Stop the Stereotyping

Posted August 22, 2014 by

For some single parents, the weight of the world often sits squarely on our shoulders. We are responsible for an incredible amount of things, duties, and actions. It’s not enough to pay the mortgage, be smart when making a purchase and keep the floors relatively clean – we are also responsible for our children. Now this isn’t exactly a newsflash, but let’s look at it a step further. Let’s say your child is in elementary school and you get a call from his teacher. He’s been acting up in class, not listening to her and disrupting the daily flow. How do you feel? I will tell you I’ve received those calls – more than a few times. I immediately felt like a balloon that had lost its air. My son’s misbehavior felt like my failure. Obviously I hadn’t taught him proper behavior, or how to control his impulses. I would ruminate over this situation until I wore a groove of negative self-talk into my brain.

As single parents, we become gun shy whenever someone tells us our child misbehaved. It’s as though huge neon arrows are pointed at us so the world can know our kid messed up; therefore, we did too. Maybe married parents feel this way too, I don’t know. But I do know this. There are so many negative assumptions and stereotypes about single parenting. For example, the term “broken home.” That one makes me cringe. My home is not broken; it just looks different from others. Anyway, my mission as I started this solo mom journey was to not be that stereotype. I shunned it and did what I could to prevent anyone from labeling my sons or me. Now sometimes there’s just no way around it. People are going to assume and judge and we just need to hold our heads high and keep living. But the truth is, every time something happens that has to do with our child misbehaving, it knocks the wind out of our sails.

Now that my sons are on the verge of young adulthood, I don’t get those phone calls anymore (thank goodness, as it would mean bigger issues). I am proud of the young men my boys have become and the paths they are forging into the world. But every once in awhile, ghosts from the past show up like a monster behind the door at a haunted house. Case in point – I was at a graduation party with my best friend and fellow single parent of boys. We were enjoying the celebration along with some cake when our kids’ youth pastor arrived. He’s a wonderful person and really good with youth and loving them up. We were reminiscing, as you do at these types of events and he began telling stories about our sons with a huge smile on his face. However, these stories all had the same theme – they were all about how our sons had screwed up , how they didn’t follow rules and got caught.  I felt the oxygen begin to leave the room little by little with each story, until I found myself highly irritated and no longer interested in graduation cake.

My best friend and I talked about this afterwards; why were only the negative stories told? Collectively we have four sons and yet we did not hear any good stories or positive comments about any of them. While our boys are certainly not perfect, they are good people and we are incredibly proud of them. Certainly there are plenty of encouraging stories that could have been told about them, because let’s face it: every parent shines when their child is complimented. Heck, hearing positive things about our kids can put enough fuel in our tank to last for miles. But since that didn’t happen, and even though our boys had grown past those moments, my friend and I both felt those old familiar biting feelings of failure. We didn’t do enough, we weren’t good enough moms, and our kids came from a broken home.

Do you share these feelings? How do you handle them? Here’s my request for today:  in the next few days, let’s all encourage other parents by telling them something we love and admire about their kids. Or how much we respect the parents for the thankless work they do raising children. From now on, let’s tell only positive stories.

About

Renee Brown is the tired yet happy mother of two young adult sons, Sam and Zachary. Almost an empty nester, she loves sharing her single parent experiences with the goal of providing hope and encouragement to those struggling on that “long and winding road.” Renee lives in Minneapolis, works in advertising, and also blogs for Your Teen magazine.

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