[Originally featured at Family Values Cinema.]
SINGLE PARENTING IS NOT A DISEASE
Contrary to popular belief, single parenting is not a disease. It’s not an illness overtaking society, or an addiction that must be overcome no matter what. “Hello, my name is Molly Jo, and I’m a Single Parent.”
Yes, it’s a dilemma that can be draining on society. But it’s not always something to be pointed at with pity. Being a single parent doesn’t make me a cancer on society any more than eating lettuce makes you a vegetarian. If you only eat lettuce, even that doesn’t make you a vegetarian. It doesn’t even make you a rabbit. Rabbits eat more than just lettuce. It makes you a lettuce eater.
Then why are single parents almost always only categorized by those two simple words? Why is so much of what I do, that much more scrutinized because I am a single parent?
Not all single parents got that way by, well, misbehaving. And yet, the majority of society points fingers and finds us to be their scapegoats. Seriously?! I didn’t know I had that much power. Especially when Wall Street and Big Government have their own issues.
Parenting, whether together or single or community or foster or… you get the picture… parenting is parenting. You’re either a good parent or a bad parent. Good parents recognize we’re not always good. We make mistakes. Bad parents. Well, they don’t always see that. Or they don’t try. There are plenty of bad two-parent homes but it’s the single parents – in particular, young single moms – that carry the burden of shame for bad parenting.
My mom was a single parent. Now don’t go thinking she was a bad example and I followed in her footsteps. My mom’s singleness came about with my dad’s early death. I have a friend who was lucky enough to foster two young boys. Nobody looked down on her for being a single parent.
So you see? Being a parent, and being single. They’re just definitions. But they don’t define every aspect of who I am or what I do. I like coffee. Cats. Books. Children. Italy. Writing. Cooking. Driving. Disneyland. And so much more. Single Parent doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.
What do you know about the single parents in your life? Do you know how they became single parents? Not every story is the same. There are different beginnings… and different endings.
Some single parents got that way through the death of a spouse. Some choose to share their home, even if it means doing it alone.
But the being alone part. That’s hard. It’s hard when you could use some help carrying in the groceries and there’s nobody around. It’s hard when you have a water leak and no knowledge how to fix it and no funds to pay someone else. It’s hard when you can’t work the hours you need, because your kid is sick.
It’s hard when you know people want to put you down rather than help you out, or find out what your real needs are instead of assuming you get what you deserve. Forget what single parents are doing to society. What about how society treats the parent?
When my daughter was young, we struggled financially. It wasn’t because I didn’t try, but that’s what some people thought. I was blessed to have a community that helped when I needed it. The neighbor who worked on our car in exchange for a meal. The friend who drove us to get groceries. The boss who took a chance on hiring a young woman with a young child.
But the best moments were when people stopped to check on us, for no reason other than they wanted to. The ones who offered a cup of coffee and said “You’re worth my time.” The ones who didn’t ask “How are you?” then walk away before I could tell them the truth.
Being a single parent doesn’t automatically make me stupid, or make my kid worthless. It doesn’t make us gross or trashy. It just makes life a little more difficult, sometimes.
Single parents are needy. It’s true. But aren’t we all? There are smart, wonderful, single parents all around you. In your family. At your work. In your neighborhood. We all have something to offer each other. It could be a service, a helping hand, or just a friendship that says we’re worthy of being loved just like everyone else.
Trust me. We’re not lepers. You won’t get cooties if you reach out and say hi. You might make a friend. And even get a nice cup of coffee for your efforts.
Also featured on BlogHer.com
February 22, 2012