Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Single Parent Households & Solo Parents

So one day I learn that one of my relatives, let's call her Carol, had been referring to herself as a "single parent." I just about fell over. There are two things you need to know to help understand why this struck me as particularly absurd.

One, I grew up in an honest to goodness single parent household. This is, by the way, where the term "single parent" comes from. It does not mean that you are simply single and a parent. It means that you are the custodial parent who is the head of your household. More on this in a moment.

And two, Carol, had neither custody of her child nor was she living on her own.

Apparently, Carol was referring to herself as a "single parent" because she thought it helped people to understand her situation. I say it also garnered her sympathy and let her off the hook from responsibilities that she would rather avoid.

I found it amazingly offensive that this woman was passing herself off as a "single parent" just because she figured out it gave her a special status in our modern society.

My mother had the real challenge of being a genuine single parent. She raised three boys on her own and worked two jobs to make sure we would survive. She sacrificed whatever she had to give us a chance to have more than she did. She was a pioneer in that respect since she was a single parent in the days before special accommodations were made for single parents and expectations around school, sports and other activities were structured around the assumption that there were two parents at home. Honestly, I don't know how she did it.

So you can understand my dismay that the term "single parent" has been co-opted by other people who are otherwise not burdened by the real obstacles of single parenthood.

Another such violator of the term is any parent who refers to themselves as a"single parent" while their spouse is in a business trip or otherwise out of town. Really, just because your spouse is out of town, you suddenly have half the income and resources that you had last week? For these perpetrators, I offer the term "solo parent." You are picking all of the parenting duties on your own, temporarily.

However, in the case of Carol, the ugly truth is that she was hiding her own shame behind the moniker "single parent." The truth was that we have a term for her status that we all have been slowly moving away from to once again remove the perceived stigma that comes from an honest label. She is an unwed mother.

Remember that term? What was wrong with it? She is unwed and a mother. Perhaps that truth would cause her to have to possibly discuss why that was the case. Most likely not. We all know so many people having children out of wedlock that it is not even a subject we seem to care about any more.

So please, for the sake of all of those true heroes out there who are doing all of the child rearing, the homework checking, the cooking, the cleaning, the bill paying and money earning, stop using the term "single parent" unless you fit that category. My mother deserves no less.

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