Parenting Challenges of the Single Mom
By Mindy Erickson
As a married mother I found parenting to be plenty challenging at times and of course for the most part, under appreciated. Now that I’m a single mother of four I realize how good those days were by comparison.
All moms know that the majority of the responsibility of raising our kids falls on us, beginning with conception, but as single moms even the toughest job in the world is made ten times tougher by the absence of the father and being the head of a one-parent household outnumbered by children with no one around to back you up.
My ex was never a very involved dad during our marriage; he traveled often and worked late hours regularly. When he was home, he was usually just one more person to serve. When he interacted with the kids, it was brief and in between business calls and endless hours at the computer. His playtime with them was just that, and the responsibilities of parenting fell mostly on me. However, the fact that we were married and he was present as the father figure supporting my parental authority made a huge difference between then and now.
Since my divorce, the parenting situation has obviously changed. My ex and I can have civil conversations about the kids, their schedules and needs, but sometimes it seems we are on opposing sides. This obviously can make co-parenting rather difficult. Most single moms have struggles co-parenting with their ex no matter how well they get along. Often and sometimes without them even knowing it, our exes can be undermining and dismissive and if our children witness this it displays a lack of support for the single mom thereby usurping our authority with our kids.
I face the same challenges that any single mom does, and for the most part I have a civil relationship with my ex, but since he fails to consistently show respect for me as our children’s mother or take an active role in supporting me as a parent since our split, it shows and has a significant impact on how my children respond to me as an authority figure.
One of the biggest challenges we face as single moms is maintaining our authority with our kids, and when our ex undermines us our children can get confused and start to doubt our authority. In addition, if you’re a single mom like me with the majority of the parenting time, you know it’s impossible to have the role of the “good-cop” that the father can display on an every-other-weekend basis. We single moms get the consistent reality of what raising our children full-time is like, and we must be the disciplinarian most of the time if not all while the part time “co-parent” has only a glimpse of what real parenting is. Regardless, both the father and the children are compelled to compare this apples to oranges scenario. I’ve heard my kids say many times that they think their dad is nicer than me. This usually occurs when I have reached my limit and yell at them – sound familiar? Yes, I yell sometimes and I imagine I wouldn’t yell quite as much if I had parenting responsibilities only 25% of the time or less as my ex has had. The kids look forward to seeing their dad since they don’t see him nearly as often as they see me. I understand that and that they will tend to be in a more positive frame of mind given their lack of time with him.
Raising children comes with not only challenges but some stress as well, and single moms have that tenfold. I’ve realized that not having a man or other adult figure in the family dynamic means that no one is backing me up and that makes it easier for the kids to challenge me more than if there were some reinforcement. Unfortunately, we single moms often lack the kind of support we need and there doesn’t seem to be any replacement available that would make up for this handicap, unless of course you remarry or have some other male role model available on a consistent basis. So what can we single moms do? My only answer for this is to keep doing the best that we can and hope that one day in the future our kids will “get it” and appreciate us and all that we do for them. Our perseverance and efforts will hopefully teach them what they need to know to go out in the world and be positive and productive adults. For now it’s reassuring to know that other single moms understand the challenges that we face every day.
Mindy Erickson is a single mom of four living in Colorado. She is a frequent contributor of articles relating to her experiences and observations as a single mom. You can read more of her articles on her blog http://www.singlemommindy.blogspot.com