Wednesday, January 28, 2009

single vs sole

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the labels that are created to define each of us within this society. Since Jeff's death, one of the labels that has been thrust upon me is that of 'single mother'. While I understand the reasoning behind this title, I don't feel that I properly fit this definition.

I don't feel single. I still love my husband and if he were alive, we would definitely be together. My status as a singleton parent was not my choice whatsoever. Neither of us chose to desert the other. Neither of us would have left the other's side if we could have helped it.

Often as a single parent (although I realize that this is not always the case), the children still have the benefit of contact with both their parents. The children still have two parents who love them, watch soccer games, rejoice in their accomplishments and hopefully, accept and support their difficulties and learning experiences. My children have me. Only me. Yes, they have grandparents and friends, but I, maybe mistakenly, feel that it is different than the truly unconditional love of a parent.

The single parent usually has a break every so often when they send their children to the other parent and they know that there children are with someone who loves them and has a vested interest in their survival. Again, I know that not all single parents feel safe sending their children to their ex and are quite justified in this feeling. If I need a break, I feel the need to carry it as long as I can before I am unable to hold on any longer. Then I must ask someone who has no obligations to my children or to me. I feel guilty as this imposition that I am thrusting upon others. I feel guilt for needing time away from my children when all they have is me.

Many times, there is anamosity between divorced parents. There is anger. Hurt. Sadness. Fear. As the child of divorced parents, I feel that I get this somewhat. But (please correct me if you feel that I am wrong here) I feel that at one point you loved this person, you cared for and wanted to be around this person. Most of the time, you didn't wish for their death. Now that you have chosen to seperate your life from theirs, and possibly you 'hate' them, you still know they are there. Breathing. Living. Their 'being' may irk you, but once you loved them, they loved you and they love your children. It may not seem like it, (and you may hate me for saying this) but the ability to share the world with them and still hate them is a luxury. You may have gone through hell with them or because of them, but you created children with them. Your children are here because of them. You have learned so very much because of your experiences with them. You are, hopefully, a better person because of this learning.

I hate that Jeff is gone. I am bereft and lonely. I am angry. I am terrified. But I am learning. I am picking one foot up and walking. I am a better person. I am more empathetic. More caring. More understanding. But I am alone. I am not trying to imply that one is harder than the other. I am merely saying that they are different and I don't feel that I fit the mold properly. Maybe I just need time to get used to this title. I don't know.

I am completely alone as a parent. I am a sole parent. I can't hate Jeff. I can't express my love to him. I can't ask for his help. I can't ask him how he feels about certain issues involving the kids. I can remember what we thought was right for our family before and follow this path. But things have changed and I have to sometimes make a new path and carry the kids along alone hoping that what I am doing is right for us now. It's scary and, fuck, I wish he was here even if we weren't together. So the kids could have the support and love of their other parent and I could know that someone else out their cared about their lives and would speak up if they could think of some thing that might make their lives easier or better....and actually know these little people as well as I do.

So instead of a single parent, I am declaring a new title. Sole parent.

P.S. I realize that I have over simplified many of the issues involving divorce in order to make my case for a new title. I apologize to any of you that feel offended or slighted by my definitions or assumptions. I absolutely meant no harm and I am so very sure that divorce is a truly hard and difficult road. I can imagine the fear, also, of sending your children to the home of a parent that does not share you feelings or ideologies and having this imposed upon your children. It must be terrifying to send your little ones to the home of an ex who is violent or bitter. I am blessed that I have not have to experience this as a parent. And I feel terrible for those of you who have.


Queen Mimi said...

I think the title of "Sole" parent is awesome. I havn't stopped by in awhile, but do check in on you ever so often. You are in my thoughts and prayers so often. I want you to know that I think you are more than a sole are a "Soul" parent. From what I read are AMAZING! God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jackie,

I believe that in Britain they use the term "lone parent" instead of "single parent." This seems to capture your feelings more accurately.

As a divorced parent, I take no offense at anything you've said and in fact, I agree with all of it. I was devastated by my husband's decision to leave the family, but I could still talk to him about the many problems that came up as I raised my children. That to me is the most important thing -- to have someone who cares as much as you do about your kids to bounce ideas off of. Your situation is so much harder because you can't do that.


Anonymous said...

I've never lost a spouse or gone through a divorce, but on some level, because of what I've learned through your honesty...I feel that I can understand the journey that a 'sole' parent is forced travel.

Thank you for this, Jackie.


Single Parent Dad said...

In Britain they do indeed use lone, but single is more popular. I wrote a post sometime ago, on a similar subject I used to get all tied up in labels, and being grouped with certain groups, but non of it really matters.

Labels are daft, you are who you are, and your circumstance, or how people use to term your new status quo isn't defining.

Go with whatever you are comfortable with and I think your choice of sole, probably covers it closest in one word.

Take care.

hippymummy said...

As anonymous said, over here we are lone parents. I CAN understand that you'd feel different to me because your circumstances are different to mine. You loved your husband and he loved you back, and then some. I can try to imagine how you're feeling, I've lost a son not a partner so I do know bereavement, the void that lives in your chest where your heart used to be. I don't think anyone could be offended by what you say as they can only try to imagine how you feel.
Sometimes we lone parents DO feel exactly that, alone. When dad doesn't turn up, again, leaving a tearful 2yr old stood waiting by the window in her coat so she can "see when daddy is coming" and you know in your heart that he's going to let her down, again, which means you'll have to deal with the fallout from this one too, again, or when he doesn't help out financially when he said he would, again, he manages to go out partying with his mates but can't afford to buy shoes for his child. I do think, for my kids sake at the very least, that having to explain that daddy's gone to heaven and is never coming back must be harder to say than daddy's moved out because..... . then you can say that daddy still loves you AND daddy can tell them that too.You, sadly,don't have that luxury. Despite all this I know your kids'll be fine because your strength is amazing, your kids WILL be ok, because with a Mammy like you to help, support and love them (plus also keeping the memory of daddy alive for them) how could they be anything else. You are a wonderful Mam and that is what those kids'll know as they grow up.Have faith in yourself Jackie, nobody could be a better parent to those kids than the one they have, you xXx

Poppy and Mei said...


Bonnie said...

I think the term "single mother" probably came about originally to declare marital status more than anything. "She's so-and-so's mother but she's single", meaning "available". It's such a misleading parenting label because, as you said, a single parent isn't necessarily parenting singly. Is "singly" even a word? I am pretty sure you are not considering yourself Available, so I can't imagine what it must be like to be referred to as Single. Yet another pile of crap you have to wade through in this path your on. I think Sole Parent is much more fitting as well.

And I'm so sorry you let yourself get to the point of near exhaustion before you let yourself ask for help. That is such a hard place to be. We all need a break, but especially sole parents like yourself. I wish I lived closer so I could lend a hand!

Take care,

leigh in the sav said...

i'm not a parent, and not even yet married, but i do think you made this difference clear. it's true and - for me, anyway - easy to see.

but, i don't pretend to think that one is easier than the other, either - because they are just different. i am sure that both circumstances suck, actually.

you - while still in the thick of your own grief - are doing an amazing job of loving your children enough for both of you. and you're also doing an amazing job keeping jeff's memory alive for them!

Anonymous said...

you write so well about thinks that are so emotionally charged. I know if I was writing it would be strand after strand of run on sentences and no one but me would be able to make sense of it. You are able to express your views and have others understand them. I live that you are pioneering the term "solo parent"


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post, I needed to know other parents who have lost a spouse feel the same way. I have decided I am going to use the term "Only parent". You are right there is no other parent to turn to I am the only parent in the situation at all times leading me to feel that I need to explain my self to other people.