Single mother.
March 8, 2007 1:45 AM   Subscribe

Any advice for a single mother venting? She's a good mom, I've seen her and her kids. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only friend who understands.

her: i wish people truely could see what my life is like. i try and hide a lot of it, but it's 400000 times harder than people assume.

her: and i get irritated when people like my friend says SHE needs a break

her: she has her in-laws who watch her daughter every day until 7pm and EVERY weekend.

her: if i had 3 hours to myself twice a year i'd be happy.

her: i'm just so burned out

her: i have so many problems outside of my kids that i just feel like ummmm.... well like britney spears sometimes.

her: she went crazy b/c her life is nuts. i'm sure her kids - who are the same age diff as mine - drive her insane - then she has to deal with an Ex trying to take all her money. meanwhile she has a career she is trying to maintain. i get why she shaved her head and went bezerk.

her: i wish my friends would take my kids for an afternoon or an evening and not make me feel guilty about it - b/c goddamn i need a break - but my friends who supposedly love me dont' love me enough to even do that. My guy friend told me last night "i know you'll hang up on me after i say this but the reason your friends don't help you is b/c your kids aren't disciplined"

her: thanks asshole.

her: not go fuck yourself and have a nice day

her: i'm trying so hard to maintain my sanity

her: and it's not just my kids - i love my kids and they aren't bad kids - [son 2] - he's nuts - probably b/c he's genetically predispositioned to be like his dad - and the fact that he lost his father twice in the 2 years of his life. who the fuck knows

her: but outside of that - i have tons of problems that i don't know how to solve.

her: anyway i'm just venting
posted by packphour to Human Relations (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First and foremost, offer to watch her kids? If that's geographically or physically impossible, can you offer her a little money to pay a sitter just to have an afternoon to herself to get a haircut and maybe go to a movie or sit in a coffee shop and relax? As she pointed out, even a few hours would be better than nothing.

Also get her talking about what the "tons of problems" are and help brainstorm with her to find solutions. If you can't come up with something, come back here with the biggest ones. There are some resources out there that can help her, if she can be pointed in the right direction.

Lastly, continue to be there for her. Absorbing someone's venting can be hard, but not as hard as it is to be the person who has no one available to hear and sympathize when life is sucking.
posted by Dreama at 3:07 AM on March 8, 2007

I'm not exactly sure what the question is here...are you asking for advice you can pass on to her, based on what she's acknowledged she's just venting about?

If so, then in the short term, is there the possibility that you yourself could offer to babysit her kids so she can get the "3 hours" to herself she really seems to need? Or could you help her to pay for a few hours of "drop-in day care" that I've seen advertised?

In the longer term, could your friend possibly seek out a mother's group of some kind that offers a childcare exchange? Is she a churchgoer and if so, does her parish offer a "Parent's Night Out" type of arrangement?

Without knowing more about the "tons of problems" you mentioned at the end of her venting, it's hard to offer more specific help -- but it sounds like even a little consideration from even one friend (such as yourself) would at least go a short ways in alleviating her stress. It sounds like the overwhelming amount of pressure she's under as far as taking care of her children is just exacerbating her other problems as well. A break might give her some perspective.
posted by justonegirl at 3:07 AM on March 8, 2007

judging by the list of vents you give, dreama is right: the best thing you can give her is some time on her own without her kids.
posted by londongeezer at 5:36 AM on March 8, 2007

Let me tell you a little story about a girl I used to waitress with. Single mom, relocated a thousand miles away from her home to an area where she knew no one to escape her abusive ex. Just scraping by working every shift she could, relying on daycare and babysitters to take the kids while she was working. She actually got fired by our asshole boss when she missed a shift to take her daughter to the emergency room -- which totally screwed her over -- but you know what? She dusted herself off, got another job, and dealt with it. She raised her kids right and never complained. And she is certainly not the only one.

To be blunt, your friend needs to grow up. I'll repeat: she's not the only single parent in the world, and she is probably better off than many of them (did this conversation take place over IM? Does she realize what a luxury the internet is?). Additionally, the self-pitying tone of her comments indicates to me that she is the source of more of her problems than she will acknowledge. Just in these few comments here, she reveals an inability to take criticism from seemingly well-meaning friends ("your friends don't help you is b/c your kids aren't disciplined" "thanks asshole"), an unwillingness to take responsibilty for the way her kids are turning out ("he's genetically predispositioned to be like his dad"), and an unwarranted sense of entitlement ("my friends who supposedly love me dont' love me enough to even do that"). These are all things only she can fix, and unfortunately I'm not sure what you can do to help her see what needs to be done.

So, I second the advice to hook her up with a single parent's group or a babysitting circle, if nothing else so that she can get the kids off her hands for a little bit and realize that every parent can feel overwhelmed. If therapy is at all an option for her, she should go. If you anticipate her being in your life for a while, you can do her kids a huge favour by just being a good influence on them -- be mature, treat them like they're humans (not impositions) and hold high expectations of them. And finally, lend your friend a sympathetic ear when you can, but don't feel as though you need to be a captive audience to her passion play. There's only so much you can do, and I wish all of you the very best of luck.

Sorry for being so harsh, but these poor kids need a parent, not a drama queen. Won't somebody think of the children?
posted by AV at 5:40 AM on March 8, 2007 [6 favorites]

"I try and hide it a lot" ...? Madge, you're soaking in it!

But seriously, she's "just venting," right? When did she ask for advice, or demonstrate a willingness to take it?
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:37 AM on March 8, 2007

I'm a single mother and have been one for many, many years. It isn't easy. Sometimes people just need to vent - it doesn't necessarily mean that she's a drama queen or a bad mother. It could well mean that she trusts and likes you enough to be honest and to get it off her back. It's terribly possible, AV, that your wonderful single mother friend just didn't complain to you in particular. People are human. Sometimes they get discouraged and depressed and venting to friends helps them blow off steam.

Sure, yes, she needs some time off from the kids - all mothers do. Toddlers are tough. Spending all day with a toddler can turn your brain to mush pretty damn quick. Working all day and then picking up a cranky, overstimulated toddler from day care and going home and parenting by yourself all evening and then getting up at 5:00 the next morning and doing it all over again can send you right round the bend pretty quickly. You feel guilty all the time for leaving the child and guilty for not working hard enough and so on, as well as simple exhaustion and loneliness. Also, her friend who complained about her undisciplined 2 year old IS full of shit. 2 year olds aren't disciplined. Period. Some are easier temperamentally than others, but forget this crazy if-your-kids-were-disciplined-it-would-be-better thing.

If you're really worried about her, see if you can help her find a good therapist who will let her blow off steam for free or cheap. Help her find a reliable babysitter and take her out for some much needed adult time. Just come over and hang out with her. Recognize that you will also need to arrange day care for the therapy, because I'm here to tell you that even getting away from the kids isn't worth it if it takes like 4 hours to arrange a half hour off, and it often does.

What she really needs is friends with kids near the same age as hers - and not just people who are friends only because they have kids that age, but friends who are real. That's difficult to find but it makes all the difference in the world. I don't want to start quoting Hilary, but the fact is that having a village helps more than you would believe. No matter what our cultural norms have become in this century, humans lived in small groups where everyone kept an eye out for the kids for thousands of years and as a model it works a lot better than one mother and two kids trapped in an apartment. This shouldn't be news to anyone but it's amazing how many people think that just because you've given birth, you're suddenly capable of miracles. Actually, let me rephrase that - you are capable of miracles, but even saints could use a little help here and there.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:53 AM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

She said she was "just venting." That's a specific call for sympathy, not advice or problem-solving. Brainstorming solutions at this point is likely to make her summarily reject all the solutions, because she's not in the mood to look for solutions. She is in the mood to vent -- she's upset, and wants to have her feelings validated.

You could probably cut and past mygothlaundry's response verbatim, but even just a simple, "I'm sorry, that sounds so hard and frustrating" would probably help.

Unless your actual issue is that *you* are annoyed that she's venting at you (in which case you should clarify that), she's not looking for solutions right now. Maybe after she calms down you can ask how you can help, but right now, she's just looking to feel like she's not a freak, or a bad mother, or a bad person. So tell her she's not a freak, tell her she's not a bad mother, and tell her she's not a bad person.
posted by occhiblu at 8:37 AM on March 8, 2007

As well as everything everyone else has mentioned (especially the linking up with other parents in the area), do you know any of her other friends well enough to give them a call?

They may not realise how she's feeling - especially if she's doing her utmost to hide it from them and pretend that everything's okay when she speaks to them. She may be surprised how supportive they will be if they realise that she's just been putting on a brave front and hoping they'll telepathically pick up on the fact that she needs help.
posted by finding.perdita at 1:12 PM on March 8, 2007

I'm a single parent, and I needed to vent about parenting sabotage and the lack of financial support from my ex. It wasn't at all easy. A few times, I needed emergency child care when my ex- went on spontaneous vacations and I was strapped for weekend care, or when my child was sick, couldn't go to school or daycare, and I couldn't miss work. My friends and neighbors helped me by listening, visiting, and providing emergency care. I am very thankful, and I let them know that. Most of all, my friends helped by befriending my child, so that he felt that he had a community.

Your friend might want to get the dad to spend time with his kids, giving her a break. She can also check out babysitting clubs. She may have earned the right to her crappy attitude, but it's just making her feel worse, but people with crappy attitudes have a hard time seeing that.
posted by theora55 at 4:10 PM on March 8, 2007

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