A while ago, I wrote a post entitled Things NEVER to Say to a Single Mother. It’s been really popular; in fact, at the time of writing it’s the third most popular post on this blog.
The thing is, one lady left a comment on the post, asking what I felt was a very pertinent question: “what should we say to you then?” (She didn’t just say that; she actually left a fairly long and thought provoking comment).
I agree that a lot of the time, people don’t say the things I hate to hear so much, because they mean to be deliberately mean or insulting; they’re just saying it from a lack of anything else to say. So I thought it might be useful to tell you some things I love to hear, so as to even out the energy of that previous post.
- How are you today? – not “how are you coping with being a single parent” or “how is single parent life” but just, how are you? Single parents are people too, and we love it when you treat us like real humans, outside of any labels we may have.
- Do you need anything from the shops while I’m in town? Never underestimate how useful you can be to a single parent, after their designated curfew time, or when they or their child(ren) are ill. Nobody wants charity, and many of us will be too proud to say yes, but if you’re going to the shops any way, just ask the question.
- You look good! – it’s important not to qualify this statement by adding “today” at the end, as if she normally looks like crap but perhaps she brushed her hair today. When you’re a single parent, you don’t have time to stand in front of the mirror checking your trousers for snotty smears or putting your hair into a beautifully coiffured style. Just getting out of the house is often an achievement in itself. You could make someone’s day, if not their week, by telling them they look good.
- You’re doing ok – all parents love to hear this, but single parents often have nobody to say it to them. Say it. Point out that their child is still in one piece, that they seem happy, that the snot isn’t covering their entire face. They’re doing a good job and they love for you to notice.
- Let’s meet for coffee… I’ll stop by Costa and bring coffee to your place – Going out for a coffee date when you’ve nobody to care for your child for an hour or so is a luxury many of us don’t get. Coffee shops are not places young children usually enjoy, especially if Mummy spends the time talking to someone else! And rocking up to someone’s house for coffee is a gamble on whether the milk in the fridge is still in date. Do a favour for both of you: turn up with the coffee, sit in the living room and make conversation with her while she sorts the washing or puts Numberjacks on to keep her child occupied.
- Barack Obama was raised by a single mother, and so was Bill Clinton. – as single parents, we often worry that we’re not enough, that our children will grow up somehow lacking, that the statistics are against us and our children will be forever blighted by not having a father. But seriously people, the leader of the free world. Sometimes we need reminding, though.
- I’m proud to be your friend – as a single mother, it’s easy to feel like the outcast – especially on the weekends, when families spend their days together and fathers who’ve been at work all week are home. Often it can feel like some women are trying to keep their husbands or partners away from us, lest we steal them. And it can often feel like people are looking down at us because we don’t have a husband or partner of our own. Sometimes when you’re a single parent, your confidence can take a bit of a knock for no real reason. And who wouldn’t want to be told their friend is proud to know them?
- Look how awesome your kid is, and you can take all the credit! – every time anyone mentions anything at all positive about S, I feel a massive jolt of confidence – because I know I’m her only caregiver. I’m the only person responsible for her upbringing, and it is a massive confidence boost when someone else notices how awesome your child is.
- Oh, look, he blew a raspberry! How cute! – for me one of the hardest things to cope with as a single parent is the knowledge that there is nobody on this planet who cares as much as I do about S. When she was a tiny baby and pulling funny faces or giggling, there was nobody to call into the room and show. Nobody with whom to marvel about her sheer awesomeness. When someone shares in that with you, even if only temporarily, it can make a massive difference. Something like that makes me feel less alone and more connected.
If you’re a single mother, do you have any to add, that don’t make you cringe when you hear them?
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