Posting as a parent online is a lot like walking a tightrope. One false move, one little miscalculation and whoops! You’re into the fire. So I made a misstep and didn’t realize I was doing it until it was too late (which I’ve done many times before much to my chagrin).
I said that while my husband was on shift work, I was “single parenting”. It wasn’t a complaint. In my mind, it was giving context that I was on my own at the time. 4 to 7 days at a time when he’s gone, I’m it. I catch a fleeting glance of him either eating, going to bed or getting ready to leave. He’s here in body but not in mind. We’re nothing more than a pit stop while he’s on shift. I get it, it’s not his fault. It’s the nature of the beast.
I had no idea that it would irk those who are single parents 24/7. I honestly hadn’t thought that far. Apparently I was in for some big “poop storm” of replies and people were settling in for the show (there were references of getting popcorn). Before it could get out of hand, I deleted my post.
I’ve known single parents. I would never, EVER, belittle their hard work, sacrifice or love of their kids. They do the best they can in a situation that for the most part, they wouldn’t have chosen, but here they were. They are a true inspiration of innovation, creativity and tenacity.
However the more I thought about it, the more irritated I got. It seems that unless you meet some standard, you cannot reference some term. There’s no allotment for a range. For the most part, it means going all in, balls to the wall, 100% IN! Black and white, no grey. I didn’t say I was a single parent, I said I was single parenting, in that moment. Isn’t that valid?
You can’t experience single parenting unless you’re a single parent. I think I wasn’t allowed to say it because I was married, or so the comment said. So is that the criteria? Because I’m pretty sure that there are lots of people in various stages of relationships that have to parent their children alone from time to time. For those whose spouses who are deployed, are they single parenting? Or maybe there’s a time limit that’s required in order to qualify. A week? A month? At what point do you qualify to say that you’re experiencing “single parenting”?
I realize that I’m not experiencing complete single parenting. I know that at the end of his 4 or 7 days that he’ll come home and be with us again. I know that I get to prepare before he leaves in order to make those days easier while he’s gone. Having the knowledge that he will return is a massive support.
So I shouldn’t use the term. What should I say? What term qualifies? Or maybe I don’t get to qualify for a term. I shouldn’t acknowledge being alone with 3 little kids for days at a time is tough because other’s have it harder than me.
I guess that means I can’t be “crunchy” because I don’t cloth diaper. I can’t say I’m an attachment parent because I sometimes opt to use a stroller rather than a carrier. Baby led weaning is out because I’ve used cereal. I can’t say we’re using peaceful parenting because sometimes voices get raised (although we’re naturally loud people in general).
My intent is never to offend people. However when speaking of your own experience and how you feel in that moment, because it’s the only reality you know is not a bad thing. It was just my experience.
When posting on the internet, there will always be someone who has it harder, worked longer, did it faster, didn’t make it, did it better, with more finesse, struggled, triumphed…. Something that will make your experience “less”. You can’t post with that in mind or you’d never get to say anything. You’d never get to share your experience for fear of how others will attribute it to theirs. Your experience is yours, theirs is theirs. When a person posts about their own experience they aren’t commenting on yours. Take it in context, allow people to share.
My little glimpse into single parenting is just that, a little glimpse. I had no intention of attempting to wear someone else’s badge of honour. I understand it is not my cross to bear. However I thought that by sharing my experience, by making the most of my situation in the moment, I could celebrate it.
So here’s my correction:
It was a beautiful day yesterday (whoops, can’t say that, other’s undoubtedly had better weather than us).
It was a nice day yesterday. My girls wanted to go for a wagon ride. I put my 24lbs 1 year old in the ergo carrier and wore her. My 2 and 4 year olds climbed into the wagon, with a combined weight of over 70lbs. With an extra 100+lbs in tow, we went up the street around and back again. The girls had a blast and I got an unintentional, solid work out.
The logistics of going out and about with 3 littles is daunting. With one not walking, it’s no cake walk. Parking lots are nightmares. I was proud of myself. I still am.
I will not however, label my experience again. Labels offend. I’ll stay on the straight and narrow, walking my parenting tightrope.