I drafted the title for this a year ago and I never finished. It's sad that as I wrote this today it's still relevant.
Recently, I contacted another single mom, @SingleMomsChi, who is trying to put together a single mom group in the Chicago area. I noticed the tweet from another single mom blog owner, @Singlemommyhood, and offered my help. I used to run the single mom meetup group in the Chicago suburbs and my friend Erich ran the Chicago single parent's group for a while. I figured I could give her a heads up on the struggles and frustrations of trying to organize single parents.
Obviously, the biggest difficulty getting single parents to come together is time. None of us have enough of it and we're constantly stretched to breaking. What little time we have left, between work, school and kids, is used up cleaning or sleeping. It's really hard to get single parents together consistently for get togethers. I had a core group of single parents show up to almost all the events and a few new faces showed up once or twice and vanished. The online community I provided was even quieter. I assumed that starting conversations on a shared discussion board would foster communication in the group and help comfort levels at gatherings. Not so much.
When we finally did get a large group of single parents together, boy did we talk! It helped if the kids were able to play while we talked, but we always found a way to share our struggles. The only problem was the separation of the groups within our single parent group. There was the never-married group, the divorced-with-an-active-dad group, the no-father-involvement group, and then a miscellaneous group that included dads, widows, etc. Each branch of single parents had a different experience with single parenthood, and it caused friction.
I see this online as well. For such a large group to allow itself to become so segmented is a shame. To say that a mom who gets every other weekend 'off' while the kids are at their father's is any less a single parent than someone without the other parent involved is ridiculous. To make it worse is the group splits up again when you talk about dating and not dating - for whatever reason. I had a mother's boyfriend show up at one of our gatherings to drop something off for her and the envy and ugly came out when she left. When single parents get married, they get jettisoned from the single parent tribe. They've got in-house support now and past experience doesn't count anymore. I don't understand it.
I can't believe that single parents have in-fighting that's along the lines of working moms vs. stay-at-home moms! I'm seriously shocked when I see another single mom claim they have it harder than another single mom for whatever reason. We ALL have our hardships, but we're all trying to raise our kids to be awesome adults. Whether my son is gone for two weeks with his dad this summer, or whether I have him 24/7 the rest of the year is irrelevant to my experience as a single mom as it relates to another single mom. The experiences are unique to me as an individual, but I'm still a single mom who struggles to raise my son alone.
I admit that getting regular child support and my son going with his dad is nice, but I knew he'd be involved before I had a child with him. I still had to fight my ass off for the child support and the divorce, like any divorce, was horrible. Why would I ever say that someone who was never married to their kids' father isn't equal to me as a single parent, or had it easy, because they never had to deal with divorce court? Doesn't that sound crazy? We all struggle with something - even the rich single parents (not that I'd know).
We are all single parents and we need to come together and support each other, not tear each other apart. You never know when the single parent you judge as 'not single parent enough' has the answers or can support you when you need it.