No one ever said parenting was easy — especially single parenting. I recently asked the BuzzFeed Community to share what is both easier and harder when parenting solo, and the responses were incredibly eye-opening. Here are some of them.
1. "I have been a single parent of three for 12 years. The hardest part is the guilt I feel every day for working as hard as I can to just be able to keep a roof over our heads and afford basics. The number of times I wish I could win the lottery just so I could spend time with my children, take them out, have fun, treat them to a holiday, or have fun family time. I miss them when I am working and feel guilty for being exhausted when I am with them. I love them with all my heart and feel like I have missed most of their childhoods so that I can put food on the table and clothes on their backs."
2. "I have a 9-year-old son, and I've had sole custody of him with little to no contact from his dad for seven years. One of the hardest parts of our situation is I feel like no one really loves him as much as I do. I have so many pictures and stories of him I want to share, and sure my family and friends are great, but they don't REALLY care the way another parent would. When I buy school pictures, there are always so many leftovers, even when I choose the smallest package."
—Chelsey, 35, FL
3. "Having no one to share in the burden but even worse no one to share in the joyful moments either. Everyone always says, 'Well, you have your kids,' but unless you’re the type to enmesh yourself with your kids it’s not even remotely the same."
4. "Everything about being a single parent is hard. I have to solely provide meals, clothes, shelter, and entertainment. I am responsible for doctor's appointments, parent-teacher conferences, and everything in between. I am the only constant and the only example of what adults are supposed to be. Bad days or good, they are looking at my reactions to every single situation. That is all a lot. However, I would rather have all of that stress than them leave me every weekend. It's hard, but knowing they are safe and not exposed to the things happening in their other parents' life is all that gets me through."
5. "My daughter doesn’t know her dad. Some of the pros of single parenting include: what you say goes, avoiding disagreements when parents are not presenting a united front, and having a close bond."
"Some of the cons include: when they’re young, and feeling guilty when you’re apart from them. Finances can be tight. Your child doesn’t get to see what a relationship is like ‘from the inside,' meaning that they can't understand that there are disagreements between couples but also seeing how they are worked out. People talk about you with no knowledge of your circumstances. I can’t believe we’re STILL judging single parents."
6. "Money (or lack of) is the hardest part about being a single parent. I work a 9 to 5 job and I have four degrees, but I can’t afford to live on my own. If I moved out of my parent's house I wouldn’t be able to afford rent, food, childcare, and all the other bits that go along with it. I know it’s a matter of time before I progress, but sometimes I feel like such a failure. All the love I get from my little person makes up for the stress. We’ll get through it together."
7. "Pros: I never had to make space emotionally or physically for the other parent, or their family, which was always the plan (to be a single parent). I was able to successfully break the parenting cycle I grew up with and raised a good person. Cons: Being broke, never getting the aforementioned physical or emotional break from the child. Overcompensating with some stuff only to neglect others."
8. "I raised my son as a single mom for the first four years of his life. What's easier about single parenting? I don't have to take anyone else's opinions into consideration when it comes to my kid. It was much easier to figure out meals since I could just cook for my son and eat whatever. I didn't worry about balancing relationships because it was just the two of us."
9. "I've been a single parent for most of my adult life. My kids now range in age from 20 to 14, so I'm on the home stretch. I think the hardest part is that no matter what, I am the only person on the planet who is solely responsible for my kids. My ex-husband pays the court-ordered amount of child support that is deducted from his wages (not by choice), but he has completely checked out of any other parental responsibility. He remarried and has a whole new family. He doesn't even send our kids a happy birthday text message, even though our youngest always sends one to him. I try to be a good enough parent to my kids so that they hopefully don't feel like they're missing out on too much, but that's got to hurt their feelings. What this means for me is that anytime I want a little reprieve, I have to ask for favors."
"I have a wonderful, supportive network of family and friends who will gladly watch my kids when I go out of town for work or go on a date, but that always involves asking someone to do something for me. I am the only person whose responsibility they are, and if I want a break, I have to ask someone else to be responsible for them.
Anytime I'm away, it's always on my mind so I don't completely get a real break, and I always feel unbelievably guilty for wanting to spend any amount of time away from them. I'm very envious of my friends who are also single parents but have an active and involved co-parent. All parenting is a 24/7 job, but at least some people get a coworker for the job. I'm on my own 100% of the time."
—Melissa, 38, Oregon
10. "My daughter is disabled, and her dad left when I got pregnant, so he's never been a part of her life. I can't just take my child to daycare or drop her at preschool because of her disabilities. She has a lot of doctor appointments and therapy appointments. Her therapy requires that I work with her for hours daily at home. It has been impossible to be anything but her mom. I'm awake most days for 20-plus hours, and I still can't make ends meet. There is zero assistance for me in my state that would relieve any of these issues for me. I'm on a five-year waiting list just for housing assistance."
11. "Easier is being the only one making decisions. Harder is literally everything else. Parenting was not made for one person to do alone, and most days I don’t know how I’m making it."
12. "It is so easy to lose your identity as a single parent. Especially if you have no family to help you out. It is hard to find yourself when you have no time to yourself."
13. "I was a single parent not by choice. It was incredibly difficult to be both mom and dad and also to work full time plus a second job to pay for her private education. I was tired all the time but still wanted to be a good parent and a fun parent. I would go two or three days without sleep, but my child was thriving and happy. I don't recommend single parenting unless you have the money to hire help; otherwise, it is just way too much work. You can't be everything at work, everything at home, and everything as a parent. It just doesn't work out that way."
14. "The hardest part is that every single problem is yours to solve. It's never someone else's turn. No other adults to bounce ideas off of. It's the mental burden."
—Caroline, 39, NC
15. "I'm a single mum that works full time, studying for my master's. My daughter's dad has never even met her. I find a lot of things overwhelming. The top ones for me are having 100% responsibility, including finances, constantly planning when you can go somewhere around their schedule, missing out on events, and not being able to nip anywhere after 8 p.m. as it’s bedtime. Being ill and wanting to go to bed when you know you can’t is also a killer."
16. "I took my children out of an abusive household and now have full custody of them (their father is in jail and has a no-contact order). Parenting them is exponentially easier without my ex-husband. We have more freedom and peace, and I am better able to focus on my daughters because my world no longer revolves around trying to predict and accommodate my ex-husband’s volatile moods."
"I’ve accomplished more as a single parent than I ever did when I was married because now I have a support system and self-autonomy. I would never want my ex back in our lives, but I do miss having someone to share parenting moments with. It’s lonely to get to the end of the day and have no one there.
I have great kids, a great family, and great friends — but none of them is the same as having a partner (granted, my ex wasn’t, either. But like all abusive relationships, his behavior had cycles, and there were times when it felt like a partnership, even though it definitely wasn’t)."
17. "Parenting solo was the most difficult thing I've done. I'm a solo parent with five kids. They are all adults now. I was going to school at the time of my divorce and knew to expect $0 in child support. (He was a truck driver and could work under the table.) My kids and I (ages 3–15 at the time of the divorce) sat down and decided to make this work. I dealt with 3 a.m. calls from the police and runaways. On the plus side, we would do homework together and have movie nights. I worked three jobs and got all the financial aid I could. I loved my kids so much, and two other families in our neighborhood helped me with dropping off/picking up kids and other types of support. The fact that my children were involved in what our family was, made them very close."
18. "I honestly enjoy being a single parent compared to what it was like being with my child's father. Being able to afford beyond basic needs with one income is a lot harder than I thought. I would love to spoil my child. Also, trusting other people with my child is very hard since I do everything alone; I don't like help or trust my child with others easily. It is easier to parent since it is just me and no input from another person."
19. "I was a single parent of three. The hard parts included getting a break for yourself and swallowing your pride to ask for help. As a woman/mom I would have thought other moms would be sympathetic and understanding, but it was quite the opposite. It was 'Well, I was able to do it, so why can’t you?'”
20. "One of the upsides was getting to name my son whatever I wanted. The downside is no one wants to raise or help raise someone else's child, so dating is rough."
—Jessica, 42, Louisiana
21. "My ex and I broke up when our kid was 1 (now 14). The kid sees him about every other month for 24 hours and over holidays. The best thing is definitely how close we are and that I've been able to set rules and expectations that work for us. The worst thing is hands down taking on the full load. I don't get a day off (even when they are with their dad) with making sure there are clothes, food, and just general day-to-day things. There is also guilt because I've felt at times I've neglected the kid to make sure I can sleep and let them watch TV or be online longer than their friends. I work overnights as a nurse, so it's been one of those things I just have had to accept."
"For the record, my parents had pitched in with watching while I was at work, and helping a little bit here and there, but at the end of the day the responsibility still fell on me."
—Kate, 40, Illinois
22. "Being a solo parent means not having to worry about feeding other people, waiting in line for a shower, setting alarm clocks for multiple times, and not having to expend the energy to maintain an adult relationship. My daughter's father opted out when we found out I was pregnant. She's 11 now. The hardest parts? Not being able to walk away when they've been crying for three days straight."
"Taking them with you when you need to shower or use the bathroom when they're little. Having to stay home when they're sick (I didn't mind the actual act, but it certainly takes a toll on your professional reputation). It's hard when you can tell that they don't feel heard or seen by you.
We were very poor when she was young. I couldn't afford pads or tampons, so I would cut up diapers into pieces and got by that way. It's definitely been really tough at times, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I would do it all over again for her — she's so worth every bit of it."
—Kater, 40, Pennsylvania
23. "I've been a solo mom since day one. I've had to do literally everything on my own. I don't have a family to help. For me, it's sacrificing my sleep to keep a clean house, cook dinner, feed, have bath time, clean up, and pay bills all with a full-time job. Try being a solo parent in Canada with one income. I get taxed more as a solo than a two-parent family, all on one paycheck from my full-time job. Also, knowing someone else is basically raising my kid in childcare/school. BUT the kiddo and I have such great times together. We have battles, but the good out weight the s****y times."
24. "It’s far less stressful in my opinion. I get to concentrate on my girls and myself than worry about an extra person. How does everything need to fit around their schedule as well as my own? Are they available for the Thursday school pickup? Can they do Monday school drop-off? Can they make dinner on Wednesday? For a family holiday, is the other parent able to get that week off as well? I don’t have to worry about any of that! It goes on what I can do, and I only have my work schedule to work around or change. None of this 'But dad said I could have this.' I'm more in control of the household expenses because it’s just me making the decisions. I was married for 10 years, and honestly, after the initial financial income panic, once I got with the flow of that I honestly have found myself far more relaxed as a parent and as a person."
If you are a single parent with a story to share, feel free to do so in the comments below.
Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.