The 10 Worst Things about Being a Single Parent
Like all things in life, everything has it’s pros and cons. Single parenting is all I know, because my son’s father left when he was six weeks old, and recently I’ve been reflecting on what’s been good and bad during these four years.
Because I prefer to end on a positive note, I will start with my top 10 worst things about being a single parent, before going onto the best things.
I’ve included quotes from some of the lovely single parents I’ve chatted to in the Single Parent Support Group Facebook group who have a similar top 10.
Fellow single parents please feel free to add any of your worst things in the comments section below.
10 Worst Things about Single Parenting
1. Everything’s Down To You
That’s right, absolutely EVERYTHING is down to you. You’re responsible for making all of the decisions that affect your child’s present and future, from the clothes they wear, the morals and values they will learn to their daily routines, discipline and physical/emotional health.
Don’t get me wrong this is also one of the best things about lone parenting as you can ensure your child is parented completed the way you want, but at times it can really feel scary. There is nobody by your side to help make some of the tougher decisions such as how you are going to approach difficult subjects like sex, relationships and puberty. There is nobody to help take the stress and strain of some of the dilemmas that parenting brings, and when you get it wrong it is literally all your fault.
As well as the decisions all being down to you, the actual parenting is all down to you too. You have to deal with every tantrum, every sleepless night and every stressful meal time.
You also have all of the worry on your shoulders with nobody to share it with which at times can make you feel like you have the world on your shoulders.
One parent from the forum said; “Sometimes you just want to go and shut yourself in the bedroom but without having anyone to support you, you can’t do that when you have young kids”.
Another said; “The worst thing is not having back up when disciplining your child, or having a second opinion, or even someone to worry with you when they’re poorly”.
2. No Breaks
No break, and that includes even having two minutes to pee alone. Now some single parents are able to access breaks if the other parent is an active parent in the child’s life, such as seeing the child at weekends, but on those days you have them by yourself its still hard.
I’ve experienced both sides of single parenting; I’ve parented single-handedly with no help from his father for three out of the four years of his existence and I’ve also experienced his father spending time with him at weekends.
Both are tough, but obviously the former is the toughest. No breaks at all take it’s toll both physically and mentally. I found the only relief I would get was when I would visit family or friends and they would interact with my son for a couple of hours meaning I could just sit. By being away from our home I could also avoid the housework so physically got to enjoy a small break, but other than that it was 24/7.
When my son began going to nursery for three mornings a week I suddenly started to get time to breathe, but it was quickly filled by my self employment work, which was also done when he would go to bed at night.
One single parent said; “For the past 6 months I have pretty much had care of my children 100% of the time except for a couple of occasions. No me time or time to clear my head is exhausting”.
Another said; “When you’ve had a rubbish day there is no one to take over even for just 5 minutes”.
3. The Isolation At Night
Night times are hard. Really hard.
After an exhausting day most people like to sit at home with their partner, have cuddles and offload, or for the single people they go for dinner or drinks with friends and interact with other human beings.
When you’re a single parent it’s really hard to socialise in the evenings. Sure you can invite people over once the kids are in bed, but there’s only so many times your friends will want to just sit at your house and talk quietly to avoid waking the baby.
Many friends also have children and are in the same situation of being imprisoned in their houses from 7.30pm when the kids are in bed so it’s hard to find people who are free to join you.
It can be lovely to sit on your own and have the peace and quiet you have craved, particularly on the more challenging parenting days, but when it is day in, day out it becomes isolating.
I found myself going on single parent support groups most evenings just to have human interaction with people in the same boat. It was comforting to know I wasn’t the only person sitting in front of the TV night after night with nobody to talk to or cuddle.
One parent from this very forum said; “The worst bit is no conversation- no adult mental stimulation at the end of the day. You just want to vent and laugh but you are there in the house on your own. If it’s been a bad day there is nobody to comfort you. It can send you loony at times!”.
Another said; “It can be frustrating because you can’t even pop out for a pint of milk or the nappies you missed off your shopping list. Once they’re asleep you are literally stuck inside”.
If you have preschoolers, during the week it’s really easy to meet up with other fellow parents for play dates or play groups, but the weekends are completely different.
Most of your married/ loved-up friends spend their weekends with their partners and do the family thing, so they’re never available.
So I would usually be alone all weekend with my son and I would find activities for us to do to keep us both sane occupied. However these activities could be really hard at times, such as going to the park and seeing all the married couples taking their children out together and looking happy.
Many times I would distract myself by playing in the sand pit or spinning on a roundabout with my son to hide my tears at how he doesn’t get to experience a loving, two-parent family.
There have been weekends or school holidays where I’ve avoided many fun days out just to avoid feeling like that, as it can be heartbreaking.
5. Having To Be Mum And Dad
Playing the role of both parents is exhausting. You have to be both the good cop and bad cop when dealing with situations and at times that can get confusing.
By being aware they have only one parent you find yourself trying to make it up to them out of sheer guilt that they don’t have the nuclear family that society tells us is the best way of life.
You have to do the tough things like discipline as well as all of the activities they want to do like the football, ballet and baking. You have to attend all of the parents’ evenings and award ceremonies alone. You have to keep your child calm when they have an accident.
You have to teach them how to live independently, complete their education and show them how both genders and both parent roles are to be respected.
As I said before, it’s confusing and bloody exhausting.
6. Getting Poorly
Being a single parent and becoming ill is a hideous combination. I don’t mean a little cold, but I mean those nasty flu viruses or I’ve had times when my back has gone and I can’t climb out of bed, or the very worst: sickness bugs.
Illnesses that require rest and which make it hard to function are horrific because you still have to somehow find the energy to get up and wash, clothe, feed your child and then entertain them for the entire day.
When you have a sick bug you can’t even take them out or have someone over to help you, as you need to be near a toilet at all times and you can’t risk your friends and family catching it and giving it to their kids.
Minutes feel like hours during these times and all your parenting morals go out of the window because all you want to do is keep them entertained so you can doze on the sofa or puke in peace. So the tablet comes out for them to play on, the TV stays on all day and the junk food gets given to them on demand, all so you can just be ill rather than ill and mummy for five minutes.
Those days are the most testing and I would not wish them on my worst enemy.
7. Lack of time
Lack of time to get your paid work done, the ever-increasing housework and lack of time to even parent.
I always had dreams of spending hours doing arts and crafts, reading and writing with my children and living in a lovely, clean and warm home whilst doing my parenting. I also dreamed of having the funds to be able to parent rather than work whilst somebody else parents my children.
Lone parenting makes all of these things quite hard to do and to be honest I still don’t think after four years I have the balance right yet.
I work when he’s asleep or at nursery, and I try to do the chores when we are at home for the odd morning or afternoon during the week. I do feel guilty when I have been doing all of the chores and cooking all day and he reminds me that I haven’t played with him. I feel awful.
However I also feel awful if my house is a pig sty as I just cannot relax. However I’ve recently started to remind myself that he is growing up fast so most of the time the housework can wait and I should focus on him.
But can I admit at times I find playing quite…boring? I do sometimes prefer to wash up and leave him to role play with his superheroes and dinosaurs as there’s only so much roaring and catching bad guys I can sanely take.
8. Co-Parenting Issues
This is for those who do have an active ex partner involved in their child’s lives. These issues can range from agreeing when and how much contact, to reaching compromises with the child’s routines to finances.
My ex has played a fair few games and I have been sucked into a few of them over the years I admit. When he originally returned to my son’s life it was a very difficult few months, and I’m sure my ex would say the same.
It can feel like he wants to take control in the form of choosing when he will and will not pay some money towards his son’s daily care. I’ve learnt to no longer beg for money and to accept that my son will be older in no time and will see exactly the finances and hard work his mother has put in compared to his father and will make his own conclusions about how he feels about that.
Similarly there are times his dad will want to just irritate me and this usually involves around timings of collecting or dropping my son off, or sending me messages to “get your back up Claire”. If he hears I may be having a (rare) night out, I notice on those nights he suddenly has to work late so may not be able to have my son and a couple of times I’ve had to cancel last minute but what can I do?
Similarly if we have had an argument I notice he drops my son home a lot earlier than usual or he does something I’ve specifically asked him not to do. These times can be frustrating and also very hurtful, but you soon learn to just roll with it and as long as your child isn’t being hurt that’s all that matters.
He tells me I “palm” my son off so I can have lay ins and socialise. I wish.
My body clock is set to my son’s so I still have yet to lay in since he was born.
Many of my friends are with their partners and family at weekends and to be fair I am usually exhausted. I tend to spend my day off doing bits like redecorating, decluttering and my paid work.
It’s not palming your child off if you are giving him to his other parent for two out of seven days. His job is to parent this child just as much as it is mine as we both planned for him to come into this world. I do the majority of the parenting, all of the discipline and routine setting and yet I “palm him off”. The man should recognise and respect that I do a lot more for his child than he does and want to do more of the parenting himself, but hey ho.
I miss my son a lot when he is not with me, but at the same time I am comforted in knowing how happy he is seeing his dad as he idolises him.
Co-parenting can be tough. And sharing your child can be really tough. Having to work out who sees him birthdays and Christmases and hoping his contact days don’t fall on your birthday each year so you can spend time with him. That’s why it’s so important to try and have a good relationship with your ex so you can try to be flexible with each other.
I am working hard to build a friendship with his dad as I want my son to grow up knowing he is not in the middle of two feuding exes and that he can talk to us about the other parent and the happy times he has with them without feeling disloyal.
One parent said; “Dealing with the ex playing games and being reliant on his good will re child maintenance just to break even is hard”.
Another said “I hate sharing birthdays and Christmases. We’re coming up to my son’s first birthday with me being apart from him. I have no idea how that’s going to pan out, but can’t imagine either of us being happy”.
Most single parents struggle financially, especially us working single parents because childcare is so costly it makes it almost not worth working when you work out the income and outgoings. It’s also horrible not being able to see your child much because you have to work to ensure there is still a roof over your heads.
Arguments with your ex over maintenance is common and stressful. I went three years without a penny from his dad and even now I only get the odd note and nothing is consistent for me to rely on each month which can be really hard during weeks I have no work. Self employment is hard but it is necessary in order for me to be part of my son’s childhood rather than watch from a distance.
The benefit system isn’t great for single parents and it’s even worse for working single parents. You would think that people trying to do the right thing by getting a mortgage and working whilst being a single parent would be praised and more help would be given but no. You get less help when you try to do the right thing. This country baffles me.
10. The “I’m Married but Feel Like a Single Parent” Comments and Lone Parent Stigmas
The worst thing a married/partnered-up parent can say to a single parent is that they know how it feels to be a single parent.
“My partner works late often so I’m practically a single parent!”. No you’re not.
“My husband never helps around the house, I am a single parent”. Er no you’re not.
Yes you may have a lazy partner or one that isn’t around much but the fact remains, they are around for some of the day or week and even if they are sitting on their butt they are still able to observe your child so you can go pee or bathe in peace, or pop to the shop for some milk.
I get how it can probably be quite annoying to live with someone who isn’t doing their fair share of the parenting, but trust me, just having them there to moan at, vent to and occasionally get a smidgen of help is far more than what most single parents have, so please never say those comments to us as it hurts.
Being judged for being a single parent is frustrating. We don’t choose to be single parents, life happens and many circumstances are out of our control. I am proud of how I am managing to parent my son on my own and the strength it has given me that I wouldn’t otherwise have. He is having a far better life having one consistent parent compared to the life he would have had with his father and I attempting to be together.
One single mum said; “Judging me and not knowing my story is the worst. I am a mum of 5 and I as well as millions of other single mums make a better job of it than those on the moral high ground who remain married just for the sake of the kids”.