Single Parent Appreciation on Mother's Day

>> Wednesday, May 4, 2016

So I was talking to my sister several states away and she was telling me about some of her Mother's Day plans, doing stuff that's good for her (which I applaud) and she said, "So, what are you doing?"

"Me? I'm likely hanging at home with the kids, mothering. What day is it even on?"

Now, don't think I'm complaining about my sister—I'm all for her having fun. She works hard with her kids (homeschooling) and does a jillion other things besides. She totally earns her fun. And, while I'm a single mother, I have a good salary and a job that is very flexible so that I can take care of them without serious hardship.

But it got me to thinking. Because it's different for single mothers, especially those with younger children you can't just leave the kids hanging around the house while you get your nails done. That's not anyone's fault, but, having spent some years being part of a pair of parents and some years being a single mother, the difference is easy to forget (I didn't think about it when I was married). And it's always a good time to remember.

So, that's what this is, a reminder for those of us who do have someone to share the burden with and even those, like me, that have it relatively cushy: single parents have it rough.

There are few jobs more thankless than being a parent. When she has a partner, he (or she) might appreciate what she does. Someday (probably far in the future) her kids might, as well. But, for single parents (and I include both mothers and fathers since they both have to do double duty) now, it's all hustle and bustle and jostling and rearranging priorities as challenges come her way and often she, herself, is perpetually at the bottom of the list.

When one is a single parent, there's no one else to load the dishwasher or clean up the cat puke or fold the laundry or run to the store. And, if she has to do the latter, she has to take the kids with her if she can't do it while they're in school. If one of her kids is sick, there's no one to take care of the other ones. Or if she is. She's a living breathing single point failure waiting to happen and no one knows it more than she does. When my son was in the hospital, I was in a world of hurt dragging friends in to help so someone could watch my daughter while my son was in the ER. And then the hospital.

Scary doesn't even begin to describe it.

A single parent is on duty or on call 24/7 and for many of you working minimum wage or with crazy shuffling hours, my heart truly bleeds for you. I literally can't imagine how you do it because it's all I can manage and I have it easy.

So, what's my point? First to say, thank you guys, for all of you single parents doing your damnedest with half the resources you need. Don't let anyone make you feel bad for those things you just can't do.

But, secondly, to those of you who *aren't* single parents but know someone who is, whether it looks like a struggle or not, this is a great time to help them out (actually any time is). Doesn't have to be money or expensive. Flowers are nice, candy, a card. By all means. But, if you really want to give her (or him) something that won't cost you much but will be more precious than you can imagine, donate the thing they need most. TIME.

Want to take her to get her nails done? Have your teenage niece watch the kids or stay and let her have the afternoon to herself.

Get her a massage and watch the kids while she's gone. Send her to the movies. Let her take a damn nap. Give her a few hours uninterrupted.

Take her kids to the zoo. Wear 'em out while she does her taxes or reads a novel or sits by the pool without kids around.

For those of you who have generally had someone else around to help (or never had kids) you literally can't imagine what a boon that is, what it means, what it's worth. Date night is often important for married couples—they need that alone time—we forget single parents need it, too.

If time is in short supply, drop by with a dinner she doesn't have to cook. Swing by for a half hour of adult conversation she hasn't had. Tell her what a good job she's doing.

Because, chances are, she often has a hard time believing it. Too many of us only see our flaws, especially when there's no one to point out our strengths.

So, this mother's day, if you know someone struggling alone, take a minute to remind them. And, hey, why not make it a habit all year round?


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