Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are off the calendar for another year. I can now safely stop worrying about letting teachers know my son doesn’t have a dad, should there be any Father’s Day crafts.
Every year on Father’s Day, as a solo mom, I received messages from friends and family commending me for wearing both metaphorical parenting hats. I appreciate the acknowledgment for running a household and raising a child solely on my own, both physically and financially. Still, I want to say that having two parents isn’t always best for a child. I may get some backlash for saying that, but I can see that children suffer when a parent is in and out of their life. Fathering a child doesn’t make you a good dad, let alone a good person. Giving birth to a baby doesn’t make you an outstanding mother. It’s what comes after. It’s what comes for the rest of the child’s life.
I’m proud I chose to raise my son on my own. I knew it wouldn’t be healthy to try to make a man who didn’t want to be a dad again, be a part of a child’s life. On top of substance abuse issues, and not being financially sound, the main factor was I didn’t want to force anyone to be a in my son’s life who didn’t want to be. I knew it wouldn’t be fair for my son and only saw a lifetime of disappointment, empty promises, extended absences, and arguing over schedules or finances.
I’ve seen it happen far too many times; an innocent child ends up being a prop. They may be used to manipulate another parent, argued over in divorce court, or used as a photo opportunity to set a stage for “instaperfect parents.” Heck, I’ve even seen some people use their children to flirt (creepy). In my opinion, it’s simply selfish. The child ends up absorbing much of the stress, leading to low self-confidence and mental health issues down the road.
When I was in my early 30’s raising my son alone, I often heard, “Your son needs a dad! He needs a male role model. He needs some siblings. You need a partner to help take off the stress!” For a while, I believed this, and I thought I needed to find a partner to help me raise my young son and help me with child care. But, I started to realize after dating less than stellar applicants, this wasn’t what was best for my son. My son didn’t need a stand-in dad. He didn’t need a mom looking for someone to fill this so-called void, and he didn’t need his mom to stress over relationships that weren’t supportive.
As I neared 40, I thought, “Fuck this shit.” I can do this better without anyone. Sure, I’ve not been perfect, sure we live in a small apartment, sure I have to be the one to talk to my son about dating, but what I have provided for him is a strong role model and safe home environment. I’ve been a stable presence in his life since birth. I’ve been there for him. I’ve provided for him on my own, even without family living in the state, I’ve done it alone, and my son is a funny, compassionate, and confident kid because of it.
I knew it was more important for my son to have one parent to always depend on. There is no drama about handing him off to a dad who may not want to be in his life; no one is jerking my son around because they are angry they have to pay child support. But there is a mom, who fights depression, who goes to work, who makes Halloween costumes, who takes him on trips, who plays catch, who does all the drop-offs and pick-ups, who wakes up every day for him, and he knows that, without a doubt.
Sometimes, people focus too much on kids needing two parents. I get this is usually the case. Yes! My high-needs son could have used two parents. I know I could have used the help, but that “help” would have only made things more confusing and more complicated for my son.
Alcoholics, addicts, and narcissists do not make for good parents or partners. They carry out damaging behavior patterns for innocent children, who in turn wind up traumatized and carry that with them, manifesting into all sorts of things that appear down the road, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other ways of acting out.
Can we stop pushing unwilling, unfit, or uninterested parents on children? They didn’t ask for that. Children want to be genuinely loved. What’s better for a child? Having one parent giving it their all and being a sound, reliable force of love and structure in a child’s life, or one parent giving it their all and another parent skulking around the background being confusing, or even two parents, each offering the child a quarter of what they can?
Raising a child alone is NOT EASY. It’s hard for single parents, and it is brutal for solo parents because they are all on their own. There is no one to tag in for a break on the weekends or every other holiday, and we don’t receive a check for a few hundred dollars a month. We. Do. It. All.
Stop and consider that if a mother or father is raising a child independently, it might be the best for the child. They could be protecting their children or themselves from mental, emotional, or physical abuse and emotional turmoil and stress. Far too often, I see children set up as props on a production stage that isn’t at all what it seems behind the scenes. I feel for these children.
Check in on your friends and family members who are single parents or are doing it all alone. Please find out how to be supportive before suggesting they find a partner or make it work with the biological parent, because that isn’t always best. Security, stability, genuine love and interest in the child are.