I have officially been a single parent since 1990. However, my job as a parent began in 1986. My daughters are now 22 and 26 years old. My youngest lives at home during the summer months; the rest of the time she is off at college. However, when she graduates in May, she will be returning home full-time. I am looking forward to this return, though she is probably not. She will miss her roommates and the total independence that comes with living away from home and that is completely understandable.
The oldest lives away from home and is having her own “parenting” experience, as she has a fiancee’ who has custody of his 4-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son. Her fiancée has been a single parent for the past four years. He is beginning to share the parenting experience with my daughter and she makes an wonderful addition to the parenting efforts in their household.
In addition to my daughters – whom I still “parent” – I have two single mothers that are important in my life. One is a family member who divorced shortly after the birth of her first child and is just learning the ropes of single parenting. She is doing an amazing job as mother and she is learning how to juggle all those many additional responsibilities of single parenting – budgets, home, work – while still taking care of herself, too. I remember the days when I walked where she is walking and she has a special place in my heart.
The other is a family friend who, while she has much family, has lacked parenting during a large portion of her life. She lived many years with grandparents who did their very best for her and loved her very well. But she always hurt that her biological parents refused to be a significant part of her life. She gave birth to her own daughter in December of this past year. She is proving herself to be a dedicated, though very young, mother. She is currently working very hard to finish school while caring for her daughter and I am so thankful for the wonderful aunt who has taken her in during this time. I pray they are both blessed by this time in their lives.
My point is that we are always parenting. It does not matter whether we have children at home or they are grown with families of their own. It does not matter whether or not we have given birth. It makes no difference whether the child is biologically yours or in your care. We parent. Every time we give advice, provide a shoulder on which to lean, encourage, love, share our experiences, provide understanding, or are simply there to prove that another is not alone, we parent.
Though my daughters are “grown”, I parent. And the delightful part of parenting at this stage of life has been that they seem to take my words much easier than in their younger years. Sometimes they even ask for my thoughts! It is a joyous experience!
When we share ideas and thoughts on parenting with co-workers and friends we are parenting. You never know when your experience is the answer to the question that has been troubling them. Parenting is a fluid compilation of knowledge that spans a lifetime! What we learn today may not help us in the present, but it could be exactly what we need in the future. Yes, parents actually “parent” each other! It is an amazing process!
There is little difference in parenting and single parenting, except that as a single parent there is no one specific person with whom we share the responsibility. Hopefully, as single parents, we share the responsibilities with many who provide our support systems – not only for our children, but also for ourselves. It is true that there is only so much that our support systems can provide; the majority of the “real work” falls upon our shoulders. But the “rules of the game” are the same – there aren’t any!
Single parenting and parenting in general is full of surprises. It is a lifetime career and a full-time learning process. And despite the incredible responsibilities, it is one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime. I am so happy to share it with all of you!!
Finally, I must comment that I realize that most of what I write is from a strong feminine perspective, so I want to specifically mention those fathers with whom I have contact. I have met some of the most amazing single fathers! I have a wonderful friend who must parent from afar, but who has such a great admiration for his daughter and always, always is concerned for her welfare. He has learned that as a father who is not in his daughter’s life 100% of the time that there are times when his wisdom is not entirely “welcomed”. He has not allowed that to stop him from sharing and caring – as a true father will. My oldest daughter’s fiancée has been a single father with sole custody of his children since his divorce. He is raising a son and daughter and his concerns are always with not only their physical well-being, but also their emotional well-being. He has been very careful to ensure that they maintain a relationship with their mother, despite the circumstances, and I am proud of his efforts to this effect. He has been very careful as he has allowed my daughter into their lives and while I am very partial to my daughter – she makes a wonderful “mom”! - I both respect and admire his careful integration of her into their family. This “slow process” is one of the reasons that I believe that his children have accepted her so beautifully. I thrill that she loves them and that they love her. I have also had the very educational experience of communicating with a young man who gave up what was intended to be a lifetime career in order to care of his children. It is not only mothers who will give up their life’s plans in order to parent! It has been a difficult road and a strong family support system has been crucial, but he is very successfully building a new and productive life for his family. He makes a wonderful single father!
Does parenting ever end? No, it doesn’t. But would we want it to?