I left my first husband when I was 23. Both of my daughters were under the age of three, I was granted sole custody, but not awarded child support. My ex, who wasn’t particularly involved anyway, chose to completely step out of our lives and I spent a decade as a single mom. The entire situation was hard. Make no mistake, I had the proverbial village: family, friends, co-workers, parents of schoolmates and neighbors built a wonderful support system for my girls and me. We flourished.
A young, single mom is a stereotype people don’t often overlook. Once during a parent-teacher conference, an instructor attempted to link a minor behavior issue to my marital status. My daughter was a third grader. A boss mocked the percentage of my income that went toward insurance and countless people assumed I didn’t have an education. Single parents, like married parents or people in co-parenting situations, feel an overwhelming sense of pressure to care for their children – financially, emotionally, and socially. Single parents make all the decisions, have all the responsibility and all the accountability in the household – financial, emotional, social, at least until any children are old enough to self-navigate. Single parents battle and comfort frustrated, confused, and sometimes bitter children all alone. As a single parent, I longed for a partner to help with the kids, a different perspective, a front with which to unite.
Married parenting had to be easier than single parenting, how couldn’t it be?
As life would have it, I met, fell in love with and married a wonderful man who loves my girls. We have a beautiful family that now includes my step-daughter and our newest addition, an 18-month-old adorable little boy. And guess what? Married parenting is not easier. It isn’t harder. It is absolutely different and more complicated than I imagined, than I’d hoped. We were thoughtful and careful in the way we blended our families. We negotiated the discrepancies in our parenting styles and developed a parenting plan.
When I say my husband is wonderful, I mean it. He is my truest partner in every sense. That united front I craved? I have it. Sometimes I have to fight for it though, behind closed doors, if either of us made a decision the other doesn’t appreciate. We have so many things in common; I appreciate his perspective. Except when it’s diametrically opposed to mine. I don’t have to make all the decisions anymore, but I do consider someone else’s plans, schedule and goals before deciding on a major course of action. Sometimes the whole process is a hassle. Only one of the reasons marriage is work, right? I am no longer the sole source of my now teenage daughters’ angst. I have an ally against their seismic hormonal shifts and my daughters have another safe harbor to protect them from life’s storms.
Being a married mom is hard; single parenthood was hard. Parenting in general is often the hardest thing I have ever done, regardless of marital status. I’ll take it every day of the week. Know why? Parenting is also the best thing I’ve ever done; I have never had more fun! I’m blessed to have the privilege to parent and I won’t take it for granted.
Have any of you experienced both sides of parenting? Did you feel one was one more difficult than the other? Talk about it in the comments.