I remember having lunch with a friend just a few weeks after my husband died. While chatting, she referred to me as a “single parent”. I kept the fake smile on my face as I took another forkful of my salad, but my head was saying,

“Single parent? I’m not a single parent. That is what divorced people call themselves. I’m not divorced.”

I thought about it later that day. I wasn’t divorced, but I was also no longer married. There was no other word for it, so I guess that’s what I was – a single parent. Even so, it never sat right with me.

Recently, while interviewing Dr. Jennifer Ashton about the loss of her ex-husband by suicide,  she said something that made total sense to me. She called herself, and me, and any other widow(er), a “solo parent.” She explained that a solo parent is very different than a single parent because we are left as the only parent. Our children only have one.

Bells were going off in my mind because she hit the nail on the head – we are solo parents.

It is a much different world than that of a single parent. That is why calling myself single never felt appropriate.

I would never knock the life of a divorced parent. I have friends who are divorced and I know that they struggle in different ways. Some financially, some with bad relationships with their exes, some have children who are suffering through their parents’ divorce. I know it is not easy.

But the lives of widow(er)s are very different in many ways.
  1. We have NO time to ourselves. There are no weekends or even weekday nights when our children are with the other parent. We need to be “on” all the time.
  2. Decisions are ours and ours alone. From how many cookies a young child should have to which college an older teen should choose, there is no one to discuss issues with. The responsibility can be enormous.
  3. Our children grieve. Whether they are 4, 14, or 24, they have to deal with a tremendous loss and we have to help them through it.
  4. If something were to happen to us, our children would have no parents. This is a scary thought and why we need to be extra cautious with ourselves.
  5. The knowledge that there is no one else on earth who will love our children as much as we do. There is no longer that other person who looks at them like we do and sees them as the most amazing human beings on earth.

Solo parenting is hard and something no one signs up for. It causes you to summon up every ounce of strength in order to parent. It can be exhausting.

It can also help make you strong and independent.

When you rise to the occasion and your children are better for it, you begin to realize you are more capable than you may have thought.

Believe me, no one wants to gain strength this way, and I would give up my newfound strength to turn back time and have this never have happened. But being a solo parent has shown me that I can deal with much more than I ever thought. The silver lining is that I believe my children have witnessed this change. We have been through the worst times together and, as the years have gone by, many great times too.  

I know that they have learned from watching me solo parent, and that they have gained strength from this as well. Strength which will serve them well in their own futures.