I’ve always called myself a single mother – hence the name of this blog.

But just recently I’ve been intrigued by the different terms there are out there for people like me. As far as I can tell, there are three: a single parent; a lone parent; a double parent. There’s also the term co-parenting which I’ll include here purely because a lot of parents who are no longer part of a couple, fall into this catgory.

A Double Parent

As far as I know, this is a phrase coined by the website, The Double Parent. The writer of this blog argues that since her children’s father is nowhere to be seen, she is doing both jobs. She is playing the part of two parents, rather than one – and so she is a double parent. When I first came across this site, I completely understood what she meant. S’s father has not set eyes on her since she was 4 months old, and his maintenance contribution is negligible. I am her mother, but I also take care of all of the things other little girls might go to their father for.  I never felt that I could use the term “double parent” for myself though, as the name is already taken by a rather popular blog!

Lone Parent

A while ago I invited my readers to ask me questions, and one person asked me whether I thought there was a place for differentiation between “single” parents and “lone” parents. (I forget who it was; if you sent the question do please let me know so that I can credit you!). For me, the term “lone” parent is probably about the same as “double parent” – no days or weekends “off” being a parent while your child is with their other parent, no option of co-parenting, no contact with the other parent. You’re responsible for everything from putting clothes on their back to choosing their school, and you are the responsible adult in the room 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Single Parent

This seems to be the option most of us use to describe ourselves! It’s something of a catch-all phrase, but if you accept the above two terms, a single parent would be someone who lives apart from their child’s other parent, but the other parent is actively involved in their life. Perhaps they have the child every other weekend, or for days out here and there. The relationship between the parents might be decidedly frosty, but the second parent is there, and takes part.


This is option number four, and for parents who have split up but take more equal roles in the child’s life. So rather than the option above, where the child lives with one parent and sees the other on weekends or days here and there, it’s closer to a 50/50 split of time between the parents. The child might have a bedroom in both homes, and the parents make a concerted effort to both be active parents. It takes a lot of work to do this successfully. Martyn from Inside Martyn’s Thoughts could be considered a co-parent, as for the most part he has his sons for 50% of the time.

What do you think? Which category do you fall into?

Do you think there’s a place for a distinction between single parents, lone parents and co-parents? Personally, I’m still undecided. On the one hand, it feels a lot like splitting hairs – but on the other hand, if terms like “double parent” or “lone parent” became known as these definitions, I would begin to tell people, “I’m a lone parent” – and it might keep people from assuming S’s father has anything to do with us.


Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


Becky @lakessinglemum · 15/10/2015 at 07:00

I’m definitely a lone parent as I’ve brought up my children for nearly 6 years without their father having any role in their lives.

Cath Joye · 15/10/2015 at 07:16

I use the term “single parent”. I am single and I am parent. My three daughters live with me and I am responsible for the every day decisions.

I also use the term “co-parenting”. Their dad* is still a part of their lives. He is an active parent although we don’t have a traditional “every second weekend” type arrangement.

When it comes up my usual response is that I am single mother, the girls live with me full-time, but that I share them very nicely with their father.

*interesting side story: he is only the biological father of our youngest daughter. I would totally have changed the terminology if there was any implication the biological father of my oldest two daughters had anything to do with them.

    Vicky Charles · 16/10/2015 at 08:59

    Thanks Cath, an interesting perspective. I like the idea that you share your children very nicely with their father!

Cath Joye · 15/10/2015 at 07:20

I forgot to say, the term “double parent”, which I have never heard before, reminds me of the term “double duty parent”. I’ve heard that used to describe those who work both outside the home as well as those responsible for the parenting and home duties. I do use that term occasionally too!

martyn · 15/10/2015 at 07:43

I think there is a clear distinction between there terms, as you’ve listed. I think due to this people will use it appropriately.

I say that I’m a single parent. I am single and I am not with the boys mum so therefore I am, in correct terms, a single dad. That being said I don’t class myself as a “single dad”. There is definitely a set mindset as to what “single dads” are like; through possible media portrayal of those terms. I care, support and push to be as active as possible with the boys rather than just doing what us “predictably expected”. So in that sense I am 100% a Co parent. More so if you consider my access.

I think then a single parent is someone who does it alone. The other terms show how you do it. Is there then a place for a “part time” parent who only has the children 20% or lower?

All of this does seem petty and definitely splitting hairs. :/

Great post though very thought provoking. Thanks for the mention.

    Vicky Charles · 16/10/2015 at 08:58

    Thanks Martyn. I still can’t decide whether it’s an important distinction or just splitting hairs! It’s one of those things where, for me and for S growing up it would be handy if there was a term we could use so that people automatically know there is no father on the scene – but then on the other hand, whose business is it any way!

Pen · 15/10/2015 at 08:25

Hi,really interesting points. I would define myself as a single mother. I am a mother who is not in a relationship which to my mind makes me a single mother. I do however receive a hell of a lot of support from my family and my son’s dad is still around and has our one year old two nights a week. Although I am a single mother, the single bit belies the fact that in my life I am anything but single – I have a great family and friend support network around me which the single mother term doesn’t recognise. We are all different and I don’t think that any term of set of terms can cater for that diversity. Thank you for your post.

    Vicky Charles · 16/10/2015 at 08:56

    Thanks Pen, I think that’s a good point; it’s not something you can easily define because every situation is slightly different.

Suz · 15/10/2015 at 09:30

I see myself as a double parent. I do everything that a normal parent does but I have to be dad to my boys as well. Since their dad died it is my job to keep his memory alive for them, to instill his values into them and bring them up as he would have wanted. Calling myself a ‘single’ or ‘lone’ parent would, in my mind, would take away the fact that my two had the most amazing dad who adored them and would do anything to have stayed with them. I know this is a totally different situation to the majority of other parents bringing up kids on their own, but there seems to be a lot of us given the number of new friends I have!

    Vicky Charles · 16/10/2015 at 08:55

    I think you’re right, Suz. Saying “single” or “lone” parent makes it sound like their dad is not in the picture through choice.

patrice M Foster · 15/10/2015 at 23:41

Don’t see the point ….They all basically mean the same thing. Ok co-Parent maybe different But at the end mother is still single raising her child the best way she can.

    Vicky Charles · 16/10/2015 at 07:50

    Good thinking Patrice!

Michelle · 18/10/2015 at 15:26

I am probably going to echo some of what Pen and Martyn say because I am a single mother but I am also a co-parent. While we don’t have a set schedule as to who has the boys and when, we have an open agreement that basically lets the boys choose. What I mean by that is, the boys live with me but whenever they want to talk to or see their dad, they can. This can be during the week or the weekend. Both of us are very adamant that our boys not be forced to choose one parent over the other. I didn’t have a dad growing up and I’ve seen too many mothers keep their children from their dads out of pettiness and bitterness and this hurts the kids so I make sure my boys know they can see their dad whenever they want. It’s hard for me to tell people I’m a single parent though because people seem to automatically assume that the dad isn’t in the picture so I almost always have to add that I’m a co-parent. I agree with Martyn that it’s kind of petty for total strangers to make that assumption but it’s something we’ve been conditioned to believe. I say single parent because I am not with anyone but then I feel like I have to use the term co-parent because I like to give credit where credit is due and my ex has really stepped up for his kids since our split three years ago. This is a great post!

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