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
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.