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Playing Both Roles

by The Next Family June 07, 2011

By: Carol Rood

It is not easy being a single parent.  When I decided that my marriage was not working and I was going to leave it, I had two small children.  My boys were ages 4 and 6.  I was going to be taking on the daunting task of caring for my boys on my own.  My husband had a low paying job at the time (which actually led me to stay with him a year longer than I wanted to), and I knew that I was probably not going to receive child support regularly.

However, I took a leap of faith, and bought a small 3-bedroom house in a local town.  It was near the “wrong side of the tracks”, but far enough away for a single woman and her small children to be safe and secure.  We actually had fun in our little house, and my boys each had their own rooms, so they were happy.

After we moved in I painted their rooms.  My older son wanted Sponge Bob Squarepants and my younger son wanted dinosaurs.  We painted my older son’s room bright yellow and I sponge painted bright blue Sponge Bob characters on the walls.  My younger son had a dinosaur trim running around his room.  We were happy, and cozy.

My partner K was living in Pennsylvania during this time, and we were doing our best to have a great long distance relationship.  She also had two children living with her, and since their father lived in a town near me, she would drive down to my area at least once every month so the kids could see their dad.  I would try to coordinate my children going to see their dad on the same weekend, and K and I would have long lazy weekends together with no kids.  Well we really had a long lazy Saturday, because she got in late Friday night and Sunday afternoon –when she had to head back to Pennsylvania –always rolled around too quickly.  We packed LOTS of living in to that one and a half day’s time frame.  Sometimes I would take my boys up to PA to see K and her kids.  Those were fun times.  Playing in the snow together in the winter and having “family” cookouts in the summer.  It felt good to have all six of us together.

Being a single parent is not easy.  At least it wasn’t easy for me.  I worked in a doctor’s office, and if not for my military retirement check I would not have been able to support my boys and myself.  Sometimes we worked overtime at the doctor’s office, and I would be late to pick up my boys from after school care.  But the ladies at Diamond Baptist Church were amazing, never charging me late fees, always kind and gracious.    Money was tight, and my kids had what they needed, but there wasn’t much left for luxuries.  I have to say though that those lean years taught my boys to be very grateful when they did get something “out of the budget”.  I never let them know money was tight, and was VERY grateful that spaghetti was their favorite meal.

My older son played Little League, and there were many days we went right from daycare to the baseball field.  He would change into his uniform in the bathroom at the church and we would buy dinner at the concession stand.  Whenever I had to work a shift in the concession stand (part of each parent’s duties), I would have my younger son stay in there with me. He loved helping me make snow cones, so it was great fun for him.

My point in all of this is that this month is Father’s Day.  There are LOTS of single parents out there who have to be responsible for mom and dad duties every day.  Some single parents are fortunate and have wonderful ex-spouses who share in raising their children, and pay child support on a regular basis.  Some mothers and fathers who divorce put aside their petty differences for the good of their kids, and their marital status doesn’t change their child-rearing situation much.

I was not that fortunate.  My children’s father was not responsive to the needs of his kids.  As a matter of fact he lost two jobs back to back and had to move out of state to live with a relative.  My kids saw their father rarely when he was in town, and only once or twice a year after he moved.  It is that way to this day.  It is sad for my boys. I can do my best to fill the gap left by their dad, but I can never be him.  I cannot be their father, and I cannot teach them, by example, how to be men.  I am very fortunate that my BFF’s have wonderful husbands who have shown an interest in my sons, and are honorable men themselves.  They are men I would like my sons to emulate, so the hole left by the absence of their father is filled a bit.

This month if you know a single parent (mom or dad), especially one who may be playing both roles, make a point to do something nice for them.  Take them to dinner; maybe buy some groceries (if it won’t embarrass them).  Take them to a baseball game, or a movie. Even a picnic at the park would be fun!  Just something so that for a couple of hours that parent cannot be solely responsible for everything.  That would be a GREAT Father’s Day present for a single parent!!

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[Photo Credit: Paul-W]

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