What "NOT" to Say to a Single Parent

This blog post is two-fold.  For the reader who is a single parent, please read this with the intent to realize that people do not always know how to question or support a single parent.  We need to recognize the intent from the spoken words and not take everything so heavily.

For the person who is not a single parent, please read this post to acknowledge how things are worded when speaking to a single parent. Remember that they more than likely did not choose to parent alone and your questions can come across, "loaded" or uncaring.

                             _______________________________________________

"Mr. or Mrs. Right is out there.  You'll find each other some day and then you won't have to be alone."
Not every single parent is looking for a significant other.  Sometimes the pain is so deep that cultivating another relationship would be detrimental to the children involved.  This statement can make the single parent feel inadequate and that they should be with someone to live up to societal standards.  This simply is not the case.

"You look exhausted! Where do you find your energy?"
To a single parent, this is the last thing they want to hear. Typically they do not have energy so finding it would be amazing, but telling someone they look exhausted is nothing short of an insult.

"This must be really hard on your kids"
People assume that single parented kids are damaged. The single parent strives with every ounce of their effort to ensure that their kids are taken care of and have the best life possible.  Confirming their fears that their kids are not okay and that they as a parent may not be doing "enough", is hurtful.

"You should be proud of yourself!"
This can be very demeaning.  You wouldn't walk around telling this to married parents, so why the single parent?

"I don't know how you do it!"
The simple answer is because we have to and we want to.  Circumstances aren't always as bad as they seem and we enjoy being parents too.  The load is just different.

"What do your kids do while you work all day?"
Again, you typically wouldn't ask this of a married parent, so why the single parent? Their kids do what your kids do; they are busy being kids.  Answer is simple.  The kids are most likely in daycare situation or are being watched by a relative.
You might say: "What kinds of activities have you planned for your kids while you are at work?"

"You need alone time."
The urge to say this is understandable because everyone needs alone time.  Problem is that single parenting can be very lonely at times.  Even with kids running around, the lack of adult communication can be isolating. 
You might say: "When can I babysit for you?" or "Do you need time without the kids; how can I help?"

"Where is your kid's father/mother?"
A question you really shouldn't ask anyone.  This is very personal and you'll know if the single parent wishes to confide in you.
You might say: "If you feel comfortable sharing, I'd love to know how to pray for your children's father/mother."

"You must be so lonely!"
This statement is really rude and makes it sound as if anyone without a significant other is lonely.  Some single parents are perfectly happy and for those that are lonely, this is a painful exploitation of their feelings.
You might say: "I'd love to hang out with you sometime."

"My husband/wife was out of town for a couple days and so I know how you feel!"
OR "My husband/wife was sick over the weekend and I had to care for the kids alone.  It's exhausting and my heart just goes out to you!"
The single parent day in and day out experiences parenting alone.  There are great days and not so great days. Spending a few hours or days without the other parent is absolutely not the same.  When this is said to a single parent, it belittles the world they live in.  No one can imagine what they have not experienced.  Spouses spending a short time away is not equivalent to single parenting.
You might say: "I have had a taste of what it could be like to be a single parent. Let me know how I can come alongside you!"

                             _______________________________________________

Most people mean well with what they say and ask and it can be difficult to know how to relate to anyone in another life circumstance than yourself.  The key is to think before you speak.  In most cases, the single parent if they know you well enough, will recognize your true intentions in these questions and statements and will not or should not take offense. 

22 comments:

  1. Well said, Megan! You are awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  2. We have actually had lessons from the pulpit on how single-parented kids are inherently damaged. I didn't like it when I was married, and I don't like it now that I am single. Even married, I parented alone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow. It is true that the distance from one parent or another is not healthy, but to call them "damaged". That is too much. Blessings to you.

      Delete
    2. My daughters youth directer actually told me that my kids,statically, would end up in jail or divorced themselves or parents at an early age. I can't even begin to tell you how offended I was. I still have some trouble not feeling bitter at when I think of that comment. It didn't help to hear that my daughter (and her friends) were told these same things in Youth group.

      Delete
    3. Oh that is awful, Margo! I can see why those comments are upsetting. Try to let that bitterness go and pray for the offender. Sometimes even in those situations, people think they are helping by alerting you to the statistics against you.

      Delete
  3. Thanks for this! I hear often that because I haven't dated or married again that I must be stuck on my daughters father (or in the past). Personally, it's very time consuming to be a divorced mom, work, and provide a healthy home for my daughter. Dating hasn't been my priority.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is very time consuming! Sounds like you have your priorities right. :)

      Delete
  4. Good words! Fortunately, if anyone ever said any of this to me while I was a single parent, it didn't effect me enough to remember it. haha! Honestly, I don't think most single parents are quite this sensitive. I understand not everyone is going to understand my experience as a single parent just like I might not understand that of a parent with a special needs child or one that has lost a child. It's always good to think before you speak though, in all situations. And can't we all use a helping hand every now and then?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's great! Very true that each circumstance has it's own challenges and we can never truly know someone's world without walking in their shoes. Blessings to you!

      Delete
    2. I would agree with this comment. I am a single parent now and am not nearly so sensitive as the above article would suggest. I think we as single parents need to be considerate of the fact that for those who are not in our situation, they don't know how to approach us either, they don't know what to say for fear of offending us, I think we need to take everything with a grain of salt and not make it nearly impossible to encourage us or talk to us.

      Delete
    3. Yes, Jessica! I agree completely.

      Delete
  5. Thanks Megan! As a single mom, I just don't think some people get it. I don't think my son is damaged. What scares me is hearing all of these leading Christian Family groups talking about how important a good male role model is for a child especially boys and the statistics on a boy growing up without a "Father" figure. I'm always afraid my son is missing out and that I'm not doing a good enough job. What if he grows up to be a jail bird or turns into one of those statistics?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your transparency! Yes, the statistics are upsetting and they lean toward a single parent home as one cause, BUT this does not mean that our children are doomed and do not have a chance. Your son is not damaged and it sounds as if you are doing everything in your power to raise him right. That is what matters. I wrote about the feelings regarding failure and how very real they are. We can overcome the odds. Remember to pray for his life every day and please keep in touch!

      http://thesingleparentingjourney.blogspot.com/2013/04/we-are-not-broken-home.html

      http://thesingleparentingjourney.blogspot.com/2013/03/fear-of-failure.html

      Blessings!

      Delete
    2. Barack Obama spent some of his childhood with a divorced Mom and he went on to be come President of the USA..uh, maybe he's not the best example though (LOL).

      Delete
    3. Not sure I should comment on that. ;) But yes, the opportunities are endless for any child.

      Delete
  6. Some of these don't bother me at all. For example, the "proud of yourself" or "I don't know how you do it" comments. I get variations of that from time to time. I understand that it's typically the other person trying to acknowledge all the hard work single parents have to put in to make things work. To me it is meant as a compliment (or at least that's how I choose to take it).

    "You need alone time." - So true. It hasn't annoyed me in the past, but now that I think about it, when someone says that, I always think, "How, other than after the kids go to bed." It would be nice to have someone specifically offer once in awhile. I hope that I can help other single moms in this way when I am not so overwhelmed myself.

    "Where is your kid's father/mother?" Very true. It doesn't tick me off by any means, but it makes me feel uncomfortable. You feel obligated to get into a very personal conversation because they brought it up so directly. No one should feel obligated to share this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great observations! I think it's wonderful that you are offering to help other single moms while carrying a large load yourself.

      Delete
  7. OK... so what should you say?? Cause sometimes I don't think it hurts to get a pat on the back. Especially since they aren't getting it from what should be the other parent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A pat on the back is wonderful! As stated in the blog, single parents are also to look at this information as things that are said that are not necessarily loaded comments or questions. Really it comes down to the wording and intent. The person you are speaking to will understand both of those factors when you offer encouragement. Thank you for being encouragement! This is very important.

      Delete
  8. What? I have to plan activities for them, while I'm at work? Surely the day care and camp can take care of that - and the teens ... well I guess you want to make sure I don't let them play video games all day, right?

    Yes, it is hard to know how someone might take what you say.

    You might say: What do your teens enjoy doing during summer / after school?

    -- Never married adoptive Mom

    ReplyDelete
  9. I loved how you created an intention for this post. One created for the single parent, and one for a parent who is not. I had my daughter when I was 20, and now, almost 35 years old, it took a long time to get tough enough to take comments people would say and how they would say it, not to heart. Now, when people are shocked at how old I am, instead of feeling small or ashamed, I am proud and confident. Loved this post a lot!

    ReplyDelete