The Trouble With Being Single (After Being Married for a Long Time)

In this post I list some of the challenges that I have encountered in recent months as a single parent who was formerly married for almost thirty years.

Like other similar posts, What Women Do That Men Don’t Even Know About and What Happened to the Man I Was, I write this post as someone who has discovered some facts of life that may be obvious to many people but, until my recent circumstances, I failed to notice!

I suppose being the only adult in the home has caused me to be more introspective than I used to be. I’m going to have to stop talking to myself so much!

Because now I think I am qualified to speak on the subject of “singleness” and “single parenting” after having been married for almost thirty years and being single for a year and four months!

Undoubtedly, there are people that could speak much more authoritatively on single parenting than I can.

Nevertheless, I will go ahead and provide my self-proclaimed expert opinion!

In all sincerity, however, I hope this post will have some relevance for both single and married people and maybe elicit a conversation about single parenting, especially from those of you who are more experienced at it than I am.

But, let me first offer this disclaimer.

My comments are based on my limited experience as a “single” person and single parent after being married most of my adult life.

I am not trying to say that there’s anything wrong with or unnatural about being single. People are single for a number of reasons including the death of a spouse, divorce, or maybe it’s just their personal choice for their lives.

Although this post enumerates some of the challenges of families without both a husband and wife or mom and dad, it’s certainly not intended to disparage “singleness,” single parents, or single persons in any way.

After all, I are one now!

Single parents can be just as good of parents as those who are married. In fact, a single parent may work harder at parenting because the single parent has to take on the role of both mother and father to provide adequate support for the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of a child.

And neither is this post intended to announce that I’m looking for someone to marry. (I suppose at some level many or most single people are looking for a mate if the right person should come along–it’s just a matter of degree of how hard you’re looking!)

Besides, how could I write about the adventures of being a single grandparent raising kids because, after all, I are one now!

Nevertheless, those of you who are not single will probably feel sorry for me, and other single people, and think you need to fix us up with someone, though that’s not really the reaction I want to evoke from you.

With this post I only want to facilitate a better understanding of the challenges of single parenting by all.

And, hopefully, it will be a gentle reminder to both single and married folks to cherish the family you have while you have it because I believe the love, companionship, and nurturing of a family are one of the means God uses to prepare us for eternity.

So here’s some of the challenges I am encountering in being single and a single parent after being married for a long time:

It’s more difficult to maintain a sense of permanency in your home and family.

“Singleness” doesn’t feel as immutable as a marriage. It feels more like a temporary arrangement, like you are always on the way to becoming something else. Maybe that’s not true for all people who are single, but that’s the way it feels to me after being married for a long time.

So I fear that the toddlers may not feel a sense of permanency or stability in their lives as much as they would in circumstances where there is a mom and dad in the home. And then I wonder if this perceived instability will have an emotional impact on their lives.

I don’t know whether or not stability is really missing from our single-parent family, but it’s a feeling and a fear that I harbor.

I continually question the effectiveness of the life decisions I make for the children and myself. 

Formerly, making life decisions for myself and my family was a shared responsibility with my wife. And so I’m not used to making these kinds of decisions on my own.

Decisions like:  Where should we live? Where should the children attend school? Which doctor should they use? Driving? Dating? etc., etc.

And it’s not really so much a matter of rightness or wrongness of the decisions I make, but a matter of choosing one way when I know I might have chosen another way had she been here.

So I am often left wondering if I am making a good decision–good in the sense that what I have decided is in the best interest of the children and not just what’s expedient for me.

I’m not afraid to make decisions. Certainly, I make business decisions every day. But I find that as a single parent it is with some degree of consternation that I make decisions that affect my life and my children’s lives.

Maybe as a single parent I will eventually develop my parenting instincts to the extent that I will have confidence that the life decisions I make are what will be most effective for the children’s lives.

A single-parent family seems to be difficult for the children to understand.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the toddlers see other mom’s and dad’s at school and daycare and hear their friends talk about their families and they try to integrate it with their own limited experience in life.

It’s painful to hear their questions about the missing mom and missing dad from our family.

And you know if you’re a single mom, you can’t be their dad and if you’re a single dad, you can’t be their mom.

In my case, I’m neither the mom nor dad. And so I have to resolve to be mom and dad all rolled into one!

So there’s not really an explanation they can understand except to say that we’re still a family. And that affirmation seems to provide them with some temporary consolation.

A backup plan for your family dominates your thinking.

When you are married, the question of what to do if something happens to one of us is not generally addressed in detail except to purchase a life insurance policy and name your spouse as the beneficiary of your retirement program.

Do you ever think about what would happen if you died in your sleep? Almost seems silly doesn’t it? I never had that thought before, not even once that I can remember, when I was married.

You don’t think about it when you’re married because you know your spouse would continue with the life that you have built together.

Now that silly notion occurs to me quite often. What would happen to the children? When would someone discover them home alone?

And who is the beneficiary if you don’t have a spouse? Who takes responsibility for the kids if you die or become disabled? And how would they adjust to being handed over to yet another parent who is not their mom and dad?

What’s the backup plan? And is it possible to cover every contingency? You could drive yourself crazy just trying to plan for every possible eventuality.

Or you can just put your fate and that of your children into the hands of God and trust that He has your lives under control. That’s the best backup plan I could come up with!

And, finally, you end up publishing your innermost thoughts and feelings on the Internet!

As a single parent, even if you’re a fairly reserved and private person like me, you find yourself confiding in almost everyone, asking just about anyone for advice about raising kids!

And, when you can’t find somebody to listen, then you post your innermost thoughts and feelings on the Internet for the whole world to hear and see!

So, thanks for listening…

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