Monday, 18 March 2013

6 things you should never say to a single parent


I've been a single parent for a while now and over that time I've been asked lots of questions about what it's like to raise children on my own, and I'm always happy to talk about a subject that's close to my heart.

But there are some things you really shouldn't say to a single parent, and believe me I've heard all of these beauties.

1. It must be so hard.  Well, yes it is sometimes and it was definitely much harder in the early years. But you find your routine and way of coping, and you make things work. Because you have to.

2. You look tired.  No shit Sherlock.

3. You're so brave.  No, not brave. Just getting on with it, as we all do.

4. You must get a lot of help from the Government though.
This one really rankles because the answer is a resounding NO! I get working family and child tax credit and that's available to every working parent on a low income (not just single parents), but I get no other special financial help. The media and Government would you have you think otherwise, that all single parents are bleeding the country dry but let me confirm that it's a myth. I've never qualified for housing benefit or free school meals for my girls or any other financial help. EVER.

5. How can you afford that?
Yes, people are really this rude. I've been asked this a few times and it's been about something most people would consider normal (e.g. buying a second-hand laptop; a weekend away). Well, contrary to popular belief we're not all destitute - I've written about this before - and even though I'm not earning a fortune I've had to learn to be extremely careful with money.  When there's only one income coming in it's what you do.

6. I know just how you feel, because my husband works away/works weekends/works nights. 
Excuse me while I beg to differ, because even if your partner/husband works away, weekends or nights you are not a single parent. You still have their income to rely on and their emotional and moral support. You don't have to do all the decision making on your own, and don't have to cope with the (sometimes) utter relentlessness of single parenting. Neither are you one if you have someone to pass the parenting baton to when they're home and, most crucially, your children have never been through the trauma of divorce/separation/death of the other parent. So no, you're not a single parent.

I realise that everyone has their own struggles and problems and perhaps some of these comments are made out of genuine concern, but they do they start to irritate after the first few hundred times.

And there endeth the sermon. As you were.