Stop Saying You’re a Single Mom Just Because Your Husband Works Late

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The other day, I was at a music class with my 2-year-old and a mom was talking about how a few days a week she has to do everything from school pick-up and drop off each day to the dinner prep and bedtime routine because her husband works long hours and he’s out at the crack of dawn to get to work. Then, he frequently doesn’t return until after she and the kids have had dinner at night or when the kids have already gone to bed.

And then she did it. She threw her hands in the air and said, “I’m basically a single parent.”

All I could think was this: No, you’re not. You have a partner. You have the emotional support of another person. You most likely have financial security as a result. You have someone to talk to and share all of your deepest emotions and concerns with over your kids. You have someone who worries with you, and who probably helps pay the bills, figure out childcare and school — and most importantly — hugs you and your kids at the end of the day.

Here’s another example. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and mom I know wrote that her husband was traveling all week for work, “I’ll be single parenting this week if anyone is looking for me,” she quipped.

Lest you think I’m being sexist here, I have plenty of dad friends, but I can’t think of a time when any of them have told me they feel like single dads. And yeah, even the ones who stay home full-time with their kids…maybe they feel it, but they seem to just keep it to themselves.

When will we stop using this phrase so casually and realize that it really means something very serious and difficult for a lot of hardworking parents out there?

My own mom has been single twice in her life. Once was by choice when she left my abusive father when I was just 18-months-old. It was hard, people. We moved in with my grandparents until she got a job and could buy a car and we got back on our feet again. The second time, she was widowed when my adoptive father died of cancer. I was already out of the house but she still had to raise my much younger half brother and get him through high school and beyond.

Being an actual single parent is one of the toughest and most vulnerable positions to be in. It is true sacrifice. It is a struggle no matter what the situation. And it is lonely. Just ask my mom — or any of the truly single parents out there.

Life is meant to be shared and there’s no other time when that seems to resonate more than when we are rearing children. What bothers me most about the (sorry) mostly women who I hear say things like this is that there are moms and dads who have no choice but to be single parents all the time. For them it’s a job that they do 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week — and then some.

So the next time you feel like casually throwing it out there, please stop. You’re not a single mom. You’re just feeling the pressure, fatigue, strain, and stress we all feel as moms, but remember, you’re not alone in this. 

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