This has bothered me for 2 years, so I'm just going to get right to it.
I periodically stumble across a status here or there on Facebook during my late-night mindless scrolling that says something along the lines of, "Well, hubby is away for 2 weeks, and I'm home alone with the kids. Time to be a single mom," or, "After my afternoon trip to the mall alone with the kids, I don't know how single moms do it."
I can't begin to tell you how deeply offensive this is.
Even if it's followed by a "kudos," it's not a compliment. It stings even worse, actually, because it proves that you don't see us. If you did, you'd never say that.
Being a single parent is not something you choose. It's not something you can turn on and off. It's not something you set out to be. It is thrust upon you, either by person or by circumstance. If you love your child, you'll do it. That's "how we do it." We have to. There is no other option.
It is not a life I would ever wish on anyone. I love my daughter more than life itself, but being a single mom is the hardest job I will ever have. I am physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially stretched 100% of the time. I truly worry that I will die of a heart attack before I'm 40 from stress. I honestly worry about this. I am exhausted day in and day out. I dream of naps I will never, ever get to take. I dream of an empty sink and clean carpets and plenty of washed and folded clothes to choose from on any given day. I dream of a shower.
[Fun fact: I probably only shower 4 times a week at the most. Why? I need sleep more than I need a full shower. I opt for a soap-and-water washcloth wipe all the other times.]
While your little "single mom" charade is temporary, mine is not. Where you have a light at the end of the tunnel (husband, fiance, boyfriend), I have nothing but endless days of sole-responsibility monotony with my highest expectation being that of merely keeping my head above water.
While you may bicker with your significant other about child-rearing, I have to pay a lawyer thousands of dollars several times a year in order to have assistance having a civil, productive conversation with my daughter's father in a courtroom.
While you get to pick and choose when you get solo time away from your kids, I only get it as it is thrust upon me by court-mandated visitation. This is not time I spend in blissful solitude; this is time I split equally between worrying about/missing my daughter and engaging in morning-to-night activities to try to distract myself from such loneliness.
While you get breaks from certain tasks (chores, errands, being "on" as a parent, etc.), know that I never do. Even if my child is away, I'm the only other one who lives here, and I have to do every bit of it.
While you get a literal pair of arms to sink into on tough days, I get only beautiful toddler arms--they are my favorite arms, but these are hugs in which I have to be the strong, sturdy, consoling one. I don't ever get to fall apart.
When you get to unwind sitting next to another human body each evening, I sit silently by myself and marvel at how I've simply made it through another day.
It's not glamorous. At all. I'm a joyful person who seeks out happiness and adventure, despite (and in spite of) this single mom role, and I find it and share it--that's what you see. That's what I get complimented on, and I can't thank you enough for that.
But you don't walk in my shoes on the days when everything around me seems to be an obstacle in my path. The days when I trudge through mud all day long only to go to sleep and do the same thing all day the next day. When I'm one straw away from feeling like I have reached my final limit, and I may actually self-combust from enduring so much stress.
So when someone jokes about being a single mom, yes, I take offense. And, no, I'm not overreacting.
I'm not in the slightest trying to say that I deserve congratulations for parenting all by myself or that I'm better than any other type of mom for it. In fact, I'd argue that I'm a worse mom. My daughter gets the butt end of my lack of patience every single evening when we're both exhausted and fumbling through our bedtime routine. She misses out on a lot of great experiences because we can't afford to do them with our extremely limited household budget. When we're bickering, she can't just go to the other parent for comfort. We're all we've got, and it's not just me doing all the struggling on rough days.
This is not about comparison. This is simply about understanding. If you're lucky enough to be parenting your kids with a partner, I just want you to understand that, no, you don't actually know what this is like. You don't feel what I feel. You couldn't. And I truly hope that you never have to.
But the next time you're about to vent about not knowing how a single parent does it because of your very small glimpse into what it's like to have to do everything all by yourself with no end in sight, I hope that you'll keep that thought to yourself and post something else on Facebook instead.