10 Reasons Solo Parenting Sucks

seesawI’ve always had a lot of admiration for single parents. I’ve never been quite sure how someone could possibly pull it off. I saw my mom do it but my sister and I were already in our teens by the time my father left. My sister could basically be the default parent when she needed to and growing up as latchkey kids, we were already really independent.

But solo-parenting small children? This is no joke. My husband has been gone for work for almost a month. I’ve been caring for a nursing infant and a toddler – alone – for 28 days. Whoever does this regularly deserves a trophy, a massage, endless gold stars, a cookie and a round of applause.

When I talk about “solo parenting” I’m not just talking about people who don’t have partners. I’m talking about people who do all of the parenting, regardless of whether they have partners or not. Women and men who stay home with the kids all day while their partner is working. Anyone who is in charge of more than 90 percent of the childrearing responsibility. My husband and I defaulted into sharing all responsibility and now that I know what the alternative is like, I would never have it any other way. Here are some of the things that truly suck about doing the lion’s share of the parenting

1. There’s no such thing as a relaxing shower.

I totally took for granted being able to say, “I’m getting in the shower, honey. Make sure you keep an eye on the kids.” Now, not only am I back to that parenting-an-infant paranoia – where I’m not sure exactly how long I can leave my infant totally alone – I also have a toddler running around who I’ve become convinced will inevitably shove goldfish crackers into his little sister’s mouth if I turn away for one second.

2. Running errands ruins me for the rest of the day.

Get toddler into a clean diaper and dressed. Get infant into a clean diaper and dressed. Strap infant to my chest in a carrier so I have free hands to help toddler get into car. Get toddler into car seat. Get infant into car seat. Drive to supermarket. Get infant strapped to my chest in a carrier so I have free hands to help toddler out of car. Get toddler out of car and into a shopping cart.

Okay. I haven’t even shopped yet and I am already exhausted. F this.

3. I’m so jealous of people doing stuff that doesn’t involve parenting.

If one more of my friends posts a picture of themselves lounging by the sea or sipping a glass of wine at a bar, I’m going to shoot myself in the face. I used to be happy for my friends with free time.

4. I can’t have a phone conversation without sounding like a jerk.

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I used to wonder why some of my parent friends couldn’t seem to have a phone conversation without being interrupted by their kids. Now, I totally get it. Since my husband has been gone, I can’t focus on anything for more than a few minutes. Inevitably, one of my kids will need something. I’m totally that person not listening to you on the phone.

5. I have to be the person that kills things.

Florida sucks. There are many reasons why, but for now I will concentrate on the bugs. There are these giant insects down here that everyone calls “palmetto bugs.” That is code for “giant, disgusting, flying cockroach.” I will totally play the damsel in distress card when one of these things makes an appearance. Unfortunately, there is no one here to hear my squeals. I have to defend the castle and protect the kids. And when I say “protect the kids,” I mean find the bugs before my son does and puts them in his mouth.

6. My house is a disaster.

I’ve never been as acutely aware of how much my husband does until now. I may do the dishes, cook, and keep things generally tidy, but he does the yard work, the mopping and the vacuuming. It’s much cleaner around here when two people are contributing. Much, much cleaner.

7. I can’t sneak out and have some alone time.

This may be the worst thing of all. How do people handle having to always be responsible for another being, 24 hours a day? I sneak out by myself at least once every few days and I’m realizing this is what keeps me sane. I have burst into tears from exhaustion at least once a week since my husband left. No, I can’t afford a babysitter right now.

8. I’m becoming the annoying person that thinks parenting is the hardest job, ever.

I’m smart enough not to be vocal about this one but I am always thinking it. If someone complains to me about their long day at work, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m thinking – Ha! You think YOU have it bad? Try being at someone’s beck and call every waking and non-waking moment of every day! I haven’t taken a peaceful shit in three weeks! I haven’t had longer than a two minute shower either! I hate being the person that thinks these thoughts. Please come home, honey.

9. I’m so easily entertained, it’s almost pathetic.

This is pretty self explanatory. Anything that doesn’t involve PBS, playing with mini bat mobiles and cutting food into ridiculously tiny pieces brings me more joy than it really should. My sister and I quickly snuck off to the mall the other day and it was like a mini-vacation. Mini-vacation in a mini-mall. I need my parenting partner, and hence, some freedom – STAT.

10. Did I mention the exhaustion?

Holy crap. I. Can’t. Even.

Any man or woman who does this full-time – hats off to you. You can be as sanctimonious as you want to be. You’re my hero.

(photo: Saffyrre)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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    • chickadee

      I was a single parent for 10 years, covering 1st through 10th grade with my eldest and daycare through 7th with my youngest. I had no local family, pretty good child support (and he was local so the girls saw him a lot), a full-time, not-awesomely-paid job, was going through grad school, and had to handle my mother’s terminal care for 2 years. It sucked a lot sometimes, but the bonus was that I has some good, reliable, close friends who supported me, listened to me complain, and covered childcare when necessary. The other bonus was that I got to make all the decisions, which I liked.

      The most serious and persistent issue I had was time….I worked until 5.30, picked the girls up at daycare at 6, drove home, started dinner and oversaw homework, then dictated bedtime. For a while, no after-school activities were possible bc of my work schedule.

      • AugustW

        This “child support” thing, what is that exactly? :p

    • Rachel

      Single mom, here–I completely agree with this whole article.
      Oh, yeah, and I decided that I would never live in Florida after a college roommate from there showed me a picture of one of the bugs. I’m just not strong enough to handle that shit.

      • chickadee

        Then you also need to avoid Georgia, and Texas, and (probably) all of the Gulf states. Midwest and Northeast should be safe.

      • QTales

        Oh yes. When it comes to those wretched creatures, the old saying is true: ‘Everything is bigger in Texas.” My son will turn 8 just after Christmas. My ex left when he was 13mos old. I’m not a terrific mathematician, but I do know that’s WAY too many months of fighting off the critters singlehandedly! This includes the (live) mice my cats proudly like to drop at my feet late at night, after they have had their ‘outside time’ … I’m pretty sure I’m a walking mouse trap by now. Sigh.

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

        It’s truly horrifying. I won’t even tell you the story of my child pulling part of a waterbug out of his mouth – than putting it back in his mouth and swallowing it. Oh, I just did.

    • LadyClodia

      I can relate. I never went a full 28 days without my husband being home, but two years ago for a year we managed with the fact that he was only home from Saturday morning until Sunday night. This was while I was pregnant with my second and had our 2 1/2 year old home with me until the baby was about 7 months old and the older was 3 1/2. We had moved right before he took the job, so my mom would be right next door, but she still worked all day, and yet I did have some help at supper and bedtimes. I hated that year, though. I don’t think my husband understands how hard it was for me. It’s been over a year now that he has been mostly working from home, and I’m relieved. I can’t imagine having to do that all of the time and knowing that there’s never going to be relief or backup.

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

        I know. And I can’t believe you had to endure pregnancy and a toddler alone.

      • LadyClodia

        I don’t remember a lot from that first part of the year, probably because I was constantly exhausted. I forgot, though, that a 2 month stretch of that year was when my husband had and was recovering from his 2nd brain surgery; the baby was 2 months old then. Even though my husband was home, I’m sure that was the hardest part of that year. But we got through it, and things are good now.

    • 88Mwife

      All I want to know is where you got the GIF for #3. I need that in my life.

      • http://www.whatwouldshethink.com/ Rachelle

        Right click on image, Save As… wonderfulness.

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido
      • 88Mwife

        thank you so much. that is now saved for anytime an appropriate situation may arise.

      • Carla

        Lol, I didn’t even notice what it said until you pointed it out! Love it.

    • keelhaulrose

      When my oldest daughter was about eight months old my husband moved four hours away to start a new job, and there were four months in there before I could transfer up to be by him. So every other week I had my daughter, and then Fridays I’d drive up to be with him, returning on Sundays (he worked weekends, so he couldn’t do the driving).

      The weeks I had her were hard, I’ll admit that, and I had no one close by to help out. I’d get as much as I could done the weeks I didn’t have her, because I knew by about Wednesday the weeks I did I would be worn down between her and work, and I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible which sometimes meant the bathroom didn’t get cleaned as often as I cleaned it when there were both of us.
      I applaud those who go longer than a week, especially military families and single parents. I don’t know how I’d keep it together doing it myself for months or years on end.

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

        You’re my personal hero.

    • Paul White

      Palmetto bugs are awesome if you can forget they’re roaches.
      Sounds rough, hope it gets better and he can come back home.

      • chickadee

        You should always whack the shower curtain with a broom before pulling it back. That way you knock the ‘palmetto bugs’ into the bottom of the tub before you get into the shower. I had to do that almost every morning when we lived in that region.

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

        They are the opposite of awesome. Whatever that is.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jessica-Weber/1149485644 Jessica Weber

      This. I have a husband, not that you’d notice him much. He works and plays video games because his work day ends when he gets home and he “needs his personal time goddamnit.” I’m taking a couple of college classes this fall and he admitted to me yesterday that he’d rather I didn’t because he worried he wouldn’t get enough time for himself. Seriously WTF. I survive by pretending I’m a widow.

      • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

        It always amazes me when one half of the parenting equation truly believes they deserve lots of downtown at the expense of the other party who is getting little to no downtime. I find this often in one-income houses on the part of the income earner who seems to believe earning a cheque means they’ve also earned a pass on parenting that day.

      • AugustW

        Granted I only know half of the story, but I guess my mom had this problem with my dad when I was a youngin. He would come home from a long day at the hospital and want to veg out and be by himself, and my mom, having spent the day with 3 kids under 5, wanted to talk to a grownup and possible take a crap by herself.
        I’m not shocked it didn’t work out.

      • Blueathena623

        I am really not trying to be rude, so apologies in advance, but what’s the end game here? Like is he under major stress at work for a few months but it will ease up eventually, or do will you always have one extra tall kid?

      • DMH

        *sigh* I’m not getting into my mess on here, but we should totally go bowling. Of course, we’ll probably have to bring our kids with us. Smh.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jessica-Weber/1149485644 Jessica Weber

      OMG I just Googled “palmetto bug.” As if the psychopaths and republicans weren’t enough reason to avoid Florida… Now I’m never leaving Michigan.

    • Lee

      Thanks for including mom’s with husbands in this. I am married but I work M-F full time an hour away from home. My husband is a restaurant manager working nights and weekends. I rarely see him. I honestly have only seen him awake for about 5 hours since last Sat. Occasionally, on the weekend I can get him up a little early and get to the grocery store by myself which is like a vacation but living like this does suck. By the time I get my 2 year old home it is around 6:30 then it’s a quick dinner and into bed. The upside of this is my son gets to spend more one on one time with his daddy (3 mornings a week). The worst part is weekends. We miss a lot of events (like fairs/trips to the zoo) because I usually don’t have the energy or the desire to take him myself. This is what we have to do though and we make it work. I wish people would understand this and stop harassing us to have more kids. We a just making this work. Throwing another kid in the mix would be disastrous right now.

      • Edify

        That’s exactly how it was for us with our first. Tag team parenting is pretty tough!

    • Carla

      I have lived in North Dakota my whole life. After college I decided it would be cool to move down to FL and live in my Dad’s winter home. I only lasted a month down there. Those palmetto bugs scared the shit out of me. I’ve never screamed so loud in my life. Lots of people say ND sucks, but we don’t have giant flying bugs!

    • Edify

      We are living parallel lives Maria! My infant is about the same age as yours (10w) and I have a 3yo. My husband started working away at 6 weeks. Right on queue for the growth spurt where I had to feed around the clock and everything that could go wrong did on his first swing away. My 3yo has so much exuberance that she regularly wakes the baby and she’s desperate for my sole attention. I don’t have any family here either so I’m totally in the deep end.

      I think the hardest thing is that over the weeks he is away I’m just giving, giving, giving and there is no one here to give back. I give the hugs when needed but when I need one, the preschooler looks at me like I’ve lost the plot. Fair enough because I totally have!

      I don’t know the tricks to pull through with my sanity and i have to sense of humour living like this. I’m starting to feel like the dog from next door that is constantly howling when it’s owners are away.

      Hardest thing I’ve ever done, not sure how long I can pull it off. Spending too much money on wine!

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

        Ha! I feel you. I feel like the checkers at Publix are thinking “more wine?” every time they see me. I do have family here – but they work about 70 hrs a week, so I can’t exactly expect a lot of help.

      • Edify

        I’d probably just sit in a corner and rock but I’m
        too exhausted and don’t have time!
        I mail ordered wine – nice big delivery to my house!

    • http://www.facebook.com/valerisexton.jones Valeri Jones

      All my friends had their kids young. And when I say young, I mean, like in high school or fresh out of. The baby’s fathers never stuck around and didn’t even pay child support. So they were all literally doing it on their own. I guess I got used to this and thought I would be the same kind of parent. But then I met my husband and got married and we had our son. And holy shit, did I EVER have a new respect for all of my friends after that. Some of them had 2 and 3 kids with no help whatsoever. I couldn’t imagine parenting ONE on my own! My husband and I are on overlapping shifts right now, so we get to see each other regularly and my son gets a healthy dose of time with both of us, even if it’s not with us together. I am wrapping up my first trimester of pregnancy with my second and am exhausted, and often find myself ready to pull my hair out after chasing after my toddler by the time my husband gets home from work. But after reading this, and all of your comments, I think I’ll just sit here and send some good thoughts your all’s way, while I realize how easy I have it. =o/

      • AugustW

        Looking back I think I was destined to be a single mom, because as a kid I always knew I wanted to be a mom but I never pictured myself as a wife. I still don’t, actually, which I guess is why I’m not.
        I was 25 when I had my kiddo though.

      • http://www.facebook.com/valerisexton.jones Valeri Jones

        That’s kind of how I was. I never saw myself being married and being happy to any of the guys I was with. I was a shithead magnet. But that’s also why I snatched my husband up and made him marry be ASAP when I met him because I knew he was a keeper. We met in October 2011 and went on our first date two weeks later. In early February, -I- asked -him- to marry me and he agreed right away. Found out I was pregnant in March, married in April. It’s been almost 3 years and every day is like an albeit hilarious fairytale. I was 26 when I had my kid, and I’ll be near my 29th birthday with this one is born. All my bffs from school have kids in upper elementary while I’m chasing a toddler, so I’m bringin’ up the rear.

        My very bestest BFF has my utmost respect and awe because she raised two that were less than two years apart completely on her own. And she did, and still does, a DAMN fine job of it. My husband and I will never have it as together as she did by herself, though she’s married and has a new baby nowadays. Just thinking about it makes me want to send her a bouquet of flowers.

    • AugustW

      This. I’m a single mom, but I couldn’t have gotten this far without my mom (who was a single mom herself most of my life). I jokingly call her the stay-at-home mom in this relationship, because she watches my daughter while I worked, and now that I’m in school.
      She thinks of it as kind of a second chance, getting to be a better grandma than she was a mom (although she was a good mom considering. She was going through a lot of hard life things at the time. But we survived to adulthood and we’re all pretty normal). I do pay her, but not nearly as much as daycares charge, because that would wreck me.

    • Kim G

      We have 3 kids 3 and under and my husband works 3 12-14 hour shifts a week, then has school in the mornings on his days off. I have so much respect for people who do this all the time, because it’s really hard the days he’s gone all day and it’s only 3 days a week. The good thing about our arrangement is I appreciate much more everything my husband does and when I’m gone my husband gains an understanding of what I do, so he’s not only appreciative of what I do around the house, but he also makes sure I get out of the house to do my own thing so I don’t go insane.

    • Jessi

      I stay home with our 20 month old son. I literally JUST had an argument with my husband about this, not an hour ago. He is a sweet, loving person and a wonderful father, but sometimes if we’re in an argument, his inner cave man comes out and he says something that is so disrespectful and out of left field that it blows my mind. He actually just said, OUT LOUD, that what I do is easy because, “I mean, you only have one child, get over it.”

      Um, here’s what, asshole: My day isn’t spent on the couch taking bong rips while the TV babysits our son, okay? Now, I don’t know what it’s like to have your job, which I know can be stressful and difficult sometimes, and I don’t have the added responsibility of supporting a family financially. But I DO bust my ass. I LOVE what I do, and I’m damn good at it! Our son is healthy and happy and thriving. I lovingly prepare him nutritious meals, I come up with educational activities and projects to stimulate his mind, I roll around and play with him, I take him to parks so he can run his energy out and learn to love nature, I run errands with him, I go grocery shopping with him, and I manage all this while simultaneously trying to teach words, discipline, manners, and everything else to a tiny person who is just learning how to communicate, while cleaning and keeping our home SPOTLESS and having dinner ready for you when you return to your castle. And I do this all day, every day. Oh! And I manage to rock a fit physique and look pretty damn hot. So, dear husband, the way I see it, I’m fucking Superwoman.

      • SortaSingleMom

        My hubby is pretty good about appreciating me and helping out when he’s home. If he does start to take advantage of me or take me for granted, I leave him alone with our son for at least 4 hours, sometimes a whole day. I will include having to put him down for a nap or for the night in that time frame. When I come home he’s practically bowing at my feet. The last time he was like “I’m sorry I asked you to call the cable company and go to the post office in one day! I’ll never do it again!” :-D

    • printerror

      Honestly, I have to respectfully disagree with all of these. I’m a full-time single dad with a 2 1/2 year old son, I have sole custody and no family within a thousand miles. I’m on my own and working full time.

      1. I often shower with my son since it’s easiest and rather amusing. Sometimes I bathe him then take a nice long shower after he goes to bed. I love my relaxing showers. Sometimes I shower while he runs around and plays because I know he won’t get into anything.

      2. I don’t get it, running errands with my son is fun. We talk the whole time we’re out, laugh at things, and make an adventure out of it every time.

      3. Get out and do stuff. I bring my son everywhere I go, and that often includes BBQs, restaurants, parties, and the beach.

      4. No comment, I don’t use the phone.

      5. I was probably going to stomp on that bug anyway.

      6. After he goes to bed, I do the dishes and clean up the toys while the TV is on. No one else is around to do it, so I HAVE to. Bonus: My house is always exactly as clean as I want it to be, and if it isn’t, it’s my fault and no one else’s.

      7. That’s what daycare is for. About once a month, I drop him off on my day off of work and go get lunch, go to a movie, etc. Rebooting once in a while just helps me be a better dad, so I don’t feel guilty for a second.

      8. Completely disagree. It ain’t that hard. I pretty much just hang out and play Legos, read books, teach him things, and chill in the patio while he’s out in the playground. Life is good.

      9. I’m pretty much easily entertained anyway, this isn’t a negative!

      10. Sure, I’m exhausted. I SLEEP GREAT!!! By the time I do dishes, pick up toys, and make it to bed, I’m beat. I’m wrecked. I’m dying. I sleep like a stone, and wake up refreshed every morning because of it. I sleep better as a single dad than I ever did before.

    • Sole Mama

      You’re not sole parenting if someone else financially supports you and your child. Being a stay at home mom whose husband is away from home for a couple days, weeks, or even months IS NOT sole parenting. Sole parenting is doing IT ALL alone. Financially, physically, logistically, emotionally and otherwise.