Every time I tell someone that I am a single parent, I notice the averted gaze, the look of pity and the insinuation that I am spreading some sort of single parent virus with every conversation. It seems that several assumptions are made-it is my fault that I am a single parent…clearly I didn't work hard enough to make the marriage work; I am living in poverty since I couldn't possibly survive on one income; my kid is miserable and unhappy with only one parent. In reality, I am lucky that I am able to make it on one income, my ex-husband is very involved in my son's life, and my son is very happy, especially since my ex comes to see him nearly every day. While many of these reactions and assumptions do not surprise me in my personal life, they do surprise me as an entrepreneur trying to run a business focused on single parents.
Promoting the website, www.singleparentlink.com, has been a challenge from the beginning-calls to potential advertisers weren't returned, or I got the interesting "this isn't really our audience" conversation from groups that focused on parents. It seems that single parents don't qualify as "parents" to many businesses in the area and are not a group that they feel would use their products or establishments. When I would introduce the website, I was often interrupted with "Is this a dating site?" I would patiently explain that the site offered resources and answers, not dating and would wait for the silence as they paused to grasp the concept. Media attention meant enduring offensive comments on websites, blaming me for becoming a single parent and subjecting taxpayers to my life living solely on child support.
At tradeshows, parents would walk by the booth, often speeding up when they saw the words "Single Parent Link" stamped on my table covering, whispering that they were glad they weren't single parents. People who didn't read the name of the company would come up to the table for a giveaway and have it in hand when they asked what the business was all about. More than once, they would drop the giveaway back on the table when I said it was a website devoted to single parents. They would look around guiltily, muttering that they were not a single parent and exit quickly. At one event, two little girls approached the table just ahead of their mom and asked for the giveaway. The mother came up behind them, saw what the business was and told them to drop it right away…that it was for single parents. She then informed them loudly that they were lucky to have BOTH parents and didn't need anything at this table.
Despite it all, I have managed to raise a happy, healthy child while working a full-time job and running a business. There are thousands of others out there in the community doing the same thing-working hard every day and overcoming obstacles, struggling with the same things that all parents do, but doing it alone. We drop off and pick up at daycare or school, we work all day, come home and fix dinner, do laundry, clean the house, help with homework, give the bath, read the stories and tuck into bed, often working well into the night as the little ones slumber. Being a single parent doesn't mean that you have failed, or that misery is around the corner. It means that in often difficult situations at home and at work, you are succeeding every day by managing the chaos and helping to shun the stigma.
Kelly Taylor is a communications and marketing professional, single mom and CEO of SingleParentLink.com, a website with local resources and information for single parents. She can be reached at email@example.com. To read more articles by Kelly, visit SingleParentLink.com.