can give me some perspective on. I have 2 sets of friends, both with 2 kids, that got divorced. In the first case, the cause of the divorce was the husband cheating on his wife. She got primary custody of the children. Neither parent ever really explained to kids why they got divorced, they were like 6 and 9 years old. The oldest kid is now 20 years old. For the last 11 years, he has "blamed" his mom for the break up of the marriage, has been totally miserable, has hated his mom and in many cases deliberately tormented her. He has had lots of counseling over the years, yet still no one has really explained the reason for divorce and she has refused in all this time to bad mouth her son's father. I agree that bad mouthing the ex in front of the kids is not good, but its pretty obvious that the "no bad mouthing" policy didn't work out too well, either.

The other case was the opposite and much more unseemly. Mom was doing the cheating, meeting face to face at hotels with strange guys that she met in chatrooms. Some of the e-mails she wrote read like "Dear Penthouse Forum" letters. Mom has primary custody of the kids, ages 14 and 16. The oldest hates his dad for the break up of the marriage, he swears at him on the phone, slams the door in his face when he comes to visit. Its all very ugly. But they, and the rest of the family (aunts, uncles, cousins & grandparents) are all of the "no bad mouthing" school.

Anybody with any thoughts on these situations?

Posted by: Sally | April 7, 2006 3:46 PM

Lisa,
Thanks. Yes, I feel that the courts/support agencies are weighted towards moms. My ex was under an order to report (ie - seek a job) as she never worked while we were married. Therefore, the court had nothing to gauge how much child support to assess. 12 years later, she's still living out of state and supposedly not working. I did take some shots from the kids when they were younger. Now that they are older, they understand better. There is no justification for never seeing them in 12 years. She's always know where we lived. The one that held out hope the longest for her was the youngest, my daughter. I'm afraid she's now written her off, too. It is my ex's loss. She missed seeing her kids grow up. They've turned out pretty well.

Posted by: Lou A | April 7, 2006 3:47 PM

I really don't understand the assumption that children of single mothers will turn out badly. I'm sure it's a true statistic but numbers never tell the whole story do they?

I'm the stereotypical single mom in some ways and atypical in others. I'm in my 20's, not making a lot, going to college, and live in low income housing. My child also makes the honor roll, has great attendance, great behavior, and is gifted. My kids are MORE disciplined, MORE mature, and HAPPIER than they were when I was married to their father. I did that on my own and I'm proud of it.

It's pretty simplistic but I can honestly say I'm doing the best I can and fully intend to improve in the future. That's all anyone can do.

Oh, as some others mentioned, girlfriends are key. In the end though, it really comes down to you.

Posted by: Meg TX | April 7, 2006 3:48 PM

A&A:

What "should" happen and what "does" happen are two entirely different things.

I think Cal's point is that before you even decide to have kids you need to accept the possibility that your spouse might not always be there - for whatever reason - and that it might be necessary for you to provide for your kids on your own.

It helps to focus on the current reality of a situation, not on an ideal. If your spouse isn't doing their part, then you seek another solution. You can't force someone to be a part of someone else's life.

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 3:50 PM

Weighing in on no bad mouthing.

I think it's important to be honest with your child to a point. My ex has taken bad-mouthing to a new level with my kids (7 & 3). He generally uses his older children to feed false information to the younger ones. My 7 yr old was told that I didnt want to be a family anymore because I wanted to sleep with other men. It wasn't true.

I basically sat them (7 yr old mainly)down and explained that he was angry. Sometimes when you are angry you say things that aren't true. I told them that I would be honest with questions that they had but I wasn't going to lie for me or for their father. There are a lot of great resources out there like "Dinosaur's Divorce" and the Children's Bill of Rights. Not saying it'll be smooth sailing from here on out, but I figure tact and honesty is a lot better than lying in the long run.

Posted by: Meg TX | April 7, 2006 3:54 PM

Being a Single Mom is one of the toughest jobs I've experience in my life. I work 40hrs a week Monday thru Fri. I leave the office @ 4:30 and dont get home until 5:30. I have to cook, eat dinner, do homework with my daughter, a little reading time, and by the time it's 8pm, its bathtime and time to go to bed. I mean what quality time am I spending w/ my child??? Its tough believe me! I feel like Im under a lot of pressure. Unless you are a single mom/or dad, then you can understand the stress we go thru.

Posted by: Vanessa | April 7, 2006 3:57 PM

Being a Single Mom is one of the toughest jobs I've experience in my life. I work 40hrs a week Monday thru Fri. I leave the office @ 4:30 and dont get home until 5:30. I have to cook, eat dinner, do homework with my daughter, a little reading time, and by the time it's 8pm, its bathtime and time to go to bed. I mean what quality time am I spending w/ my child??? Its tough believe me! I feel like Im under a lot of pressure. Unless you are a single mom/or dad, then you can understand the stress we go thru.

Posted by: Vanessa / Northern Virginia | April 7, 2006 3:58 PM

Raising two polite, intelligent, caring young men (16 & 13), daughter just graduated from college..she's soon to be married (2007).
Biggest challenge---not letting my bitterness/anger with relationship w/dad interfere with his role in their lives. We had an open door policy which meant he could see them anytime, we lived w/in 10 minutes of each other. He was always there and the kids knew he loved them and always would be there. The only cost to me was mostly just my pride and anger.
2nd Biggest challenge-raising kids to be grateful in culture that worships materialism...on $27k a year (and living in public housing). But it was and is the most magnificent thing I've ever done. I've never looked at being single as the challenging part.


Posted by: Annette | April 7, 2006 4:03 PM

Cal and LKB

The first faulty assumption is to ASSUME that the single parent isn't focusing on reality, doing what they need to do and finding alternative solutions. I think that is what the majority of the posts ARE saying today. But, that does not dismiss the fact that there is another side of the parenting equation that is not being held up for one reason or another and that this IS one of the challenges to single parenting. Period. This post is the venue to vent about the challenges you face...even if you're taking the EXTRA steps to provide for your children without the other parent taking care of THEIR responsibilities you still face challenges. Most of us do not go into this thing expecting to have to do it alone, but the majority of us DO step up and do what we have to when that situation presents itself. Nonetheless, the OTHER parent's responsibilities do not diminish just because we the single parent are being more responsible.

Posted by: A&A's mom | April 7, 2006 4:05 PM

Hello?

Posted by: Ed | April 7, 2006 4:14 PM

Be as selfish as you want. But don't let it harm your children.

Posted by: Selfish | April 7, 2006 4:18 PM


I became a single mom in 2000, when my partner walked out on our seven-month old baby and me. My daughter is going into first grade this fall, and I'm going on Year Six of Single Motherhood.

My first book, "Single Mom Seeking: "Play Dates, Blind Dates, and Other Dispatches from the Dating World," is coming out this fall (Avalon/Seal Press).

In my book, I chronicle the humor, pitfalls, and rewards of balancing the complexities of parenting with my search for Mr. Right.

There's no make-believe about single parenting. It's you and only you in the middle of the night when your baby is crying. You are the sole comfort when your baby has an earache or a fever. You are on your own when you need a shower and your baby is fussing in the bouncy seat on the tiled floor. Single parenting is my biggest life challenge thus far.

When I took my first plunge into online dating, I came straight out and said, "I'm a single mom."

I wanted men to know that my daughter comes first. I wanted them to know that with all the pressures of life as it is, she's Number One.

I'm proud of being a single mom. I make my living as a writer and an editor. I cook a mean veggie stir fry. I pay the rent on time. I set limits with my daughter. Yes, parenting alone can be complex, messy, and draining. But it is not a disgrace.

Rachel Sarah

www.singlemomseeking.com

Posted by: Rachel Sarah | April 7, 2006 4:18 PM

Sally,

You've given us a very cursory description of relationships that developed over a long period of time.

In the first scenario, the father's original crime was cheating on his wife. Was he also abusive? neglectful? Was he cruel to the kids? Was the wife abusive or neglectful? Did her neglect lead to the fathers cheating? (Not to excuse the cheating if this were the case, but it does place his crime in a different light.)

Both of these children obviously have severe emotional problems that someone hopefully will address. Just because the child isn't blaming the appropriate parent for problems in a marriage (if it is the fault of only one parent), doesn't mean that bad-mouthing is okay. Perhaps the kids are simply lashing out at the respective parent, because that parent is an easier target.

I can't think of any circumstances in which bad-mouthing one's ex in front of the children would be appropriate.

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 4:19 PM

Regarding how the children of single parents turn out - it sounds like most, if not all, of the older children of the people in this forum have turned out well. My son will be graduating from college in a month and I am often told that he is a fine young man.

Also, regarding not bad-mouthing the other parent - I agree it is a good approach - though it should not be carried to extremes. I tried never to be negative about my son's absent father, and now the father has chosen to pursue a relationship with his son. And though the father was a total jerk, I think this new relationship is a good thing. I can't help but be a little cynical however, about the fact that he shows up now when there would not be a financial obligation....

Posted by: fdp | April 7, 2006 4:19 PM

As far as revealing the truth behind the divorce, I agree with Meg from TX.

There is no reason to lie to your children. If your kids start asking questions, please do sit down and discuss with them *objectively* the circumstances that led to the divorce. It's important, however, to emphasize that this is *your* version of events, and that your ex may have a different perspective. Then encourage them to see it as a mistake on both your parts, and not to blame one parent over the other.

Just a suggestion.

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 4:36 PM

Re bad-mouthing: never a good idea, IMO. Plus in my case it paid off reasonably well. I have tried really hard not to say negative stuff about the kids' father, although I heard that he and his new wife would say terrible things about me. I never had any problems with my kids being hostile to me or blaming me... plus now that the kids are grown it is clear they are closer to me and that they resent their father for saying bad things about me. Well actually I think they mostly blame the step-mother, which I don't think is entirely fair (somewhat fair), it is just SO hard for children to see their parent as "bad".

The best policy is just not to put them in the middle and realize that they will feel better if they can love both parents and not feel conflicted about that. I tried to go to the point where even if they complained about their father or step-mother, I would try to help them see the incident from their dad's point of view and say maybe he was trying to look out for their best interest or whatever. And like I said it has mostly been a good thing.

Posted by: mary | April 7, 2006 4:38 PM

It's almost 5 on a Friday - relax and have a drink :)

Posted by: stevo | April 7, 2006 4:42 PM

For the poster above who said “and an infinitely better life than the poor kids stuck with "stay at home mom" on welfare”…just because a child is raised on welfare doesn’t mean that they have a horrible life. I spent most of my childhood on welfare. When my father disappeared from our lives, my mother was pregnant, had only a high school education, and was deeply in debt from my father’s failed business. She tried to find a job but no one was willing to hire a pregnant woman who would need to take maternity leave in a few months. At that point it was a choice between being homeless and hungry or welfare. After my youngest sister was born my mother tried to go back to work but the only work available to her was factory work with crappy insurance (an issue since I have a chronic disease the requires regular doctors visits, medication, and physical therapy). By the time she paid for childcare for 4 children and my medical expenses we would have been worse off so she stayed on welfare at home raising us. Yes money was tight but there was always food on the table, decent clothes for school, and a mother to welcome us home every afternoon. We never went on vacation, out to the movies or ate at restaurants instead we took trips to the local park, played games together at home, and my mother taught us how to cook by example. We were lucky to have a lot of generous support for the community, our church, neighbors, and extended family so I never went without anything I truly needed. My mother taught us to appreciate the things we had and give to those less fortunate (we saved our pennies every Lent to give to the missionaries and bought one gift for someone off the giving tree even though that’s where “Santa” got our presents, and donated our time to community projects). I learned the value of a dollar…when I wanted fashionable clothes I saved my babysitting money, when I wanted a car I got a job at McDonalds and saved up for it. When we were older my mother did go back to work and while some things were better others were worse.

Looking back at my childhood now I remember mostly happy times. There were problems and bad periods but every life has those and my mother taught us the skills to deal with them. My 3 sisters and I are all adults now with college degrees, rewarding jobs, active volunteer and community roles, and two of us are happily married and starting families of our own.

So for all those people who think welfare children are destined to a repeat the cycle, end up pregnant at 15, or lead of life of crime…Think Again. And no; kids of single parents aren’t worse off in some cases they might be better off. I have never had any doubt that my mother loves us and will do anything in her power for us. I think that this is the most important thing for children to know whether they have 1 parent or 4 and whether those parents are rich or poor.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 7, 2006 4:46 PM

Stevo, that's the most rational thought I've seen posted on this blog all day.

Posted by: LKB | April 7, 2006 4:46 PM

I am the child of a single mom. How did we get by? Hard work, guts, luck, and Uncle Sam. My dad left when I was very young, and my mom went back to school to give us a better life. She was right, but it took several years of extremely hard work and food stamps to get us through that period. But she never whined or complained -- or apologized. She knew she was doing what was best for us in the long run, so she didn't beat herself up about not being able to buy me nice things or go to my softball games.

She had no family assistance on a day-to-day basis, as for most of my childhood, my dad and grandparents lived in another state. But her academic career gave her the ability to be home a lot more, even if she did work every night and weekend (I never wanted to be a teacher -- I saw up close how hard they work!).

Did I miss having two parents? Of course. It was especially hard to see my half-brothers grow up in the comfortable lifestyle that my dad's higher-paying corporate job could buy. But would I have been better off if they had stayed married? No way!! My mom and dad were always civil and NEVER badmouthed the other to me. But they are very, very different people, and I simply can't imagine them living together with any degree of peace and harmony. I was far better off with a calm, rock-steady life with my mom than I would have been had the two of them tried to stick it out for me.

Like a lot of other posters, I also had a very close relationship with my mother, which I treasure. And I grew up much more independent and self-reliant than I might have otherwise. My half-brothers never had to do chores, or work to earn money, whereas I just didn't have any option. I grew up knowing how to take care of myself (and the house). But I also had the freedom to go climb trees and ride my bike and have the house all to myself sometimes.

It was hard paying most of my own way through college and law school, and I was definitely envious of the kids who came to school in the car their parents had just bought them. But I worked hard, got scholarships and loans, did work study and summer jobs, and felt proud to have accomplished so much myself. And those habits I learned then have paid off in my life and career. (And I also don't complain at tax time, because without the food stamps and the federally-supported daycare initiative I went to for a couple of years, we wouldn't be where we are now.)

What did I hate? The stereotypes -- some of the kids treated me like poor white trash, acted like my mom was a slut, just because she wasn't married and I didn't have the "cool" clothes. But I also learned that the people who acted like that weren't really people I wanted to be friends with anyway.

Posted by: Laura | April 7, 2006 4:49 PM

The biggest misconception is that children from single family households are somehow disadvantaged. Be real people, the majority of two-parent households are dysfunctional on some level and really involve one parent taking the lead and doing the bulk of child rearing. So the kids really are no better off. All my married women friends do ALL of the child care and bring home at least half of the bacon. They are essentially in the same boat I'm in. Being a full, complete, contributing parent and raising your child the right way is a demanding, time-consuming, self-less job whether you are single or married. I am exhausted ALL OF THE TIME and I only have 1 child (a 17 months old son). His dad and I are "together" (engaged) but live apart and our son lives with me, so I am literally a single parent although my fiancee is there when I need him to be. My life is great and my son is well taken care of. I don't know that it will get any better when we get married and live together.

Posted by: Singlemom 101 | April 7, 2006 4:54 PM

Singlemom 101, I don't get why you're not married and living with the father of your child. It's weird. You will have a baby together, but not live together because you're not married. If you intend to get married, you should do it already. It takes a marriage license and a trip to the courthouse. Don't tell me you are waiting to have a weddding or something. Save the money for college tuition

Posted by: Anonymous | April 7, 2006 5:08 PM

How to find nice single dads and/or men who don't prey on single moms.

Posted by: Belinda | April 7, 2006 8:39 PM

Single Mom in MD, thanks for your kind comments. It is good to know I wasn't alone. I just am glad those days are over and that we have moved on to better days.
Best of luck to you and the other single parents on this list. Raising a kid or more on your own and have them turn out reasonably well balanced is no cake walk, no matter what anyone says.

Posted by: suzkin | April 7, 2006 9:54 PM

This blog is about "single parenting" not "the marriage commitment". But yes, I recognize our relationship seems "weird" to some. It works for us and we are happy and our son is well taken care of. And society will not dictate to me when I should be married. I'm not interested in fitting into that nice tidy little box (marriage) that society has decided is the gold standard for relationships and child rearing. I've seen too many who have and are non the better for it.

Posted by: Singlemom 101 | April 7, 2006 11:26 PM

I have no issue with LKB but this is turning into individual counseling sessions. Maybe you could start your own blog for dispensing advice? While I don't disagree with anything you are saying, I'm not sure if every poster is expecting a thorough analysis of their situations, complete with follow-on questions and very strong recommendations. I see potential for the blog, but these threads are distracting and not what I thought the blog was all about.

Posted by: mg | April 8, 2006 4:46 PM

I really don't have anything to contribute, except to say that single parents deserve the utmost respect for taking care of their children as best they can.

And, Cal is the most offensive person I've ever seen on this board. Cal, how many times in your life has someone smacked you?

Posted by: scarry | April 9, 2006 9:26 AM

"Singlemom 101, I don't get why you're not married and living with the father of your child. It's weird."

Now I understand why all of you took such offense to the things I said: you see the world from only one perspective, and are unable to allow for different viewpoints.

I don't see any reason why singlemom 101 should have to jump into a marriage just because society has decided that her current arrangement is "weird". Let her take that step when she's good and ready.

And to MG: What IS the purpose of this blog? Is it just a place where woman get together and complain about their SOs not helping around the house, their exes not paying child support, or their bosses making them work long hours? If so, carry on; I'll go somewhere else. I'm really not interested in listening to a bunch of people complain about their myriad problems, if they're not really looking for solutions.

Posted by: LKB | April 9, 2006 12:52 PM

25% (28/110) of the comments on for this thread (single parents) are either from or concern LKB.

Posted by: Just an observation | April 9, 2006 5:37 PM

Seriously now, I give up trying to talk some sense into Leslie and other working-mom promoters. If you're trying to run an unbiased discussion, how about trying to at least come across as unbiased yourself? This is the last visit to this blog for me - it's a constant online arguement and battle of egos. Ummm...isn't being a mom supposed to be about the children anyway? So why all the talk about ourselves and our needs?

Posted by: DL | April 9, 2006 9:24 PM

19 of the 28 posts regarding LKB were NOT posted by LKB. Perhaps if we all stop responding to LKB, s/he will just go away.

I also noticed that 5 of these 19 posts were just negative comments, and had absolutely nothing to do with the discussion at hand.

Posted by: Just to be fair... | April 10, 2006 1:08 PM

I'm a single mom of a beautiful toddler. I'm suddenly feeling more sad than ever! It seems like a lot of single parents that have posted have listed one of the Pro's as being able to control the child-rearing, not having to answer to a co-parent, etc.

I don't get that pro. Even though I provide the majority of the financial support, and even though our child spends every weekend and all but two nights per week with me, I have constant battles with my ex. Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a custody battle now. It is truly awful. I get no child support and nothing but abuse from him, whether he does it in front of our child or just over the phone to me.

I'm sure this is only partly true, and it comes from my own skewed perception, but, maybe having your ex be a dead-beat and a no-show isn't all that bad. I mean, it seems like it would be better than being stuck with a jerk in your face.

Posted by: Nevermind | April 11, 2006 2:13 PM

I think that children that come from a productive single parent family have the opportunity to be more independent, self-conscious than their counterparts. So many people are in unhealthy marriages/relationships because they are afraid to do it alone. My mom was married for 21 years and she did it alone. I learned from her how not to count on anyone for anything other than yourself.

I am a single parent myself and I hope to show my daughters that while its wonderful to be in a healthy relationship you should be okay to do it by yourself b/c your parents or the man that you marry might not always be there and they need to be able to stand on their own two feet regardless of what obstacles they face. I show them the determination and discipline it takes to run a whole household off of one income and still be able to enjoy some of life's luxuries. We work hard and take care of our responsibilities we shouldn't be chastised b/c we don't have mates. Why do others feel that they have to have someone [anyone] - personally I couldn't respect myself if I was that dependant on someone else.

Posted by: TD | April 14, 2006 10:30 AM

My sons are now grown, but I raised them alone. These answers are based on my experiences:

How do you balance everything when it's just you doing the balancing?
I prayed and I did whatever needed to be done. And I taught my sons to be self-sufficient and to help out. Even still, I was always "there" for them even with a full-time job.

What's the upside to single parenthood? You get all the love.

What's the hardest thing you do every day?
Send my children out the door.

What's the biggest misconception about single parenthood?
That being a single parent is because of something we did wrong.

If you could change one thing (anything) about the world to make single parenthood easier, what would that be?
That others show more compassion and realize that any kindness they do to help lighten our load is so greatly appreciated.

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Posted by: Allison Trump | May 22, 2006 9:34 PM

Being a single parent does not come without challenges, as in parenting, whether there is one parent or two in the household.

When you are a single parent, the most important thing to remember is that each child must have love, hugs and discipline. Also, without chores, such as picking up their toys, making their bads, etc., they may become lazy adults and never leave home.

Posted by: ACS-DC | May 23, 2006 4:37 PM

I know this thread is from quite a while ago, but if anyone looks back I would appreciate it if you could respond to the abovementioned question: how do single parents deal with loneliness?

Like that poster my mom also has very, very few friends and I'm sure this only adds to her overstressed life. She has few people to really talk to, vent to, have fun with, and if anyone has comments I would love to know if I can help her. Thanks.

Also, thank you for talking in more depth about single parent sacrifices and your own feelings. It reminds me to tell my mom she did a good job more often!

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