In case you were unaware, not all relationships work out the way people hope. I know, this is shocking and definitely brand new information. Brace yourself for another life-changing revelation: sometimes people in relationships have kids, and even the presence of those kids doesn't stop breakups from happening. I know! You totally never knew that, right? And then the parents are left to figure out how to co-parent and exist in the world as an uncoupled person with kid(s). Which is why, sorry not sorry, being a single mom is harder than being a single dad. Always. The two are just dramatically difficult, and those difference create a slew of difficulties that are not all experienced equally.
As a rule, I like to avoid conversations that attempt to cleanly differentiate between how men experience something and how women experience the same thing. Admittedly, drawing this line can effectively illuminate key differences that definitely do exist, and when thoughtfully synthesized, those differences can produce conclusions that are rich with insights about how men and women exist in the world. So, I'm not dismissing the practice of delineating along gender lines. But I still avoid it when I can, if only because most people are not thoughtful and do not endeavor to pull out those great insights. No, with most people drawing bold lines around how different people experience things just gives people one more way to lazily assume they know everything about an individual's life based solely one which boxes they're checking.
So it is with some hesitation that I have to point out the big differences between being a single mom and being a single dad, but they are so profoundly true and consequential and altogether result in a situation that is exponentially more brutal for women than men.
The details, it goes without saying, vary based on so many variables about everyone's specific lives, but for the most part, here are some of the main reasons why being a single mom is wildly harder than being a single dad:
The Bar Is So Much Higher, It's Actually Kind Of Funny
Oh, you see your kids for a few whole days every month? What a hero. Your kid is so lucky to have you so "involved."
Everyone knows this is true. Single dads basically get a national holiday in their honor if they manage to be present in their kids' lives in even the smallest ways, whereas moms are all but hung in the town square if they post pics on social media of them going out on the one night their ex is on kid duty.
Single Moms Are Wrong If They Do Too Much Or Too Little
If we have full custody of our kids, we're "keeping them from their dad." If we share custody, we "hate our kids and are neglecting our responsibilities." It's honestly that simple and that horrible, and it doesn't apply to single dads at all. Single dads are generally only thought to be sh*theads if they don't see their kids at all. Anything short of that, and they're f*cking Dad Of The Year. Single moms, on the other terrible hand, have about 17 different ways we can structure our lives and be considered bad parents.
Single Dads Are Considered Excellent People To Date
Everyone has their personal feelings about dating parents, but in the most consciously general terms, this is how it goes:
Having kids makes men look mature and sensitive and less like their childless counterparts, the overgrown men-babies. Single dads are totally dateable, especially since, again, they tend to do a lot less of the heavy lifting (or at least people assume they do when deciding whether or not to date them) — all the mature sensitivity, very little of the impossibly overbooked schedules and bags under their eyes.
Being a single mom, on the other hand? Your kid is baggage. It's really that simple. People you try to date (when you find time to even do so) will mostly look at you in one of three ways:
- Damaged goods. Maybe you're good for f*cking, but they definitely are not trying to "raise someone else's kid," which is what they imagine they'll get tricked into doing if they do anything other than just have sex with you. Because, yes, all single moms desperately want to lock down another man ASAP.
- A ready-made family. Some guys are hot to get married and become dads, and you look like a shortcut to everything they want. It can make you feel a lot like a prop and not very much like a person.
- A big ol' bag of drama. You have a kid and maybe another parent who's still in your life, and no matter how well you have your sh*t handled — your schedule runs on rails, and you co-parent with your ex like a boss in an office where everyone totally respect each other — there will be people who make you feel like it's the biggest imposition in the world, what with the boundaries and basic level of consideration that you being a mom necessitates them showing you.
None of this is fun, and none of it is true for single dads.
Even The Offensive Assumptions People Make About Single Dads Can Work In Their Favor
Hey, if everyone assumes you're a deadbeat dad just because you don't live with your kids full-time and/or you aren't in a relationship with their mom, yeah, that might be super hurtful. Then again, it's also probably going to lead some people to believe that you're less likely to call out of work for kid-related disruptions (you're hired!) and more likely to be available for lazy mornings in bed and weekends away (you're dateable!). Single moms don't even get the luxury of our offensive stereotypes benefitting the other parts of our lives.
Some Of The Offensive Assumptions — I'm Sorry — Are Probably True
None of this is universal, obviously, but let's be real: for better or worse, courts tend to default toward custody arrangements that put kids with their moms more than they are with their dads. Regardless of how much a single dad does or does not want to be involved in his kids' lives, the assumption that less of the burden of parenting falls to him — which could make dating him or hiring him much more convenient — has a pretty good chance of being true.
The assumption that he's not super involved in his kid's life might be as grating and hard to live with as the assumptions and stereotypes that plague single moms, but there's at least the comfort of knowing that it's marginally based in reality.
Sure, every person should be given the room to be defined by the specifics of their life and their character, and not be subject to having expectations that have nothing to do with them projected onto them, especially with all the biases and conclusions that almost inevitably come right after that. But most humans are too lazy to grant that very basic courtesy to other people, so we're just left hoping that our lives outwardly appear in a way that invites the least damaging assumptions as possible. It all sucks. But with single dads, weathering assumptions and their implications is usually just so much easier than that task is for single moms.
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