Surprise! I'm a single parent


just what is a single parent?
April 7, 2008, 2:44 am
Filed under: politics

The term single parent family kinda sounds like a family where the kids only have one parent. But – in my kids case they definitely have two and maybe three. For a start there’s me – and then there’s my Mum.

I think ‘parenting’ is the thing you do when you have an ongoing interest in a child’s well-being and development. It’s nurturing in the now and for the future. My Mum and I both do this.   

My Mum is unbelievable. She’s not only a great parent to my kids but she’s also an unwavering support to me. On Thursdays she picks up my kids from school and takes them to drama lessons, then she feeds them and gets them showered and has them overnight. On Friday she takes them to swimming. In this way I manage to work two long days in the week and can work shorter days the rest of the time to be there after school for them.

Mum thinks about what the kids are learning – like how to lose a game of chess and still enjoy it, like how to share, and how to shampoo your hair in the shower. Mum suggests vitamins to ward off colds. She bakes for lunch boxes, she springs for ballet costumes.

I’ve been really slow to grow up but one thing I have realised is that I’m very seldom a unique case. I’m know I’m a lucky single parent but I expect some other single-parent family kids have non-residential parents like mine do.

My kids also spend regular time with their Dad. I wouldn’t exactly call him a parent – not by the definition I’ve coming up with above, but there is no doubt he cares about the kids and to a kid having someone around who says he loves them is often just as good as a real parent – as long as there is an actual parent around too. We are planning to transition to shared parenting (meaning equal time) and I think this will mean he will become more of a parent.

The term single parent often evokes sympathy from people. I have found this a little ironic. The sympathy part is because they assume you are slogging it out on your own. Managing on your own. Doing all the grown up jobs. My experience is that when I was in a relationship I was doing far more slogging and managing on my own. Then, people assumed I had help. Fair call. I used to go down to our local play park on Saturday or Sunday mornings and be the lone mum there is a sea of Dads. Maybe half of them were having weekend access but the other half, I was pretty sure, were giving Mummy a lie in.

Hmm another part of the definition of a parent is someone who helps the other parent.

Then another thing people think about when they think ‘single parent’ is that you are , well, single. While that’s true right now I have been thinking that if it were not true in the future it still wouldn’t necessarily mean an additional parent in the mix. I kind of know about this in advance because I am a wicked stepmother to my 19 year old step son. I know it’s a relationship you don’t get of right and that even if there is some sort of agreement between the potential parenter and parented there is not necessarily any recognition of this from their existing parents. So: it’s complicated, complex and convoluted.

I will let you know how it works out.




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  1.    Kim Palmer 04.09.08 @ 7:33 am      

    If I may ask… when you say:

    “My kids also spend regular time with their Dad. I wouldn’t exactly call him a parent – not by the definition I’ve coming up with above, but there is no doubt he cares about the kids and to a kid having someone around who says he loves them is often just as good as a real parent – as long as there is an actual parent around too.”

    Is it that your ex was limited to some form of standard ‘visitation’ by you and/or the court system when you divorced or split up? If so, was it his choice to only spend ‘some time’ with his children? Or did he want substantially more time? You say you are transitioning to shared parenting, I commend you. Is shared parenting something that your ex had to take to court to get awarded or is it something the both of you agreed upon without a court battle? Your definition of a parent, although sweet and cuddly doesn’t allows a chance for the non-custodial parent to fulfill your definition of a parent. Is it your choice alone that your Mum is the second parent or has your ex also agreed that he would rather your Mum do all that she does instead of allowing him to do so?

    I have a nephew whose father unfortunately wants nothing to do with him and hasn’t since he was quite young even at the behest of my sister. So I know from experience that saying “and to a kid having someone around who says he loves them is often just as good as a real parent” is misguided. My nephew cries and mourns for his father. My sister has me and our Mum to help be pseudo-parents for my nephew but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, all children need their fathers. No matter how loving we all are no matter how good intentioned, we cannot replace his lost parent.

    I also have to disagree with your added definition of a parent being someone to help the other parent. A parent is someone who raises up children. A spouse is someone who helps the other spouse raise up their children together.

    I also have intimate experience on the other side of the fence where it comes to shared parenting. My significant other wants nothing more than to be with his sons. His ex-wife is so embittered that she thwarts he every request for extra time. How is it that one parent after a divorce automatically becomes a visitor to his/her children? How is it that the non-custodial parent becomes nothing more than a source of money? Don’t misunderstand; both parents have the responsibility to support their children. But when society has taken one parent out of their children’s lives and turned them into a support check brandishing visitor something is very wrong. Non-custodial parents also have their rights taken away as to how to raise their children. They have no say in schooling, religion, medical care, baseball or soccer practice, music lessons and on and on.

    It’s time the world wakes up to and changes what popular cultural has done to the family nucleus. Children need both parents. Family law courts cannot help the situation as they are adversarial in nature. Someone has to win and someone has to lose. And it is always the children who lose.

    I thank you for your views.

    Respectfully,
    Kim Palmer



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