14 things not to say to a single parent (and seven things you should)

Posted 20 September 2018

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Single parenting is hardly a new thing – there are over two million single parents in Britain today, and one in four families is a single parent family. But, for some reason, talking about single parenting can sometimes still be…awkward.

We asked single parents to get in touch on social media to suggest examples of things it’s better not to say to them or their children. There were hundreds of responses but here are the highlights, and a few ideas from you on what to say instead.

What not to say…

1.

“You’re so lucky you only have yourself and the kids to look after, not some grumpy old man.”

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2.

“You don’t look like a single parent.”

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3.

“Wow, you must get loads of benefits.”

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4.

“I’m like a single parent myself. My partner is always out or at work.”

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5.

“It’s good your ex babysits so you can go out.” No, it’s called parenting.

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6.

“You choose to be on your own.” No, actually I choose not to be abused anymore.

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7.

When people presume you’re a single parent because of a relationship breakdown. Some parents actually do die.

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8.

“You have to be both mum and dad,” to which I always reply, “Nope, just their dad.”

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9.

“Does your son have a good male role model?” My son has me, his mum. I’m a good role model.

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10.

“Do they have the same dad?”

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11.

When I say I’m going to buy school shoes or a present for a kid’s party and other dads say: “Oh, my wife deals with all that stuff.”

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12.

“I can’t believe you didn’t try to work it out for the sake of your child.”

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13.

When people assume I’m a ‘Saturday Dad.’ I’m their primary carer. This is my everyday.

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14.

“Well, you chose to have a baby.” Yes, granted, but I never chose to be on my own as a single parent!

And what to say…

1.

“You’re an amazing mum. You’re doing really well!”

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2.

“Get the kids to bed early. I’ll be over in 30 minutes with a bottle of wine and some cream cakes.”

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3.

“You’re doing really well, and the kids are a credit to all your hard work.”

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4.

“You look great!” (Despite not sleeping in about five years.)

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5.

“Would you like me to have the kids for the night?”

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6.

“Just off to the shop. Need anything?”

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7.

“Sit down. I know where the kettle is!”

Most single parents agreed that many of the ‘what not to say’ comments are well-meaning, but they stem from long-held myths. Is there something you wish people would or wouldn’t say to you about single parenting? We’d love to hear it – tell us in the comments below.

If you want to know the facts about single parent families, check out our top stats about single parents. And for some stories about what it’s really like to be a single parent, take a look at our #SingleParentStrength campaign across our website and Twitter.

Are you a Gingerbread member? Registering with us means that you’re part of a community of thousands of single parents across the country. Membership is free and you’ll get access to exclusive vouchers and discounts, updates on the latest news for single parents, and access to our online forums.

4 comments on “14 things not to say to a single parent (and seven things you should)

  1. 6 and 12 really get to me. I did try to work things out. I stayed for years longer than I wanted to because I thought the kids would suffer without a dad. Eventually I realised they were suffering more having him in our home. I was finally able to name his behaviour as domestic abuse, and get away from him, but I still feel like people judge me for not doing well enough. Like I can’t ever say how hard things are because I’ve brought it on myself.

  2. It would be great if it was recognised that single parenting doesn’t stop when children turn 16 or 18 or even older, particularly if they are disabled or otherwise vulnerable.

  3. Like when your Autistic son turns 16 and suddenly doctors, teachers, etc stop allowing you to ask for help and support for him, saying he’s an adult now and must organise his own life. As a single mum with a deadbeat/absent ex husband, this is especially tough.

  4. In between the long stretches (mostly hard work but happy) of single parenting I have undertaken, I did for a few years have a partner. I remember taking him to meet an old friend of mine, who waited until my new partner was out of earshot then hugged me, saying “You’re a real family now.” She was just trying to express how happy she felt for me, but actually I felt indignant that she was negating all the hard work I’d already done! My daughter and I are very close and had certainly always felt like a ‘real family’ – why do long-held beliefs still persist about how we define what a ‘real family’ is?!

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