Mark and Gina have been dating for four years. It was no surprise to family and friends when Mark finally popped the question and proposed to Gina. It was also no shocker when Gina became pregnant with Mark’s child during the newlywed stage. If ever there was a fairytale love story, Mark and Gina’s love story was it.
Life was great for Gina. She enjoyed the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom while Mark excelled in his career.
… But Gina had a childhood friend named Kisha whose life was not so fairy tale. Kisha was genuinely a good person with a heart of gold. Kisha was always the “teacher’s pet” in class and never made less than the A honor roll. Unlike Gina, Kisha grew up in a single parent household. Kisha loved and resented her single mother at the same time. You see, Kisha understood that her mom worked day and night to provide for her on her own. Yet Kisha resented the fact that her mom was not present at her awards ceremonies, sporting events, and other events that meant a lot to Kisha. Her mom’s response was always, “I have to work.” It’s not that Kisha’s mom didn’t love Kisha, but she lived paycheck to paycheck and hustled hard to make “a dollar out of 15 cents”. You know how that goes…
Kisha yearned for love. When Johnny from the block started paying her some attention it felt kind of nice. Sure Johnny was rough around the edges, but she took the time to get to know Johnny. This shocked Johnny because he was used to superficial girls that just wanted him for his money. They didn’t care about getting to know what his goals in life were like Kisha did. Even though Johnny was a high school student, Johnny probably had more money than the combined salary of your average, middle-class couple. Johnny didn’t have loving parents and therefore turned to the streets to raise him. His gang was his only family-like support group and they taught him all about fast money. In doing so, Johnny quickly ranked to the top selling drug dealer in the city.
Kisha just knew Johnny would never pay her any attention. She didn’t have “the hips”, the long hair weave, or nearly as much style as “Johnny’s girls.” (what they were often referred to) She was just plain, nerdy, natural-haired Kisha. Johnny shocked her when he asked for her number. Deep down, Johnny knew that Kisha was what he needed. Time progressed and the two eventually became high school sweethearts. Now, Johnny still did his dirt with other girls on the side but he never let Kisha know about his affairs. He also never let any of his side pieces bad mouth Kisha behind her back. The side pieces knew Kisha was Johnny’s main lady but they didn’t care as long as they got what they wanted. In Johnny’s convoluted mind, he was going to cut all the side pieces off one day but he just wasn’t ready yet. Johnny became Kisha’s “first”. Kisha and Johnny’s fiery passion and carefree lifestyle soon turned them into unexpected, high school parents. Johnny knew he loved Kisha but was he wasn’t ready to be monogamous nor was he ready to be a father.
So you’re probably thinking Kisha should have used her brain and married a good man like Gina did. She CHOSE her baby’s father and knew that he wasn’t any good from the beginning, right? She can’t complain about being a single mother because there were so many red flags, right? Kisha should just grow up and suck it up because she has to do for “hers”, right?
What about the rest of Gina’s story? It was around the time her child was near the age of two that Gina began to grow suspicious. Mark was coming home later and later from work. At the dinner table, Mark couldn’t seem to put his phone down. Gina even thought she heard a woman’s voice on the phone when Mark got out of bed and went to the bathroom late one night. Gina couldn’t confide in her friends or family. She was scared to say that she thought Mark was cheating because she didn’t want to ruin her “perfect family” image. As crazy as it sounds, Gina knew she lived a good life without care for any bills and decided it was just best to stay quiet. What did she know about working and providing for herself?
That is until one day…
Mark couldn’t keep it a secret any longer. He spilled the beans about everything. Mark loved Gina but he just wasn’t happy with her anymore. He had secretly been having an affair for the past year and had grown tired of living a double life. “It’s best I leave. I don’t want to hurt you anymore. I’m not happy with this life,” were the last words he said before leaving her and the baby -- for good.
From the outside looking in, it is easier to judge Kisha. Outsiders tend to be harsher on the “Kishas” as opposed to the “Ginas”. It is outsiders that say Gina deserves sympathy because she did things the “traditional” way and didn’t see single parenting as part of the plan. However, the truth is that you can’t fault one more than the other. Both women were equally guilty for the same thing -- being infatuated or in love with men they saw potential in.
As a single mother myself, I couldn’t have predicted that for six years I would be raising a baby boy on my own. Both men in each scenario failed to step up to the responsibility of raising a child leaving both women to pick up the pieces -- just as I had to.
What about Dad?
Before I write any further, I want to highlight the fact that the term “single parent” does not imply single mom. In other words, I’d like to recognize the single fathers as well. So often we focus on the single mothers because statistics show that it is more common for women to become single parents. Yet and still, I know a few great single dads personally and I could not write a blog post without recognizing them as well. With that being said, single parenting is not gender specific and this post is a guide for the single moms AND the single dads.
With that being said, if you are a single parentknow that you are not alone. If you find yourself in need of a guide to tackle single parenting (or know of a single parent…DAD OR MOM), try embracing these 6 tips from SimplyMei:
1. No More Blaming, Shaming, or Explaining:
Like Nike said, just do it! Stop talking about what you should have done differently and telling yourself you should have known better in regards to “deadbeat” parent situations. Do you think an absent parent (absent by choice) loses any sleep at night?
You know firsthand that you didn’t purposely plan to raise a child on your own. With that being said, stop feeling the need to explain “your situation” to everyone. Out of fear of being viewed as “just another statistic,” you feel pressured to overcompensate with reasons why you became a single parent. You want to scream out to others that it’s not your fault that you’re parenting alone. I get it because I’ve been there before. Despite any of your past situations, your child is here now and bettering your family’s future should be your number one focus.
** dead beat parent: an absentee parent that has no regard for their child’s well-being or affairs, lacks remorse for being absent, and has no true plans on ever becoming a true parent**
2. Be Strong:
Bills are piling up, your child is outgrowing clothes rapidly, your boss is stressing you out on the job, daycare expenses are outrageous, there’s seldom down time in your daily schedule, and you feel guilty for not being able to give your child the love of two biological parents. Can you just throw in the towel already?
There’s no other way to put this.
The reality is that you have to be a strong person which means you can never throw in the towel. You are responsible for pushing through every situation without displaying any visible anguish in front of your child. Even if family members and friends are in the picture to help, at the end of the day, YOU are who your child sees when they wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night. When problems arise, it is often you that has to find a solution. Weeping sometimes is inevitable but you can’t sulk in sadness for too long because life doesn’t and won’t stop.
Be strong. Set goals. Know that tough times don’t last forever. Manage and save your money. Tell yourself that you can and YOU WILL be okay. Your child will appreciate you for it all.
3. Embrace Support:
Whoa! Didn’t I just preach to you about being strong and independent?
While being strong is essential, knowing your breaking point and when to ask someone for help is critical too. You may want others to think that you always have things under control because you don’t like pity. As a single parent, you’ve had no other choice but to be strong so you view being vulnerable as being weak and ineffective. I agree everyone does not deserve to know your business but take that “S” off of your chest and let go of pride sometimes-- when needed.
Sometimes I hear single parents speak about not having a lot of support from family and friends. It’s tough enough that you have to be the breadwinner for your child, provide emotional support for your child, and still have enough energy for quality, miscellaneous time. Being pulled in so many different directions can be exhausting, but know that help is not limited to relatives and friends.
There are churches that exist that can help you take care of your mind because after all, the stress that single parents face can be mentally traumatizing if left uncared for. If you’re not a church-goer, then no worries. There are still plenty of support groups made up of women and men that share similar single parenting experiences. There are online support groups for those parents that are not as mobile. There are support lines for you to call should you have no access to the internet. You can even email me if you need advice or direction to resources. Point is there is financial and emotional support out there for you. Do your research and get connected.
4. Know Your Capacity:
As parents, it is natural to want the best for our kids. We want them to attend the best schools, stay involved with extracurriculars, and not to sound superficial but we like when they are well dressed.
However, single mom and dad, it is important for you to understand that it’s okay to not be able to give your child everything. Yes, I said it.
Single parents are often times limited financially. Don’t go buy your child a pair of shoes that cost $100 when you have an electricity bill that is past due. Don’t sign your child up for three different sports just for bragging rights. Know your capacity and do what is in the realm of your budget. I’m not saying don’t set your child up for success. I’m telling you to do everything within your realistic means. Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve tried your best but can’t do it all sometimes. Saving and being wise will help you in the long run.
5. Time Management:
Whoever said money makes the world “go ‘round” told a lie. You know what really makes life smooth sailing? -- Organization.
I can’t stress enough how much keeping a calendar and a planner has helped me balance everything I’ve been faced with as single parent. Single parents, you are solely responsible for keeping track of things such as due dates for bill payments, due dates for rent payment, your child’s next doctor’s appointment, your child’s sports practices, and so much more. This is why my planner never leaves my side. Sure there will be things that come up and interrupt your routine schedule of things but a routine can give your life some structure.
Just try not to write down every single “to do” like “brush your hair at 6:00 am” like this one blogger I know…
Hey you! Yes, even you deserve a break sometimes.
Who said that you had to take an extravagant trip or dig in your pockets to show yourself a good time? In fact, self-time could include you putting your child to bed a little early just so that you can have 30 minutes of peace and quiet.
Grab a book. Watch T.V. Call a friend. Whatever you chose, be unapologetic about your “you time” that you so deserve every once in a while.
You can become a single parent in more ways than one. Can you fathom the worst of the worst circumstances? Think about the girl that was raped and was forced to take care of a child on her own. Think about the guy whose baby’s mother life has been consumed by drug usage. Think about the woman that lost her child’s father to an unexpected death. Life can be unpredictable.
Wrap Up with SimplyMei
Single mom or single dad; understand that the past is something that you can’t change no matter the circumstance. Shift your focus on the present. Your child is here now. You will never successfully get further ahead if you are constantly looking back to a situation. Don’t believe me? Try walking forwards while look backward and then tell me how difficult that is for you.
Be patient. Your child will grow up and understand all of your sacrifices one day. Their hugs and “thank you’s” will be all worth it. In the meantime, know that you are one of the most magical, underrated, and fearless human beings on earth.