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The Single Parent Experience

The Single Parent Experience

By J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D.

What is it like to be a single parent?

In two words, overloaded and understaffed.

There are three types of overload for the single parent: responsibility overload, task overload and emotional overload. The single parent has most of the responsibility for the welfare of her children. Many of the major decisions about them must be made alone, without the support and advice of another parent. Since she does most of the disciplining, she may feel how they turn out is entirely her responsibility, a heavy burden for anyone to carry.

In addition to responsibility overload, the single parent faces task overload. In any family with children, there are three sets of responsibilities: care and nurturance of the children, household responsibilities and financial responsibilities. Meals have to be cooked, dishes have to be washed, clothes have to be cleaned, runny noses have to be wiped, tears have to be dried, doctor's appointments have to be made and money has to be earned.

These three tasks constitute two full time jobs. In a two parent family, there are sufficient resources to do these two jobs but not in a single parent family.

The combination of the task overload and responsibility overload leads to emotional overload. As every parent knows, children are very demanding. They take more than they give in return. The single parent is giving to others and may have no other close, caring adult to give to her. As a result, her emotional resources can become exhausted.

Finances are usually a problem for the single parent, especially if she is recently divorced. Most single parents face a reduction in their income when they divorce. One third will need welfare support within four years after their divorce since, sad to say, only 50% of non-custodial parents pay child support.

If the single parent hasn't worked in a number of years, she will probably have fewer skills and less education to get a good paying job or will face the lower salaries many women face.

Loneliness can also be a problem for the single parent. If she is recently divorced, many of her friends may drop away from her, so she will have to find a new set of friends.

Dating can be a problem for a number of reasons. Already feeling guilty for not giving her children enough time, they may oppose her dating and she may be afraid to date for fear of being rejected again. Finding time to date in her already overloaded schedule can also be a problem.

There are two pieces of advice I'd give to the single parent. One, you can't do it all. You can't be a Supermom. There are some things you just have to let go, such as the house not being as clean as you'd like it to be.

And two, find all the support you can: friends, family, a therapist, a church. Other people can give you encouragement and may be able to give you some respite from the kids.

I sometimes think all single parents should be given a medal. Their's is not an easy task.


About the Author: J. Bailey Molineux, a psychologist with Adult and Child Counseling, has incorporated many of his articles in a book, Loving Isn't Easy, Isbn 1587410419, sold through bookstores everywhere or available directly from Selfhelpbooks.com. Copyright 2002, J. Bailey Molineux and Selfhelpbooks.com, all rights reserved. This article may be reprinted but must include authors copyright and website hyperlinks.

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