For single parents, rude and invasive questions just come with the territory. In fact, between gossiping neighbors, curious coworkers, and “concerned” friends, single parents are fairly used to judgmental comments and looks thrown their way. However, this is not to say that the constant commentary doesn’t get under single parents’ skin. All that incessant and insensitive questioning makes a single mom or dad feel like they’re being labeled unfit—and after all that single parents undertake to ensure that their children have the best lives possible, that’s the last thing they deserve.
So, before you open your mouth and say something you don’t mean offensively, read up on the things you should never say to a single parent.
Just because somebody chose to have a child on their own doesn’t mean that they don’t struggle sometimes. And yet, as Brandice Taylor-Davis, a single mom and creator of life coach group The Taylor-Davis Agency, points out, this is a phrase that is thrown around quite a bit—most often by others who have no idea what it feels like to be a single parent.
As Natasha Peters of Epic Mommy Adventures laments, single parents often have no one else to turn to when their children are sick—and this is never something you should fault them for. “Don’t ever say this to a single mom; don’t even imply it,” she wrote on her blog. “Because guess what? She has to do it! Who else will?”
According to Gisela Hausmann, a single parent and author of Naked Determination: 41 Stories About Overcoming Fear, one of the questions she’s often asked is how she could possibly be single and have a child at such a young age. “As crazy as it may sound, these are somewhat typical questions people ask,” she says. Sure, there are instances in which a parent ends up raising a child on their own because of a tragedy—but even if that is the case, it’s none of your business.
“This is insensitive and doesn’t take into account how much [single parents] are probably missing their kids when they are not with them,” says Heidi McBain, a women’s mental wellness expert and author of the book Major Life Changes: Stories of Motherhood, Hope and Healing. Contrary to popular belief, single parents don’t resent their children—they miss them when they’re gone.
Though less impactful decisions, like where to shop for your child’s clothes or which movies to let your children watch, are easy enough to make solo, the more substantial ones can be hard to make as a single parent. Sure, there is no one to argue with—but on that same token, there is also no one there to bounce ideas off of or to reason with you when you’re having a bout of indecisiveness.
“It can be very stressful to not have a partner to bounce parenting ideas off of, as well as not have this much-needed support in their lives when parenting gets hard,” says McBain.
You don’t see all of the troubling moments that take place behind the scenes for a single parent. After all, it’s no easy feat jugging a career, a child, and some semblance of a social life. However, single parents ask themselves how they manage everything often enough on their own, so there is no need for you to chime in and question their ability as a parent as well. For your part, you should be supporting them and not questioning their life choices.
Why does it matter where the mother or father of someone’s child is? If a parent isn’t in the picture, it’s highly likely that’s for a reason. Or what if the mother or father of someone’s child passed away? You never know what someone’s circumstances are—and if they wanted you to know, they’d tell you.
Wow, your week away from your partner must be so tough! Could you imagine doing that, like, full-time?
As a word of advice, don’t try to compare your struggles to those of a single parent; if you’re someone who’s raising children with the help of a partner, you simply can’t understand their hardships.
Don’t assume that a single parent needs child support to survive financially. Plenty of single parents make stable and sufficient livings on their own, and their paychecks are more than enough to cover the costs of raising a child. And, seeing as this is often an incredibly personal matter, it’s best not to pry; just because a parent isn’t receiving child support doesn’t mean that they didn’t try to get it.
There are so many reasons why you should never say this to a single parent. First of all, just because two parents aren’t together doesn’t mean that they don’t still argue about issues pertaining to their child. And it’s unfair to call a spouseless parent “lucky,” seeing as they don’t have the support of a co-parent. Before you utter this phrase, just remember that having no one to argue with also means having no one to parent with.
Single parents don’t need to take on the roles of both mother and father in order to be successful caretakers. Every child—whether they’re raised by a single parent or have both a mom and a dad—has a support system surrounding them in addition to their parents, and if they need something that only a male or female caretaker can provide, they can always turn to someone in that group of family and friends.
Again, just because a child doesn’t have a mom or dad doesn’t mean that they don’t have both positive male and female role models in their lives. Family members, teachers, and exemplary adults in the community can all serve as positive role models in a child’s life—whether or not they have both a mother and a father.
Between finding time away from work and hunting down a babysitter, a night out proves to be incredibly taxing and expensive for a single parent. What’s more, a single parent takes introducing a new person into their child’s life very seriously. When someone is dating you, they are also dating your children—and this is why, as single mother Andrea Arterbery told Parents, dating is not always on the table.
“I understand that you mean well when trying to hook me up with that nice young man from your church,” she says. “But I really do mean it when I say that I am perfectly happy and content being single.” And if you’re a single parent ready to get back out there, check out the 40 Best Dating Tips for Women Over 40.
Most single parents couldn’t—and don’t want to—imagine life without their child or children. Even if they could have had a lucrative career without kids, these moms and dads would take being a single parent over being a successful businessperson any day.
“I’m not worried about nor do I sit and ponder over the status of my career as a single mother,” said Arterbery. “Everything has (and will continue) to work out just fine.”
Many people believe that single parents feel “stuck” with their children, but Arterbery notes that this isn’t the case. “In most cases—especially mine—this is so far from true. I love my son and there’s absolutely no regret,” she told Parents.
Understandably, single parents have less free time to do what they please. So it’s important to understand that sometimes, hanging out with friends falls lower and lower on their to-do lists. Plus, any free moments single parents have are likely spent doing things that ease the stress in their lives—like power napping or taking extra long baths. Though they value your friendship, single parents also have to put themselves first whenever they can or else nobody will.
Just because a single parent dares to go out grocery shopping with their children doesn’t mean that they’ve “got their hands full.” As it turns out, single parents also possess the ability to complete mundane and challenging tasks—even if they have to do so on their own.
In the eyes of most single parents, using terms like these to describe the father or mother of their children is incredibly disrespectful, as these phrases often have a negative connotation. It’s just as easy to say “mom” or “dad”—so when in doubt, be respectful and cognizant of people’s feelings.
Why should that matter? The child is clearly doing just fine with the support system that they have—and there is no need to bring anyone into the picture who doesn’t truly want to be there.
The worst thing to ask a single parent of multiple children is whether all of their offspring come from the same father or mother. “When you see a single parent with multiple kids, it really is the rudest thing to ask if they have the same father or same mother. It’s really none of your business,” Arterbery said.
Besides, does having multiple co-parents make someone less capable of being a great role model for their children? Absolutely not! And if you want to show your children how to do good in the world, start with these 33 Little Acts of Kindness You Can Do That Are Totally Free.
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