Only vs. Single Parent

I love my children. I wouldn’t trade being their mother for anything in the world. In my darkest days, they were the reason I could get out of bed.

With that being said, one of the hardest things about being widowed is never having a night “off.” I miss the times when I could leave them with their dad and know that I could enjoy myself without being worried about them. This is one way that being an “only parent” is significantly different than being a “single parent.”  For most of the single parents I know, they can plan nights out on those weekends when they do not have their children. There is something comforting about knowing that your children are with their other parent and you don’t have to worry about them. Leaving your children with a babysitter, no matter how good he/she is, does not provide the same sense of ease. No matter who is taking care of my children, if it’s not me, then it’s not their parent.

When Cameron was four years old, I was a graduate student who took classes at night. This one night, my neighbor was watching Cameron and Caitlin for us because Steve was working and I had school. My cell phone battery was low so I turned the phone off while I was in class. I didn’t worry about doing this because Steve was still here with us. My children had two parents so their safety didn’t hinge solely upon me.

As I was driving home from class, I remembered that my phone was turned off. When I turned it on, I had several messages from Steve and my neighbor. Cameron had fallen off a trampoline and broke his arm! By the time I got the messages, Steve was with him at the ER and his arm had already been set. I felt terrible but his Daddy was there so Cameron was fine. Since that day, my phone is never far from me if my children are not with me. I can even be a bit paranoid about checking it!

I’m sure all parents worry about their children. I know I’m not unique in that way. It’s just the constant responsibility that is exhausting and can become overwhelming at times. When I decided to have these children, I did so within a happy marriage and with the understanding that I would have someone helping me. I sometimes just wish for a night off from the responsibility. I’m envious of my friends who are “kidless” because their children are with the other parent. I think everyone needs a break sometimes and it can be healthy for all parents.

Do not misunderstand me: I am not complaining about my children. I have great friends and excellent babysitters. I have even gone out of town without my children thanks to the loving people in our lives. I am simply saying that being an only parent is very different than being a single parent. No matter where I am (near or far), I am worried about my children in a way that I wouldn’t be if I had left them with their father. I take my responsibility as their only parent very seriously. I am never out of touch from those who are caring for my children, for fear that something will happen and I will need to be reached. I love my children and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without them.

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