A lot of people are raising kids alone. Here is something easy we can all do to help ease their burden.
Parenting can be isolating. You wouldn’t think so, because by definition parenthood involves two people. As a father I often spend hours on end talking with toddlers about unicorns and playing games in which we repeatedly hand blocks to each other and then clap. It’s wonderful, but occasionally I feel a real need for an actual adult conversation. That’s when I reach out to a friend to meet for a cup of coffee. I have that luxury because my wife and I are a team and we can give each other parenting breaks.
At the park, I observe parents standing next to each other, pushing children on swings, but the parents don’t know each other and don’t interact. Later, their kids all run over to the playground together. The kids have just met but they’e already great friends, and meanwhile their parents retreat to various benches to look at their phones. I don’t tend to face this awkward scenario often because we go to the park as a family so while the kids play I talk to my wife.
In all of this, I wonder about the parents who are going it alone, especially single parents. How easy it must be for them to feel isolated.
While researching ways to support single parents, I found a lot of advice. I tried to formulate some thoughts that would be genuinely helpful and kept coming back to those invaluable ways in which my wife is there for me as a source of real, human connection, how we support each other, share our lives together, and keep each other from becoming isolated by parenting duties. Sometimes this is as simple as a glance of happiness at each other while watching one of our children play with blocks, other times it’s the ability to decompress together after putting the kids to bed. Single parents lack this connection, and so their life runs the risk of becoming very lonely.
This is why, when trying to work out ways to support a single parent, I keep coming back to the fact that they don’t need things – like all of us, they need human connection. Single parents need someone to tell them it will be alright after a hard day or go with them to the park with the kids so they have someone to talk to while pushing the toddler on a swing. That said, here are three simple ways we can support single parents…
There are days when, as a parent, I question everything I’ve ever said or done with my kids. I feel like I’m failing them, or have been too hard on them. On days like these, I always receive emotional support from my wife. A single parent can really use this support, too, which is as simple as providing a listening ear and assuring them they’re almost certainly a really great parent.
Occasionally, I get it through my thick skull that I don’t know everything and could use some advice. My wife almost always has the best advice because she knows me and knows our kids. Parenting is full of situations in which prudential judgment is needed — a type of decision-making very specific to a situation and only comes with practice. This means that parents are often desperate for advice. I wouldn’t go around forcing single parents to listen to your advice, but when they ask, it’s a real gift to take the problem seriously and provide a safe space to talk.
Invitations to family events
If single parents feel isolated, what better way to help than to invite their family to join in some of your family events? Some of my fondest moments as a parent involve watching my children play with their cousins while the adults sit around and talk. It’s a gift to provide that to a single-parent family that lacks a larger family structure.
Parenting is a whole-life effort. It takes all that we have, and every parent I know pours their whole selves into loving their children. It’s a beautiful experience, but it’s so demanding. As parents — single or married — let’s stick together, because no one should ever have to go this challenging journey alone.