Stuck in the Middle

Inspired by this article Why Married People Need Single Friends from Relevant Magazine

            I just read a very informative and right on article from Relevant Magazine, about how married people need single friends and vice versa. It had a lot of good points in it, I wish I had read it when I was first married, it would have helped me in a lot of ways. But now that I am living the other side of the picture as a single mom, it still holds a lot of truth. I realize the problem is not just on one side; both married and single people need to overcome assumptions and reach out to each other. Life (esp. as a Christian) is about living in community. Merriam Webster defines community as an “interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location” It doesn’t say, everyone who is the same hangs out together, it says various individuals. We gather strength and wisdom by being around various types of people and getting different perspectives than our own.

A perspective that I often feel is overlooked in many circles is that of the single parent. They don’t fall into classic single category and they don’t fit nicely with the other people who have kids the same age as theirs, because most of them are living the married life. Being a single parent is hard in many different ways, I don’t think anyone will argue with that. But what I have found surprising is how difficult the social aspect of it can be. Everyone situation is unique I realize, but I feel like my observations probably apply to more than just my situation.

To start off with, there is a stigma that comes with being a single parent, especially in Christian circles. While there are many reasons people are single parents, but it seems that none of them are good. Either you were a teen parent or someone who made mistake, or you are divorced. While each carries a different connotation, neither is ideal. No matter where you are in your life now, you still feel like people are questioning why you are in this situation or are judging you, even if none of it was your fault. Even if no one is really judging you, you feel that way, because maybe without even knowing it we are harder on ourselves than anyone else. We can be as stable and as put together as possible, but there is always that nagging “what if “ What if I had done something different, what if I made a different choice at this point. This questioning is probably true for any parent, mainly because we want what is best for our kids. But as a single parent it looms a little bigger, because it ALL falls on us.

So if you can get past the worrying what people think about you, and get out there and make friends it still difficult.  There are levels of freedom in social life, single people it seems can go out when they choose. The married with kids people are more tied down, they have responsibilities and the kids to take care of, but they get out for date nights and can split up and have guys/girls nights out. As a single parent where do you fall? You are single, but you also have the responsibilities and no one to split them up with. So even thought you are single, you have less freedom then even your married friends. Social gatherings are awkward too, you go to a friend’s  bbq, the guys congregate outside and the women gather in the kitchen, while the kids go crazy in the backyard, what does the single mom do? If her child is young she needs to keep an eye on him, does that mean hanging out with the guys in the backyard? Or trying to keep the child inside?

So what is the point of all this? Single parents, need married friends, and single friends. But there are challenges that come with that, that must be overcome. Just as singles envy the marriage relationship, and married people envy the freedom of singles. The single parent envies both sides of the fence, so both sides need to be aware of that and not flaunt it as the original article discusses.  But both sides need to reach out and try to understand the needs of the single parent. We need interaction with adults, it doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, even if it is just talking about our kids. Remember we don’t have someone at home to listen to us. Another thing is understand that in a lot of our situations our support systems are tapped out, we use up our childcare resources for things we have to do, such as school, work, appointments, ect.  Also a lot us don’t have living situations that are conducive to inviting people over for entertaining, so don’t assume that if we want to be friends we will make the first step, sometimes it is not that easy.

Some practical advice. Married people: don’t assume that we don’t want to come over to your house for dinner because it would be awkward for us. It is good for us to see “normal” families, to think about what kind of relationships and families we want in the future. And it is good for our kids to have interaction with other adults. As a single mom to a boy, I know I am so grateful every time another father takes the time to talk to and connect with my son, even if it just over the smallest thing. Girls/guys nights out are great, but maybe once in a while offer to let our child(ren) stay with your kids while we go out. Singles: don’t stop inviting us just because we can’t make it a lot of them time. Sometimes we will be able to make it, and we cherish those times. Also if you want to hang out with us more, maybe offer to hang out with us at the park, or something similar where we can bring our kids along

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