“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”—Winston Churchill
Single parents tend to get blamed for a lot of the ills of the world. And while there are some who do not take the job seriously, the majority are just trying to get through their day-to- day and build something positive and lasting from which to catapult their children. I also understand that single parenthood because of death is another realm of experience. However, in this blog post I will be speaking only of the single parents who take the reins when a spouse or significant other walks away.
These are the parents who stayed. These are the people who looked at their child and said “they need me” and not, “I need”. These are the individuals who saw their child as a blessing and not a curse, and have sacrificed beyond what many may consider reasonable. Sacrifice for a single parent is as natural as breathing. They do everything and make all decisions based on more than one person—where they live, what jobs they take, what schools will be best, and who they choose to let in or leave out. Sometimes they must suffer and shield their child/children from the products of neighborhoods that only a one-income household can afford.
Being a single parent can mean long lines at a free clinic with no guarantee that your child will be seen that day. It can mean stuffing an emotional breakdown while standing in a food pantry line. It can mean terror when a field trip note comes home, and you have to figure out a lunch that will get them through the day. It can mean years of sleeping on a couch so your child has a bedroom of their own. It can mean sleepless nights in a shelter praying that the transition doesn’t become a permanent one. It can mean not eating so your child can have. It can mean enduring abuse at a job, ever declining wages, or feeling invisible when you get turndowns from job after job—extolling your remarkable experience, but that you are not the right fit the position. It can mean condescending looks from people as if your hustle isn’t legit. It can mean trying to do anything and everything on the right side of the law in order not to cross the line just to provide your child’s basic needs. It can mean depression and thoughts of suicide and your only saving grace being the unknown wilderness your child would have to navigate without you. More often than not, it is choosing to be a good representative for your child, when you just want to throat punch ignorant, rude, self-righteous, judgmental people.
Most single parents did not choose to be single parents. Most single parents made the choice to be single to escape a situation that would keep their child in full view of an unhealthy environment that would be disrespectful, demeaning or deadly. Most single parents went all in on the dream of a fully functioning, family home until the situation showed quite clearly that the dream was a nightmare. These single parents should be commended for being pro-life in the thick of a war, but most are just looked down upon for not being “normal” or as being a drain on society.
Let me get a few things crystal clear. I am a pro-choice person, but pro-life for myself. I could make that choice, and if you experienced the situation I was in when I had to make that choice, I’m not so sure if you would’ve thought it a rational one. My view was that I made an adult decision so I would deal with the adult consequences. My significant other at the time, who was my fiancée, decided to be more selfish and destructive. I escaped that situation when my son was only 2. My ex has since gone on to another life and another family, while I continue to parent our child, his firstborn, through whatever we encounter.
I didn’t set out to be a single parent, but the decisions I made were more important for the well-being of my child. And given the same situation, I would do it again.
If the shallow hope of togetherness overrides the very real possibility of a climate of severe dysfunction, you are not choosing to be a parent. You are choosing to live in a house of cards that can fall at any moment. This was not an option I was willing to navigate and expose my child to.
Being a single parent provides its own special brand of hell on earth, but it also provides moments that make it all worthwhile. It is an uphill battle, but one that single parents have proven that they are willing to fight—despite whoever is on their side wholeheartedly or not.
So to my fellow single parents, I know sometimes you can feel invisible. I know sometimes when there is too much month at the end of your money and you are choosing which bills to let go, you just want things to change. But keep going as best as you can. You made a priority of someone, who another just made an option.
You are not alone. Those sleepless nights comforting your sick child are your badges of honor, because you were there. Those days that you sat alone at concerts, games, competitions and recitals are your badge of honor. The days that you made memories from madness, that is your badge of honor. The nights that you waited for your child/children to go to bed so you could cry out the pain of your day, that is your badge of honor. Every stellar outfit you made from thrift store wares that made your kid look fab–that is your badge of honor. Every class project made from whatever was around the house—that is your badge of honor. Every day you get up, get your kids through from sunrise to sunset and handle whatever is thrown your way–that is your badge of honor. The times that you go through with your kids, and manage to stand and err on the side of right and principle, because you know you must teach through trials by fire–your badge of honor.
And when they succeed in anything, despite whatever may be stacked against them—whether it is lack, loss, betrayal, bullying and abandonment, hold your head high, shine, and straighten your badge of honor. Understand that you made those days of success a reality, because you didn’t wimp out or walk out when life got real.
In conclusion, this is to all of the single parents out there holding it together even though it may seem like it is falling apart.
I salute you. To you, Love and Life are not just words.