"Single parenting" is a misnomer. Sure, it’s a solo event. But we single parents aren't doing the job of one parent; we're doing double duty, and I prefer to think of us as “double parents.” As Circle of Moms member Tyrae O. says, in reality, we look after our children "the majority of the time," which means we shoulder enough of parenting's burdens, responsibilities — and joys — for two people.
Here’s how I can best explain the concept of "double parenting." Imagine you're a pilot and you show up at the airport for your 747 flight from Chicago to California, only there's no co-pilot sitting in the empty seat beside you. Or, you’re part of a relay team, but there’s no one to hand off the baton too. You're The Little Engine that Could without a caboose. You get my point; the concept of “team” is pretty much gone, except you’re still supposed to make a powerful finish: young adults who are physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy.
Most significant is the heavy emotional toll. You become the go-to-person and repository for every hit on your children’s psyche: mean girls at school, not making the travel baseball team, boyfriend/girlfriend breakups, and myriad other disappointments and hurts. As a double parent of three, I’m on call 24/7 for all of these life events, plus coughs, colds, fevers and more serious medical ailments, not to mention unexpected calls from the school nurse or spontaneous four-hour treks to a college campus to care for a coed with mono.
The financial reality is an especially “interesting” challenge for double parents. Most of my single mom friends and I are the go-to money person for our kids, which includes paying for clothes, dental care, sports uniforms and registration, prom dresses, makeup, food, college, cars, insurance and every miscellaneous “emergency.” Most of my "double parent" friends are juggling two or three jobs to try to pay for “the extras,” like braces, shoes and gas.
Down Time? Ha!
The reality is, there is no off-time.
I understand that most moms are on call 24/7. But the difference is there’s no back up team or shoulder to cry on. The “single moms” I know are sometimes weary of having to be so strong all the time. We have to shovel our own driveways and deal with auto and household repairs without getting taken to the cleaner’s. Serviceman can spot a target not too fluent in the inner workings of the home’s air conditioning system from a mile away. I know. After numerous almost-bankruptcy-inducing bills from appliance repairs, I’ve found my own solution. I slip into every conversation that “my husband, the Navy SEAL is returning soon from active duty.”
I know I am not alone. My double parent friends and I have learned that the devil is in the details. When we get together we share and laugh over the “man” things we’ve each had to take on during the past week. Most of us have had “the talk” with our sons and learned to tie a tie for Homecoming. And I’ve got Michelle Obama's ripped arms thanks to all the futons and racks of clothes I've hoisted up college dorm stairways for my kids, twice a year in each of three colleges.
Even when the kids are going to their dad’s and we have the weekend off from lone parenting, we’re too exhausted to take advantage of the freedom. Married friends will say: “You’re so lucky, a weekend alone.” But when you get a brief break after having kids tethered to you seven days or more straight, you’re not only exhausted, you feel bludgeoned by the feeling of loss. In the beginning, many of us simply sit on the sofa and cry. Eventually we just collapse from exhaustion. For better or worse, the idea of curling up with a good book in jammies sounds way more fun than going out, and our social lives whither and die on the vine.
But despite the load double duty brings with it, there is a silver lining. It is one I carry close to my heart. All the hard work and caring is being invested in the most invaluable place possible: your children’s lives. It makes most of us "single moms" proud to proclaim our real identities: "double parents."
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.