Defining “Full-Time Single Parent” Through Social Media

I am addicted to Instagram. It’s honestly an obsession. I just love looking at pictures, more than the average person, I believe. I prefer Instagram over Facebook, hands down. On Instagram there is rarely any abounding negativity or that vague-booking phenomenon of, “Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers!”, or, “I AM SO DONE”, with no explanation of why I should even consider praying for said individual or what that person is “SO DONE” with. No, on Instagram there just seems to be love, kids, pets, yoga, and humor. I adore it.

There is one exception to my love for Instagram: Commenter wars. I don’t know if this is even a thing but that’s what I call it. I’m sure you’ve all seen it, if you’re an Instagram fan, these wars between commenters that take place usually under popular pictures, mostly posted by celebrities or high traffic Instagram accounts.

Today, I saw a post by Heather Armstong of Dooce.com. (If you don’t know her then you must be new to the internet so in that case, welcome.) She made a comment under her photo post about how you celebrate the small victories when you’re a “full-time single parent”.

“Oh, how I can now completely identify!”, I thought to myself.

I rarely leave comments on pictures but I wanted to praise the post and find that single-mom solidarity with her. As I went to hit that “Comment” button, I noticed a small war brewing within the comments already posted. Random women, most likely strangers to Heather, were discrediting her for her use of the term “full-time single parent”. Women berating other women. Parents berating other parents.

There were 12 comments at that time, more than half of which were giving Heather their own, more accurate (says them), definition of single-parent. As I type, there are currently 80 comments with more of the same.

“‘Single parenting’ means no co-parent- someone widowed or whose former spouse has shirked parental responsibilities”- Jackiedanicki

“The issue isn’t the use of single parent. It’s ‘full time’ single parent. We know she has shared custody, we know she has family. With all due respect she has no clue what being a full time single parent is. Hint- no alone trips, no relief. All you all the time”- turbulentmouse

Those are a couple of examples of the comments left on Heather’s photo.

These people were striking a huge nerve of mine. Why must we all one-up one another with how tough our life is? Why is someone else’s battle less hard than your own? Why does it matter that someone’s definition of full-time single parent differs from yours? Is there even a definition of “full-time” single parent? Does there even have to be?

The truth is that full-time single parenting means so many different things to every individual experiencing it. Everyone lives in their own reality and everyone is on a journey that includes hardships. This is true for life in general, single parent or not. That we can all agree on. So, let’s stop attacking someone else’s reality because it does not and will not ever mirror your own. Let’s stop making assumptions about people’s lives, how hard they work for their kids, their custody agreements, etc. It isn’t fair.

For me, I have learned through my brief stint thus far in single parenthood that there are just too many dynamics to define what it truly is. It looks so different in every situation. It’s somewhat undefinable even though the words seem so self explanatory.
I have my daughter five nights a week, leaving my ex with two.
Do I stop worrying about her those two nights a week and do I stop parenting when she’s gone? No.
Do I have it easier than someone whose ex spouse is completely out of the picture? No, I don’t think so because in some situations co-parenting is more intense and more difficult than just doing it your own way 100% of the time.
Do I have it harder than divorced parents who split their time 50/50? No, see previous answer.
Do I have it harder than all married parents because I am no longer married? You know what? No, I don’t. Not in all cases. I have seen plenty of parents that are married and would completely define a full-time single parent because of how absent their spouse is.
Do I consider myself a “full-time” single parent? Abso-fuckin-lutely.

What I know is that I am a parent who has her priorities in line. My child comes first, period. That qualifies me as a full-time parent in my book. Any parent that prioritizes their children as number one in life is a full-time parent. I just so happen to be single. Does that component make it difficult? Hell yes but I refuse to be the asshole to say, or think, my life is so much more difficult than anyone else’s. I do not live in anyone else’s reality.

So, Instagram commenters, stop trying to define something that bears a different definition for everyone. More importantly, let’s remember that there is a human with emotions on the other side of your screen, someone who is fighting a battle that you know nothing about aside from what TwitGramBook tells you. Be kind and let’s lift one another up. Think of something kind to say to a single mom that is posting on social media, and clearly struggling, not something to shame them.

Oh yeah, also, Instagram commenters? Stop ruining my happy place.

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