Well…. How *do* you do it? (Single Parents)

Without getting into too much detail about the MeanOldFamily, my cousin is a deadbeat. She has a deadbeat boyfriend, and they do deadbeat things, none of which involve raising their two children. Instead, my aunt (deadbeat cousin’s mother) has been raising them. Said aunt is between 70 and 75 years old, and the boys are 5 and 7. Not to be morbid, but the kids are very young, the aunt is fairly old, and, well, you get the picture. Plus it just ain’t right for her to have to be wrasslin’ around with a set of rambunctious little boys.

Cut to yesterday: I’m talking to my sister on the telephone, and then she announces she is in the process of trying to adopt the two boys. She’s not married, which is apparently a problem for some folks, but would make a great adopter, I believe. She’s 30 years old, and school teacher who inherited the patience gene that apparently eluded me. I immediately had about a gazillion questions.

My first and extraordinarily broad question was, “How are you going to do this?” She said, “The same way every other single parent on earth does it.” Oh. And then, “Well how do they do it?”

Apparently, I’d never given this much thought. Then came the blizzard of questions.

How will you date? Are you done with men forever?
Are you going to buy a house?
Are they going to call you mom?
What happens to your social life?
How does one go about finding baby sitters?
Are you going to trade in your car for a station wagon?
Do they get spanked if they’re out of line?
What happens if they have a non-holiday day off from school?
How do you respond to “Where’s Daddy?” questions?

Tell me! Tell me! Tell me! I had about 10,000 logistical questions, and the whole thing still seems baffling to me even though the woman is organized and is already getting all motherly on us. She’s looking into a home in a good school district, and recently purchased a lockable liquor cabinet. I guess I’ve just been on planet Mars, and am completely clueless about how working single parents manage this.

So, what’s the routine? Drive the kids to school, then go to work? Make the kids take the bus? Take a day off from work when they’re not at school? Drop them off with the grandparents? Are these challenges significantly different for singles, considering many households now consist of two working parents?

I suppose this post is rambling and disjointed, but if anyone can figure out a way to respond to the gist of my confusion, that would be great.

I think some of the logistics, like what to do with the odd day off of school or a sudenly sick kid, are similar for households with two working parents and for single parent households. Either someone has to stay home, or some sort of back-up plan (nearby friend, relative, or person willing to spontaneously babysit) needs to be in place. Everyone I know who was raised by a single parent had grandparents nearby who were able, willing, and available to pitch in when needed.

The hardest thing about parenting IMHO (and I’m not doing it alone) is how constant it is. You are always in charge, always responsible for that person’s well being all the time. When you are asleep you are responsible. When you are exhausted and crabby and had a crappy day, you are still responsible. The kid’s needs come first. If you don’t want to cook dinner, too bad - they need to eat. If you want to go read a book for an hour, good luck. To get out the door not only do you have to get yourself ready to face the world, but the kid needs cleaned/fed/dressed.

It gets easier as they’re older and a little more independant, but the 24hr responsibility can be oppressive. That’s where having a spouse comes in handy. I can run errands in the evening without dragging the kids along. My husband can go out for a cup of coffee himself. We could take turns walking the floor with a fussy baby at night. We can trade off duties and get a break. For a single parent, those breaks are harder to come by. That’s why a good support system is so crucial.

I hope that answers your questions a little.

When I was a single mom, I just had to do everything by myself. I didn’t have any nearby relatives to pitch in, but I did have a few friends who were also single moms; we were kind of “pinch hitters” for each other. If a child was sick and I had no one to call on, well, I had to stay home. Sometimes that meant putting the sick child in the car while I took the well one to school, but … that’s life I guess.

Mine were small during the first ‘single mom’ period in my life - small enough for day care or kindergarten. I took them to day care & picked them up from day care; the school bus stopped there top pick up in the mornings and let out in the afternoons. On regular holidays the day care had them. On days the day care was closed, I stayed home with them.

Significantly different? Solfy is right about the constant “being in charge”. Every single thing about the household and the kids was my responsibility. It is extremely exhausting.

Social life - well of course you won’t be Miss Party Girl. Us single moms often swapped out babysitting nights - no paying for a babysitter, and the kids were entertained playing with each other.

I guess you just have to do it. I’m not sure one can really be prepared for it.

That depends on the parent. That parent will need babysitting to go out on dates, but presumably the Aunt who’s looking after those kids full-time now could babysit sometimes, or someone else could. It’s something you’d have to take into account when adopting. The kids are older, which makes it much easier than trying to find babysitters for, well, babies.

Having a secure home is important, but that doesn’t have to mean owning one.

That’s not really connected to her being a single parent, and it’s something they’ll all have to work out together (which might change over time).

As above - presumably the Aunt could do it. If not, friends, friends’ older teenage kids, doing sleepovers with other kids from school and then swapping back, etc. At 30, she might be at an age where several of her friends also have kids, and that makes having a social life less of a problem; you meet up at the weekend during the day, or take your kids over with you for a dinner party and they bunk up with your friend’s kids, that sort of thing.

:smiley: I presume you’re kidding. It makes me laugh when people do this in movies. There are only two kids.

Again, not much to do with being a single parent, just to do with being a parent.

You need plan Bs for when that happens, then plans B, C, D, E and as far as you can go through the alphabet. Speaking to other parents at the school helps with that. Parents in couples usually need this back-up, too, since not everyone can get out of work easily.

How about ‘where’s Mommy’ in this situation? They’re both absent. Not knowing the kids, it might be something like ‘they love you, but they’re not able to parent you in the way that they’d like to, so you get an extra Mommy in me,’ or it might be something completely different. Maybe they won’t even ask for a while, since they’re not living with their parents now.

TBH, I didn’t find it too hard being a single parent. It’s nicer now that I have adult company some evenings, and my partner’s more interested in the minutae of my daughter’s life than any friend would be, but, TBH, she doesn’t provide all that much in the way of practical support (probably partly because I got used to not needing it). Many dual-parent families I know are the same - it’s usually the Mum who stays home when the kid’s sick, for example. Not always, but more often than not.

Right. My sister mentioned if the manuer hits the fan, our retired parents are less than 20 miles away from where she lives. The less people you know who are willing to take in the littl’uns for a day, the larger the logistical problems would be for a single parent, I’d figure. Does daycare cost an arm and a leg? I used to know a daycare lady, but never asked her much about it, because I didn’t much care at the time.

I jest. She got a good chuckle out of this.

Right. Some of my questions to her were general parenting questions, and I suppose they could have been left out of the single parenting thread. I ramble.

How are “Where’s [insert parent(s)]?” questions answered in general? I suppose every person/child siutation warrants a different response. Unfortunately, I know of several people who answer this question in ways that are abusive to the deadbeat parent(s). That can’t be good.

Daycare costs an arm and a leg depending on where you live, but a five year old and a seven year old generally just need before and after school care - which is often available through the school district at reasonable prices. Summer programs are often available as “day camps” through park and rec programs and are - well, not reasonable, but not frightening scary. Better yet, if she makes friends with someone who is a SAHM and wants extra summer income…with kids compatible ages, this can really be a win win - a built in playdate ever day all summer, extra money, and reasonable day care rates.

My son is 16 now, but from 6 months to 15 I was a single Mom.

I never worked hours compatible with professional daycare centers, so I always hired caregivers willing to babysit in their homes and cart him back and forth to school. I got him up at 5:00, dressed and dropped off by 5:30 so I could be at work by 6 and he could hopefully go back to sleep on the couch, the sitter woke him back up with their kids and fed them all and got them to school and collected them after. When I worked nights, he slept overnights and I’d pick him up in the morning or the sitter would take him to school and I’d collect him after.

Even once he was older and in full-time school, I still had to pay the same $$ for what amounted to 1/10th of the effort, in order to keep someone willing to work for me. Hiring a sitter, in my experience, was renting a parent. I work in a factory that’s not flexible with sudden “Oh, my kid is sick/has an appointment/school holiday/got into trouble at school” situations, so the sitter had to be available for pretty much everything. Half-days, school breaks, sick days, discipline issues or whatever occurred had to be handled as if he were their own, and I couldn’t get a commitment like that from someone who’s pay was going to be different every week depending on their actual hours.

I was lucky that I had a decent-paying job so things like the lawnmower not starting or the faucet leaking or other typical “Dad” jobs could be hired out as needed. It also means the intangible Dad duties like potty-training a son and vanquishing bugs and teaching him to spit all fell on me, too. Just like any parent does, you do the best you can.

Some challenges just didn’t seem doable, I couldn’t get my son into any type of little league stuff for years, since regular practices and games weren’t compatible with my work schedule and there are limits to what sitters can be expected to do on a regular basis. Our local chapter of boy scouts was another disappointment, they required that a ‘male relative’ be available for a few activities (overnight camping and such) and since one wasn’t, he couldn’t join up. So he just missed out on those fairly regular aspects of childhood.

There are benefits as well, mind you. Not fighting about how to discipline the kids or arguing about money, like many coupled parents do, was something I definitely appreciated. Sure, sometimes I desperately longed for someone else to just be in charge and take over for a while, but so does every other parent.

ETA: I started out paying $125 a week in 94 and was paying $200 weekly in 07 for childcare, fwiw. I couldn’t even use it to get a break on my taxes, since the income was unreported and both the sitter(s) and I would have been screwed tax-wise if we did report it. (them on income taxes, me on whatever stuff you have to pay for household employees.)

I am living with my parents, who have their own business and so Mom can afford to leave work early in the afternoon to pick up my daughter and niece from school. It helps that my daughter is in an after-school program which allows her to wait till 4:30 or so to get picked up. Mom has also babysat for me and my sister when we wanted to go out or take the occasional (for me, “occasional” meaning “once in a blue moon”) weekend trip. I pay my mom a little cash when I get paid, some of which goes to pay for the gas she uses to pick up the girls.

I don’t know how to drive, but am learning, so I can take my daughter to Girl Scouts and swimming lessons and all the other stuff she wants to do but can’t because I have no car to take her in. And, no, I have no plans to buy a minivan. So many children have managed to grow up healthy and safe without one. Hell, my dad crammed all five of us into the back seat of a Camaro, back in the 80s before seat belt laws were enforced, mind you, and somehow no one went flying through the windshield. He finally gave in and bought a station wagon in '84 or so. Not saying it was right, just thought I’d mention it.

The good thing about her being a school teacher is most of their days off should overlap. Of course, not all single parents share this convenience. I remember summer camps as a kid. I went to a few, and one of my parents was retired, and the other was also a school teacher. I think they just wanted to get rid of me.

Aw, that’s too bad. Oh well, the Boy Scouts always got made fun of anyway. Even though they probably knew how to set you on fire using only pocket lint and an intense stare.

A definite plus.

Ah yes, life in the Datsun. Life was better when no one cared about child safety.