“Being a single parent is twice the work, twice the stress and twice the tears but also twice the hugs, twice the love, and twice the pride.” – Unknown
Reality check? Parents are the most important people, in many people’s lives. Parents Day is just a way to say ‘thank you’, and to appreciate all their love, and efforts that they have poured in your upbringing, and helping you to achieve success, and support you through all your failures.
It’s a funny thing though, how parents’ function. Even though their kids may behave in the most shittiest way, they will still find a way to love them and think of them as the most wonderful child.
If you take a moment, and look at the life you have lived so far, and the person you have come to be, you may agree that a lot of credit goes to your parents. It doesn’t matter if they are your biological parent/s or not, but this is the person who has been there with you no matter what, helped you in all your highs and lows, and watched over you like a guardian angel.
This is what Parents Day is all about, recognizing and acknowledging all their efforts, and giving all of us, the entire world, a chance to show our gratitude to our parents, or those who have played a role of a parent for us.
Our parents, or parent-like figures are here, throughout our lives to guide us to become our own people, by becoming independent thinkers, and developing our personalities. With the world changing almost constantly, it’s not an easy task to raise a child. Many parents have a lot of sleepless nights, worrying about their child. This is why it is important to dedicate a day to them, and honour them, who do everything in their power to protect and raise us.
But society has different types of parents, and all these parents have their own respective challenges.
- Single Parents
There are many families globally, that are headed by a single parent – both male and female representatives. Due to personal circumstances, death, abandonment, or divorce, leaving a single parent to cope with all the nurturing, challenges, role-modelling, care-giving, and joys that were meant for the partnership of two. It is an overwhelming, extremely tough, and a wonderful experience all simultaneously! Sometimes, undergoing the feelings of being stressed, anxious, and desperation can be very typical. Single parenting demands are nothing to snuff at, they can be extremely challenging, and are difficult hills to climb on at any given day. These families face different sorts of difficulties – including financial difficulties, social isolation, and personal problems.
However, there are two sides of this coin – rewards, and challenges. Rewards can be easily understood and assumed, but it’s the challenges that we have a hard time to acknowledge. So, what are the challenges single parents face?
- Juggling multiple responsibilities
As a single parent, you need to juggle between numerous responsibilities, as well as fulfil the duties of both the parents, which makes life tough. As there is too much to do, time eventually becomes a precious commodity. Usually automatically, or because of society, guilt instils itself within us for not being there for your child.
- Sense of guilt
As single parents, when you are trying to do everything around you, few children feel a sense of empathy towards their parent, and try to make things easy for them by helping out. In this the child ends up maturing at a young age. This at times makes a parent feel that they have stolen their childhood/teenage years from them.
- Attempt to have it all
A lot of single parents, especially separated or divorced parents, feel the societal pressure to be perfect, to balance it all out, by being the sole breadwinner of the family, as well as a perfect parent to their child. All in 24 hours every day.
- Financial Support
Most single parents have to face the brunt of financial turmoil, that is left behind in the absence of another parental figure. You have to do everything by yourself, for at least some time, till you get a job, there is no financial or social aid available to you. Managing finances, as well as taking care of your child’s emotional and social needs, is a difficult task most single parents have to undergo.
- Legal documents
In India especially, many legal documents ask the name of a child’s father. Specifically for single mothers, this is difficult, who have to struggle and at times come up with excuses to receive or submit the required documents.
Along with these challenges, single parents also have to have a conversation with their child about the absence of another parental figure. This can be tough and extremely uncomfortable as children usually tend to be inquisitive to have a better understanding, and the parent might find it emotionally draining to explain, whilst also keeping in mind to being sensitive about the issue.
2. LGBTQIA+ Parents
India has yet to allow LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual and/or Ally) individuals to have a family. Nonetheless, the United States has a large number of children whose parents belong to the LGBTQIA+ community.
LGBTQIA+ individuals or partners become parents through various systems, maybe the child was conceived in a heterosexual marriage, or relationship, through alternative insemination, adoption, surrogacy, or foster parenting. Many LGBTQIA+ parents have raised their children as single parents, right from birth, or in an ongoing committed relationship. Very few states and countries have laws in place that support the LGBTQIA+ couple adoption.
According to current research, children with gay and lesbian parents don’t differ from children with heterosexual parents in terms of developing their relationships with peers and adults, or emotional development. It is very important for every individual, especially parents to understand that it is the quality of the parent/child relationship, and not the parent’s sexual orientations that impacts a child’s development.
Study has shown that children with gay and lesbian parents are equally well adjusted as children with heterosexual parents. Despite that, they can face some additional challenges.
- Understanding the LGBTQIA+ community
At a very young age, LGBTQIA+ parents have to start having open discussions and communication with their child, regarding their own personal sexual orientation, what roles they play, how they are a family, etc. Having a conversation on such a heavy subject with a child can be overwhelming, for both the parent as well as the child. At the same time, explaining family relationships, and relationship status to children’s friends/parents, school or college professionals, or medical professionals can be equally complex.
- Prone to Bullying
Even after the legalization of gay marriage, not everyone is quite as accepting and embracing of this practice as you would think. Knowledge, inculcating morals and values come from home, but several kids don’t understand the concept of LGBTQIA+, bully and tease children whose parents belong to the respected community. Making these children feel uncomfortable, and resent their own parents whose sexual orientation is different.
- Financial expenses
Most parents face the strain of financial challenges. But LGBTQIA+ parents have it harder, due to adoption, outdated laws and customs, assisted reproduction, and discrimination.
The financial struggles can be seen in two ways:
Whether LGBTQIA+ parents adopt from a private agency, state agency, international agency or private placement (where birth parents work directly with adoptive parents, without an agency), the process of adoption costs money.
In case your partner has a child or children from a previous relationship, and are maybe considering adopting them, agency and private placement fees obviously aren’t an issue then. If this is your second time adopting, then attorney’s fees can cost a few thousand dollars, and court fees, paperwork filing fees, and post-placement evaluation fees will gradually add to the cost.
Assisted reproduction is the only option for same-sex couples who want to have a biological connection to a child that they raise together from birth. The couple’s expenses for their first child includes fees of almost everything, surrogate agency fee, egg donor fee, clinic fee, etc., while adding a couple of thousands on donor and surrogate blood tests and genetic tests.
3. Special needs parents
Parenting is always challenging, and these challenges reach new heights when you are a parent to a special needs child. Before anything, what is a special needs child?
Special needs are an umbrella of terms for various diagnoses, right from those that will be a challenge throughout life, to those that resolve quickly, and those that are comparatively mild to those that are profound. Children with special needs may have medical conditions, congenital conditions, developmental delays, and/or psychiatric conditions.
But parents with children with special needs, face challenges unlike the rest.
- Availability for special needs
Many individuals often have privileges that get them where they are and make them who they are. This is also applicable in terms of medical requirements, education, etc. Many families that nurture a child with special needs, lack in acquiring certain accessibilities for their child. There are limited toilets with access to changing rooms in toilets, to uneven footpaths, or having no ramp access. Lack of accessibilities can leave many families from engaging with the outside world, and in turn isolate themselves.
- Compassion from others
Several families experience lack of empathy and understanding from other people when it comes to raising a child with special needs. Not being able to understand things like, you might not be able to attend a birthday party because it is too loud, inaccessible or too structured for your child, or it might be not understanding your child’s behaviors or sensory issues. It could also be certain people who instead of helping you out, spend time staring at you when your child has a ‘meltdown’.
- Adapting to unavailability to certain aids
Parents can find it difficult to find suitable clothing that fits their child’s needs. This line of clothing is easily available online. Right from impeccable socks to unrestrained swimsuits and bandana bibs. But not everyone can afford online shopping, or have the privilege of it.
A major challenge for parents whose child has difficulty in communicating. Their child might be facing selective mutism, or can be totally non-verbal or have behavioural or sensory issues that affect the way in which they communicate.
There is no two-way about how to face these challenges, because every child, every parent, every life is different and we all have accessibility to different things differently. Parents or parent-like figures are the only ones who will go to great lengths for their child’s prosperity, and development. So, make sure they know just how much you love them too.
Written by: Edlyn Cardoza