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I am not a single parent. (Keep reading because I did talk to single parents for this article.)
I am frankly in awe of those parents who manage to do all of the hard work that goes into parenting on their own.
It’s an amazing and difficult and wonderful thing to parent solo.
Pros and Cons of Being a Single Parent
Because I am not a single parent, I spent some time talking with two of my closest friends, Laura and Ben (names have been changed, as always).
Laura has been a single mom to her three children since the youngest was in diapers.
Now juggling three busy teens, she has experienced all of the joys and woes that come with single parenthood.
Ben is a recent divorcee whose wife left him and their children a little over a year ago.
He is new to the world of being a single dad to a teenage daughter and a six-year-old son.
They shared with me their views on the pros and cons of raising their children as single parents.
1. Pro: There is a Stronger Child-Parent Bond
Both Laura and Ben agreed that the number one pro to being a single parent is the bond that forms between parent and child.
The relationship changes in a way that is difficult to describe. While they are still parent and child, they are also a unit that must work together.
When his wife left him, Ben says that he and his children bonded together to get through the difficulties and confusion.
He worried that they would be terminally broken but discovered that they are stronger now than they were before.
Laura agrees. Her children view their family as a team with Laura as the captain.
They all work together to achieve goals, and they all realize they each have an important role to play.
2. Con: The Financial Strain is For Real
Ben and Laura also agreed that the worst part of being a single parent is financial.
“Money isn’t everything,” Laura said, “but it’s not nothing.”
Laura’s ex-husband pays child support, but the paltry amount barely covers the cost of health insurance.
She still needs to cover mortgage payments, household bills, clothing for growing kids, car maintenance, and any extras.
“I had to stop contributing to my retirement fund,” Ben added.
Despite receiving small child support payments from his ex-wife, he “breaks even” most months and is considering downgrading his home in order to have a lower mortgage.
3. Pro: No One Questions Your Decisions
One great advantage to being a single parent is that you have no one to question the decisions that you make about the care of your children.
As a mom with a very equal partner, every decision we make is made together.
My husband and I usually see eye-to-eye, but it is still a long, drawn-out process to reach even the most basic conclusion.
A single parent does not need to go through that. They get to make the small and the big decisions without having to negotiate.
4. Con: Single Parenting Can be Lonely
You may think that it would be difficult to be lonely when you are surrounded by children 24/7.
You would be wrong.
Though your children are a great comfort, they don’t replace the warmth of a partner or socialization with other adults.
Going out with friends is rarely an option. Meeting people romantically is nearly impossible.
Ben says his friends are constantly trying to set him up on dates, but finding the time and the money to go out isn’t a priority.
Laura has had more time to explore the dating scene and has found it is almost more trouble than it is worth.
“One guy will be great but doesn’t want kids, which I have. The next guy will be great but has four kids of his own, which I don’t think I can handle,” she lamented.
5. Pro: Kids Learn Independence
Ben’s teenage daughter has learned how to drive and cook since he became a single dad.
She picks up her younger brother from school, cleans up around the house, and has even started babysitting to earn some extra income.
Getting jobs was also important to Laura’s kids.
With money being tight, they found ways to cover some of their own expenses by working part-time at a fast food restaurant, lifeguarding, and mowing lawns.
Laura insists that half of their income, no matter how small, is deposited into their college funds.
The rest is theirs to use as they please. I have seen proof of this in my own life.
My husband was raised by a single mom who worked two jobs to make ends meet.
Being multiracial in an area and time not known for its tolerance made life even harder.
The work ethic he developed from a young age has carried him into a thriving adulthood.
6. Con: There is No Down Time
A single parent does not have the chance to stop and take a breath.
I am a certified yoga instructor and offered free yoga classes to my friends, who both laughed at me.
The coffee date we scheduled was the closest either of them would get to any downtime all week.
A single parent needs to wake up early to get the kids ready to start their day. They then make sure children go to school or daycare before they go to work.
The workday ends with picking the children up, making dinner, ensuring all homework is completed, and getting them ready for bed.
There are also extracurricular activities.
Laura’s children are all involved in sports, which means she is constantly in a cycle of picking up and dropping off children at their various events.
This leaves little to no room for personal time.
7. Pro: Family Becomes Even More Important
“I don’t know what I would do without my mom,” Ben sighed. His retired parents moved to be closer to him after his wife moved out.
Ben’s work requires long hours and some weekends. If his own mother wasn’t available, he might have found himself having to change careers.
That would have cut his salary, which would cause yet another set of problems.
Ben says his relationship with both of his parents has greatly improved now that he is a single dad. Laura’s father takes the kids on vacation every summer.
He also steps in to attend events when “my ex inevitably doesn’t show.”
8. Con: You Have to Be the Bad Guy
Good cop, bad cop is a common path for parents. It works well when dealing with kids who are testing limits.
In my family, when one of the parents (usually me) gets upset, the calmer parent (usually my husband) steps in.
You have no recourse like this when you’re a single mom or dad. Every punishment is fully on you.
Your children may begin to resent you when they look at you as the sole disciplinarian in their lives.
9. Pro: You Can Hog All the Love
You may have to dish out all of the punishments, but you also get to collect all of the love.
Every cuddle belongs to you and you alone.
You are the person your child goes to with their nightmares, their excitement, their confusion, and their celebrations.
As a single parent, you are the most important person in their lives.
10. Con: Your Career Might Suffer
It is hard having a career as a parent. It is twice as hard as a single parent. Laura was a stay-at-home mom before her divorce.
Luckily, she has a degree that allowed her to find a job with relative ease.
However, she hasn’t been able to advance over the course of the last 13 years because she can’t work extra hours or take on additional responsibilities.
Ben was in the midst of negotiating a major promotion when his marriage fell apart.
It would have required travel two weeks out of each month. That goal he had set for himself is no longer a possibility.
“It’s okay, though,” he said. “My kids mean more to me than that promotion ever could have.”
No one has ever said being a single parent would be easy. However, it’s certainly not all bad. The pros are amazing, and the cons can be managed.
Do you have experience as a single parent? We would love to hear your stories in our comments!