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Go Ask Mom

Solo Mom: What does it mean to be a single parent?

Posted April 19, 2011

Stacy Lamb, organizer of Single Parents of the Triangle

We’re barely home from work, school and daycare and already I’m crying out of frustration – I’ve got a killer headache and all I want is to lie down for 20 minutes alone in the dark, but I can’t do that because there are two little lives depending on me to make dinner, help with homework, run a bath, read a story, or any number of things in the few hours before (thankfully!) it’s bedtime.

The next minute my tears are of a different nature: My oldest, barely 6, lays an ice pack over my eyes and tells me to rest, “I’ll take care of my brother.” Sometimes she is just too “grown up.”

Even the little one (he’s almost 2) seems to get it. He crawls up into my lap, lies on my chest, and says something I choose to believe is “I love you mama.” It could very well be he just needed a clean shirt on which to wipe his nose, but I’ll take what I can get.

Being a single parent means just that – finding a balance between taking on the everyday frustrations, and realizing that you wouldn’t trade them for life any other way.

I get a lot of “how do you DO it?” from people who just can’t imagine living my life, or from other parents who have suddenly found themselves in a similar situation. My answer is always the same: “I just do. I have to.”

I hope that, by sharing some of my stories here, I can provide a better answer – perhaps some clarity, maybe even a little insight. If nothing else, I promise my stories will make you smile.

Stacy Lamb of Apex is the divorced mom of two. She also is organizer for Single Parents of the Triangle. See my earlier post about the group here. Find her here monthly on Wednesday.

13 Comments

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  • howdiditgettothis Apr 20, 2011

    I'm not a single mom, but my kids have seen me cry plenty of times. They have also seen me angry, sad, mad, frustrated.............you name it.

    And I talk to them about my feelings, and behavior -- so they are very aware that my feelings are mine, and usually have nothing to do with them.

    I grew up emotionally suppressed & oppressed, and I have spent years in therapy dealing with stilted emotions.

    My kids are also told that THEY are responsible for their emotions and behavior........just like I am.

    No one is perfect -- no one parent, no two parents, no child, etc. Everyone is going to make a mistake over something. I think it is freeing to give permission to know their (and their parents')emotions, be able to label them, experience them, then let them go and move on to something else!

  • mewubbau Apr 20, 2011

    AWOL--your comment about sticking up for your fellow single parents, you are creating sides?!? And your comment about "but I feel like it is not right for a mother to put burdens on her very young children." sure sounds like negative criticism to me. Yes it's your opinion and of course Stacy is not going to take offense--or at least tell you that, but it most definitly sounds demeaning. By the way my daughter's father is present in her life and spends time with her and calls her. Again each household may have a different number of parents, but in general we all go through the same daily difficulties and trials. And my daughter and I work through them the same way most families do.

  • AWOL Apr 20, 2011

    Again, not criticism, my opinion. Never have I said she is a horrible mother nor that she didn't love her kids nor did I ever say she didn't take care of them. You all are reading way into everything... Also, I should throw out there, if you're going to put personal information on the open web there will be opinions. Whether you agree with them or not is up to you... So instead of taking MY opinion as a personal afront, just let it be. I have not in my opinion attacked Stacy (and if I have, Stacy I apologize, again not my intent) Stacy has obviously cleared up my concern, so I think it's about time the criticism of me ends now.

  • Glass Half Full Apr 20, 2011

    AWOL - In my humble opinion - Please keep the criticism to yourself until you've walked in the shoes of a single parent. We are human and as the mother of one I can't imagine what it would be like to raise two on my own. Yes, parenting is a choice, parenting alone often times isn't but you do the best you can with what you have. As long as her children know they're loved, and I have no doubt they do, they'll be ok. Seeing mommy having a moment isn't going to harm them. It may actually make them stronger adults. My daughter has seen and heard things I would never have wanted her to experience but she's smart and strong and very well adjusted.

  • AWOL Apr 20, 2011

    It looks like we all interpreted this blog in very different ways... To all- I applaud you for sticking up for your fellow single parent... I'm curious to know, however, are dads present in your child's lives? It would explain the defensiveness you have against my comments. I apologize that you took my opinions the wrong way, that was not my intention. I know being a mom is hard enough with a partner, and can only imagine the struggles that each of you deal with every day, I may not have a clear idea since I've never been there. I guess I should have went about asking questions in a more delicate manner.

  • mewubbau Apr 20, 2011

    AWOL really? I think she was elduing to the fact that her 6 yr old was acting mature and growing up--not that she had taken an adult role in her household. And every family's household goes through generally the same things, whether single parent or the more "traditional" one. And she wasn't putting burdens on her child--her child approached her and was wise enough to realize her mother was having a rough day--I'm sure you've had those too?! I'm a single mother and most of the time put on a strong face, but I think it's important for my daughter to realize I have hard times too and it's ok to cry or get angry sometimes, but also learn that it will pass and/or we must work through it. Obviously there are certain situations that young children need not experience, but in general seeing their parent(s) cry or get angry or have an emotion--let's them know we are all human and go through "stuff", but as a family we are there to support and help each other through those times.

  • Solo Mom Apr 20, 2011

    Gottalovemy4dogs...already got that single parent support system in place - see the link at the bottom of the article to Single Parents of the Triangle.

    Every parent/home/family/situation is different, but please don't misinterpret my daughter's naturally caring nature for her being "burdened" with responsibility. She's absolutely a kid, but one with a big heart. Oh, and I wasn't literally crying...but I don't believe there is anything wrong with letting your kids see emotion - it lets them know it's ok for them too.

  • AWOL Apr 20, 2011

    4 dogs, it wasn't a bashing, just an opinion. Every parent is different and going through different things, hence " I don't know what goes on in your home". It was more of a concern of the children, she mentioned her six year old is sometimes "too adult". I think that she should know she doesn't have to be, that was more of the point I was trying to make, parenting isn't a contest, it's something you choose to do.

  • Gottalovemy4dogs Apr 20, 2011

    AWOL...let's not turn this into a "who is a better parent" thing. That gets so old. There is no shame in allowing your children to see you as human with human pains and emotions. Solo Mom: Kudos to you! I was a single parent for the first 10 years of my daughter’s life. Totally alone. It was the hardest job ever...but also the one I got the most from. The hardest part for me was accepting that I couldn't be 100% everything all the time. I had to learn to be happy with giving less than 100%, simply because it wasn't possible. But I raised my daughter to be thankful for what we have and taught her to recognize strength where others see weakness. She is an amazing person and I'm so thankful that our lives turned out the way they did. PS...you need to put together a support system of single mothers to help each other!

  • AWOL Apr 20, 2011

    I also understand what you're saying, I'm not a single mother but a mom nonetheless. I don't know what all happens in your home, but I feel like it is not right for a mother to put burdens on her very young children. I know you may be frustrated but your kids deserve to just be kids and feel like everything is okay because mommy is the adult and taking care of it. I would never let my children see me cry or feel like they needed to take care of my two year old, when they're only six, that's not their responsibility... Just my opinion.

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