Our guest contributor for this article is Carol Battista, a single parent. Did you know that the Single Moms Retreat is arriving in just a couple of weeks, June 2-3, in Alexandria, MN? Find the details here.
My son Douglas was born when I was 25 years old. I was not married to his dad, Jeremy, and my pregnancy was unplanned. My relationship with Jeremy became difficult once we learned about the pregnancy. Our tempestuous relationship floundered and finally ended shortly after our son turned two.
Douglas was the light of my life, and at the time, probably my sole reason for existing. I loved being his mom and I did everything I could to make sure his life was the best it could be. When my relationship with Jeremy ended, I simply refused to be one of those parents who used children like tools. I asked Jeremy how much he could afford to pay for child support and accepted his offer of $200 per month.
I put my son’s needs ahead of my own and offered to let Jeremy see him as often as he liked. I was very poor and used state-funded medical assistance for my son and myself. The county worker that I dealt with attempted to push me into a courtroom to get a higher amount of child support, but I refused to go. I told the worker that I had a verbal agreement with Douglas’s dad on the amount of child support and I reminded the worker that verbal contracts were legally binding.
Although we were poor, the idea of my son growing up and having a father who resented him or viewed him only as a financially-crippling bill scared me more than going without things. I wanted Douglas to know his dad even though we were not together and I wanted the relationship to be good, so I sacrificed by going without clothes that I needed, a winter coat, entertainment, and very often meat. Douglas, however, had good clothes, winter gear, and ate meat regularly.
I did not resent his dad for not paying more and Douglas never knew me to be upset with his dad, though I was often angry with Jeremy because he wouldn’t take the time to see Douglas. I was doing all the driving the first year after we ended our relationship because Jeremy did not have a license and I had allotted him a year to remedy that situation.
Still, I would have to browbeat Jeremy into seeing Douglas and up until he turned four, my son saw his dad once every three-and-a-half months-maybe. When Jeremy did see him, it was usually just overnight and if Douglas was sick at all I would have to come and get him before then.
That changed when Jeremy got married to a single mom when Douglas was four.
Douglas’s stepmom pushed Jeremy to see Douglas every other weekend and do half the driving. I was so grateful to her for that. My relationship with Jeremy improved because he was spending time with Douglas and that was the main thing that mattered to me. Though Jeremy and I had argued quite a bit the previous two years, we both had the presence of mind to keep that from Douglas. My son’s dad passed away when Douglas was only five years old, and I am ever-grateful for the way that Jeremy and I handled things. I’m glad Douglas was able to make additional memories with his father in the months before his death.
If I could recommend one thing to the single parents out there, it would be that they put their children ahead of their own needs, their own comfort, and their grievances toward the other parent.
Having trouble? Here are a few tips to help you get started:
1) Focus on your children’s relationship with the other parent, not your own. No matter how much disagreement is present between you and the other parent, keep the focus on the children you share and remember that kids love both of their parents. Often when parents are angry with each other and neglect to control their outbursts, children are caught in the cross-fire.
2) Have verbal disagreements privately so that the children do not hear negative statements made by one parent about the other. Hearing negative comments about a parent hurts a child and makes them feel they have to choose one parent over the other.
3) When possible, do your best to keep things out of the courts. Sometimes custodial parents go through the court system simply to get a higher dollar amount or exact revenge on the other parent. Going through the court system often cripples the non-custodial parent financially and subsequently strains the relationship that parent has with their children.
4) Include the other parent on decisions regarding your children. Ensure that both parents receive copies of report cards, discuss extra curricular activities, etc. This also allows team work for covering the costs of activities.
5) Try to avoid bickering over different parenting styles. The rules are definitely going to vary from one house to the other because each person parents differently. Unless a parent’s decision is going to cause the child harm, try to be respectful toward the other person’s parenting style.
6) Remain consistent and do not allow your rules to fluctuate. Your children will likely say that things aren’t a certain way at the other parent’s house at times, but they will accept that the rules are different in your home if you remain consistent.
7) Avoid competing with the other parent for favor. Do not spoil your children by lavishing gifts and privileges on them — regardless of what the other parent is doing.
Carol Battista is the single parent of an eleven-year-old son who has a passion for science and loves nature. Carol, her son, and their chihuahua hunker down indoors during the winter months but become more active during the warm weather. Carol is involved in two Bible studies and volunteers within her church, while her son participates in their church youth group there. Carol is currently working on one book, with plans for a second book. It is her hope that her writing will bring glory to God and that it will help others who have struggled to grow closer to God as well.