Guest Blog- Casey Burk

Single Mother- 50% Strength, 50% Fear

No one ever said that being a mother was going to be easy. There were plenty of people who warned us about all of the hardships we would go through once that first child was born. But that was when ‘I’ was a part of a ‘we’. I was married and expected to raise my son in a home with two parents, the way I was raised. All of those people with the lists of warnings carefully left out the part about what it would be like as a single mother.

A single parent (or solo parent) is a parent, not living with a spouse or partner, who has most of the day to day responsibilities in raising the child or children. A definition from Wikipedia doesn’t even begin to describe what it means to be a single mother. Yes, I deal with the day to day responsibilities in raising my child, meaning I feed him, dress him, and ensure that he gets the right balance of sleep and play. But that is such a broad definition of responsibility. I think any person with the ability to that for themselves has the ability to do it for a child as well. The difference is that I have to provide the food, the clothes and the roof over his head, all without the financial support of a second parent. This is where being a single parent begins to get tricky.

When there are two parents raising a child together, one might go to work while the other stays home with the child. Or they both go to work and put the child in daycare, sharing the responsibility of picking him up by the end of the day and spending quality time with him. There are either two incomes or an income and built in daycare. As a single parent, I am not only responsible for working but also daycare. And if I have to work and my son has to be in daycare all day, when is there a moment of quality time? In my opinion, my son deserves anything and everything he could ever want, including time spent with me and memories that time creates. There has to be a balance but when you are a single parent it feels as if you are balancing on a rope 500 feet above ground. So what is more important? Giving my son all the material items that he begs for everyday or giving him time and love, which may not seem as important to him at the moment but will give him so much more in the long run?

And so begins the emotional aspect of this journey. Raising a child requires more than the day to day physical responsibilities. Being a good mom requires more than feeding, dressing and playing with your children. Little kids have a very good ability to pick up on others emotions and they feed off the good and the bad. Their emotional state usually reflects that of those around them. And if they feel bad, sad, worried or scared, their growth and development could be greatly affected. They are children, they have a clean slate and a magic in their hearts that should be there as long as possible. As a single parent, sometimes it is hard to hide these emotions from them and to promote happiness. There is always something to worry about when you are alone, whether it is money, loneliness, or simply fear of the unknown. Those fears can play with a person’s emotions without them even knowing, which in turn can play with a child’s emotions. Single parents often wonder why their children have such bad behavior problems and emotional issues. If every one of them could just look at themselves and how they carry themselves around their children, in most cases those issues wouldn’t be so bad. (I am not claiming to be any kind of expert here, I just truly believe this!)

One last fear that I believe is big (however it is not nearly the last!) is if you are raising your child to be the best they can be. This child, and one day adult, is a mirror effect of how well you raised them. As a single parent, you are solely responsible for how your children turn out. Sure they may make their own bad decisions one day and do things that you aren’t necessarily proud of, but their beliefs and memories and values are all focused on you. As terrifying as this may seem, I look at it as a benefit. I don’t have to argue with another parent on how I want to raise my son. I don’t have to fight about discipline techniques or nutrition beliefs. I do with him what I believe to be important. And I may not have that second parent to look to for advice or help, but I have created a very large support system that work as my parental partner. And even though they don’t have a say in how I raise my child, they are the shoulder that I cry on and the love that I need daily. They are one big second parent helping me be the best parent I can be, much like a husband or wife would be to others.

I am about to dive in to this journey for a second time. I have my 5 year old baby boy and I am expecting my daughter in Oct. Although it is not the journey I would have chosen for myself again, I know that I can do it and have proof that that is true. My son is one of the most loving, caring, and beautiful children I have ever known. He is respectful and has such great potential. It scares me to think about all of the things I will have to go through with him alone, but at the end of the day, when he is showing me more love than any man ever could; I know that we will be alright. We will get through those hard times together and will have an amazing bond. And he will be there for me as I begin this journey with my daughter. We will be a family, not the conventional type, but a family none the less. We will have as much love and respect as any traditional family does, with a sprinkle of fear and a touch of strength.