To all the teens with single parents:
I know you didn’t ask for this lifestyle. I realize how hard it can be to go back and forth between two homes and feel like you have to get time in with your parents while juggling friends, a job, your school work, sports, and time for yourself.
You have been handed a hefty task you never wanted and there are times when you feel like you have to step up and help your mom or try and repair the washing machine when you’d much rather be doing something else.
You worry about your parents in a way a teenager shouldn’t. Like when you’re with your friends on a night when you know one of your parents is sitting home alone, and you wonder if they are lonely or okay or if you should have stayed home.
Your view on marriage and relationships may be tainted and make you feel pessimistic about love — something your friends with happily married parents probably don’t experience. You may wonder if it’s even worth it to start a home and family with someone because you’ve seen that it can end.
I know it’s hard for you to watch your parents have a meltdown in front of you. I’ve had plenty of my own in front of my own teens these past few years. Sometimes I’ll be sailing along just fine and a screen will get damaged, or I’ll forget we had a dentist appointment and I’ll fall into a puddle because I feel like I can’t get anything right.
Holidays aren’t what they used to be and it may cause you a lot of pain to go to two homes or feel like you have to choose. You may not want to deal with any of it and shut down.
I get it. I do. And I see you.
I see all you do for your parents when you’d rather be with your friends or up in your room. I realize the anger you have trapped inside of you because you don’t freaking feel like going between homes and you are sick of trying to remember to pack everything you need. I know you are taking on more than you should and stepping up even when you don’t want to. My son recently used a beautiful half day off school to help me clean the gutters. Then my other son came home from working all day and mowed the lawn while my daughter helped me make a lemon cake she knew I’d been craving before she had to go to work.
I know all this because my parents got divorced and I vowed I never would. I never wanted my kids to go through what I went through and, man, I wanted kids more than anything. There are a lot of days when I feel like I fell short and robbed my kids of something I really wanted them to have.
And I also know there are a lot of other teenagers out there like my kids, young adults who have parents that aren’t together and they travel back and forth while trying to keep up with a life of their own. It’s good for all kids to help out, have chores, and learn how to be self-sufficient, but teens of single parents take on quite a few extra roles. Honestly, they don’t get enough credit.
It’s hard enough being a teenager these days with all the pressure there is to have it all figured out. I see how much faster you are expected to grow up. I see how a lot of you take on more stuff because you’re trying to make up for the void one of your parents has left in your home — because even under the best circumstances, divorce will do that. I see how you think about your parents more and worry about them in a way you didn’t before.
This affects your life every single day and you should all be recognized for it. Here’s to the teens who have single parents and step up. Here’s to the teens who are carrying more emotional baggage than they should be. Here’s to the teens who aren’t afraid to remind their parents they are there to help but that they need help in coping with all this too.
You are all more amazing than you will ever know and your parents are so lucky to have you in their corner.
A single mother who sees you
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.