There’s this very real phenomenon called single parent guilt. If you’re a single parent like me, I bet you know that guilt all too well. Tell me if you can relate.
It’s that guilt that comes from not making every correct life decision that would have led to your child somehow currently having a stable nuclear family.
It’s that guilt that comes from not somehow having a more stable life right now.
It’s that guilt that comes from not being able to give your child all the same advantages and opportunities that they might have had right now if everything had gone according to plan.
It’s that guilt that comes from not having done what needed to be done to make the relationship work with your child’s parent.
It’s the guilt that comes from knowing that if your child had somehow just had a stronger parent, they would have both their parents living under the same fucking roof, right now.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like this guilt is constant or that it cripples me. I don’t wallow around in self-loathing and despair every day, thinking about just how much I suck as a human being. I don’t eternally mope, thinking how much my child’s life sucks because of me and my choices and actions. I also don’t think very many other single parents wander in such constant shitty thinking, either.
I actually think my life is pretty great most of the time, and damn it… So is the life I’ve worked my ass off to give my kid.
That being said, every now and then something happens, or my child says something unexpected, or the reality of every decision I’ve ever made somehow hits me square in the gut, and in that moment I realize just how my child’s life would have been somehow better and definitely different if Dad would have somehow figured out how to do things a little better or a little differently.
The single parent guilt. It’s the sneaky little bastard of a moment that tends to set in when I least expect it to show up.
I have learned there is really only one cure to overcoming the guilt, too… I have to figure out some way to touch base with reality.
The reality is that in or out of a nuclear family, there will be a shit ton of struggles and challenges that will affect my kid in negative ways throughout his entire upbringing. Many of those struggles and challenges would have been different in nature, but he will still experience them. There’s no way around it.
The reality also is that life is never stable for anyone. Sure, sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking things are steady and that we have some sort of fucking control over things, but the truth is that the rug of stability can be yanked out from under any of us at any time. I know this right now more than I’ve probably ever known it in my life.
The reality also is that advantages and opportunity have always existed in the eye of the beholder and in the mind of the receiver. Some of the most successful and greatest humans to ever grace the likes of mankind emerged from split families, near-impossible living conditions, and colossal life disadvantages. I would be willing to bet every one of the greatest people alive would tell you that those struggles were actually their greatest advantages. Those hardships were actually their greatest opportunities.
The reality also is that my relationship with my co-parent most likely ended because it didn’t have any real chance of succeeding at all. As single parents, we often forget that important little tidbit. We all know so much more about navigating life now, and we forget that we didn’t know the same things back then. We didn’t have the same tools. We have gained perspective, ability, and knowledge that we didn’t used to have, much of which we attained because of the demise and aftermath of our failed relationships. We can’t compare the person we are now to the person we were then. Not with any integrity, at least.
And finally, the reality also is that personal strength and grit have nothing to do with a person’s marital status. Strength and grit have everything to do with a person’s character, integrity, and steadfastness.
Summed up, the past doesn’t matter. Life is what it fucking is. We are where we fucking are. We have what we fucking have. And we do whatever we fucking do with whatever life currently is.
What we do with the life we have is ultimately up to each of us. More importantly, I promise you that what we do to thrive now will challenge, shape, and define our children more than anything else ever could.
I don’t know if it’s possible to never feel single parent guilt, but at this point I know whole-heartedly that when I do start to feel it, all it takes are those few right thoughts aimed in a more honest direction to stamp that guilt right out.
And we do all need to stamp it out. The single parent guilt is absolutely pointless; I promise you that.
My child will turn out alright. Your child will turn out alright. We’re doing our damndest to do our best with them, and that’s all we can ever do to give them the best chance possible.
Dan Pearce | Dan Pearce Was Here