10 Things Never to Say to a Single Mom
"It must besohard to date."
"No kidding," says single mom *Lorie. "Dating isn't exactly a walk in the park—even though I'm always there with my three-year-old daughter!" As any single woman can attest, dating isn't easy, but a single mom has more obstacles—like finding time and babysitters for dates—when it comes to finding Mr. Right. Rachel Sarah, author ofSingle Mom Seeking,says being concerned about your single mom friend's dating life isn't a bad thing, but it's better to offer help than to comment on how tough it is. Sarah suggests trying to play matchmaker—does your husband have any sweet single guy friends? "Or offer to come over one night (with some wine) and work on an online dating profile together," recommends Sarah.
"How do you afford being a single parent?"
The answer? With a job, most likely. "I almost fell over when my neighbor asked how I can afford a nice townhouse and SUV as a single mom," says working mom *Lorraine. And she's not the only one doing the 9-to-5 thing. Recent census numbers show that half of all custodial single mothers work full-time year-round. That number jumps to 80% when you factor in part-time working single moms with custody. "How a woman spends her own income after her children's needs are met shouldn't come under scrutiny," says Carolyn Edgar, a New York City lawyer, writer and single mom. "In fact, the vast majority of single mothers are kicking butt in the workforce and don't receive government assistance." No matter how a single mom pays for her expenses, inquiring for specifics on how she does it is over the line. You wouldn't ask how a multi-income family affords their lifestyle, right?
"You must have unorthodox views on parenting."
Not necessarily. A Women at NBCU study found that 55% of single moms agreed to the statement, "I consider myself to be a very traditional mom." *Kayla, a single mom to a toddler daughter, couldn't agree more. "I'm a nurse and my child attends day care, like all of my married mom friends. As for the weekends, you can find me at mommy-and-me class and grocery shopping." Kayla says you wouldn't be able to pick her out as a single mom in a lineup at the playground. So just because a woman's parenting solo doesn't mean she's doing anything markedly different from a mom-and-dad duo.
"Where's his babydaddy?"
"Babydaddy" is a word that makes single mom *Donna cringe. "People assume because I'm young that I'm wrapped up in drama, but it's just the opposite. My son's father and I aren't together, but his dad is active physically and financially." Even if the dad isn't involved, questions about a child's biological father fall strictly into the mind-your-own-business category, says Leah Klungness, PhD, author ofand co-founder of SingleMommyhood.com. "If you have to ask, that means this single mom has chosennotto share information about that man with you." Follow the mom's lead: If she brings up her child's father in conversation, then maybe she'll satisfy your curiosity. If it doesn't come up, it's because she doesn't want it to—and you should respect that.
"Children need fathers for male role models."
A father isn't the only type of man who can serve as a role model for a child. Between grandparents, uncles, friends, teachers and hey, maybe even the mother's boyfriend, a single mom's child likely has a positive male role model in his life. "My older brother coaches my son's baseball team," notes *Joy, a single mom. Even without a male father figure, research shows it's the quality of the relationship that the child has with the participating parent that matters the most—just look at how far Barack Obama came as the child of a single mother. Joy agrees; "My son has no relationship with his father, but we're like peas and carrots."
"Where's your child?"
"When it came up that I was a single mom, a woman at the bar asked, 'Wait, where's your kid now?'" says *Jenny. It was 11 PM on a Friday night, so she was taken aback by this question. "He's home sleeping and his grandmother is watching him," Jenny snapped. And this wasn't the first time Jenny was out without her child that someone speculated about his whereabouts. "It's rude to ask a single mom where her child is if she's out enjoying the evening," explains Dr. Klungness. "When any type of sound parent steps out for adult fun, it means they've made arrangements for their child. End of story."
"I don't know how you do it!"
This is often meant as a compliment, but it can sound more like an insult when put this way. "It makes it seem like raising my son is a chore," says Mareesa Hernandez, a single mom to a four-year-old in Cliffside Park, NJ. "I would never ask a married mom how she does it because I think motherhood is hard but also rewarding." Instead of asking a single mom how she manages, say something that shows you admire her. "Tell me I'm doing a good job! Or that my son is well-mannered and that must be a reflection of me. We appreciate your thoughtful pats on the back—not so much your questions and stunned faces."
"Do you use child support money for yourself?"
In general, single moms don't use child support dollars on getting their hair and nails done. "Courts award child support to help take care of a child's needs—andbothparents' incomes are taken into account to determine how much a parent has to pay," explains Edgar. "Not that it's anyone's business, but a better question would be, 'Does his father contribute to supporting your child?'" If you don't have the audacity to ask your best friend what her checking account balance is, you shouldn't ask a single mom about child support—a personal legal matter.
"Let me know if you ever need a sitter."
Yes, a single mom could use a sitter! However, MommaSaid.net blogger Jen Singer says asking in such a flip way can send the wrong message. "An open-ended offer of babysitting might be misconstrued as 'You obviously can't do it on your own.'" Singer suggests proposing something more specific. "Say, 'I'm free Saturday morning if you want me to watch the kids.' Then it feels like a favor that any mom would offer another, single or not." Or ask to swap babysitting duties—it says you need time off, too, and you consider your single mom friend a peer, not a charity case.
"Are you so scared you'll accidentally get pregnant again?"
Guess what? Some single moms are single by choice—their pregnancies were planned. "After a single-by-choice mom becomes a mother for the first time, 'scared' isn't the word that comes to mind about the prospect of having another baby," says Mikki Morrissette, founder of ChoiceMoms.org. "The more appropriate question is, 'Would you welcome the chance to have a second?'" As for single moms who got pregnant unexpectedly, they tend to be more serious about birth control. Still, some might want more kids and have the courage to do so alone because they're thriving as single moms.
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