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Please call me an only parent, not a single mom

46-year-old widow spreads late-husband's ashes in 48 states on cross country RV trips with two eyeball rolling teenage daughters where steering wheel becomes her spiritual guide.

As I straddle the role of being both mother and father, disciplinarian and softie, I learn that we are still a family despite ourselves. My friends call me Mr. Laura, although the politically correct term for a widow is an only parent.

You see, single moms typically have the advantage of an ex somewhere in the picture who is more than likely involved in helping to raise said children. Trust me, there is a huge difference between the two and while I know your divorced life also has its share of inherent challenges, we are in very different parenting places.

Here are five ways that we're different:

1.

You likely get child support, alimony, and/or maintenance while widows slug it out on one paycheck.

2.

You have an ex who is probably in competition with you to be the better parent which serves to make you both better parents in the long run. Lucky kids! We only have ourselves to blame here people.

3.

Odds are your ex takes your kids to the movies, attends their parent/teacher conferences, coaches their soccer games, helps with homework, and offers them loving support not only during the week but also on alternate weekends. This leaves you with all kinds of free time to do whatever you please, whenever you please, however you please. Widows parent 24/7. I rarely have the luxury of alone time or heaven hear me, to wake up in a tangle of sheets next to a man and know just how he takes his coffee. While you’re luxuriating in bed wearing an impossibly small Victoria’s Secret get-up, widows are outside doing it in the pricker bushes holding onto your fence, praying the security lights don’t turn on!

4.

Even if you and your ex are on the absolute worst of terms, I bet you still converse or at least text about your shared spawn. You have a sounding board or at least someone to alert when things are going bad... and especially when they are going well. "Susie got an A on her Spanish exam!" or "Daniel just got kicked out of chorus for disrupting the class. Will you please speak to him about it?" We have no one to play good cop/bad cop with. It's all us, all the time.

5.

If you get hit by a meteorite, your children will hopefully have that handy extra parent around to raise them.

Still, I'm not sure I would want to trade places, unless you have somehow managed to co-parent in peace. If not, today may be that proverbial day to count your ex-blessings. If you don't know what I'm talking about, let me remind you that your kids are watching and learning from you. So please:

  • Don't argue in front of your children.
  • Don’t bad mouth the other parent. It hurts your kids’ self-esteem and will not make them choose sides.
  • Focus on the strengths of your ex by saying something like, "Your father is often late because he has a successful career and a lot to juggle," instead of saying, "Your father is always late. He has no respect for anyone, especially you kids!"
  • Use the divorce and its inherent challenges as a way to teach your kids problem-solving skills by remaining calm and respectful when dealing with your ex.
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