What is single parenting?(The Definitive Guide)

What is single parenting?

This relatively simple question entails many particularities. To the question of what is single parenting, the answer is obviously a single person that is raising one or more children on their own either by choice or involuntarily. We cannot simply reduce single parenting solely to that definition without delving deeper into the intricacies that the term encompasses.

Furthermore, one must know that single parent family may consist of one parent having sole custody of the child or two parents sharing joint custody. My objective in this definitive guide will be to show you what is the typical North American single parent family, the positive and negative aspects of single parenting and where to find financial and/or emotional help if needed.

I sincerely think my guide will provide you or guide you towards the answers you’re looking for.


OK, I admit this part will be a bit drier nevertheless it’s utterly important to comprehend that single parent families in North America are much more prevalent than one might think. To put it in perspective, according to Wikipedia, there are 14 million single parent families in the US and 80% of them are headed by a woman.

Single parent families are not a new phenomenon and in fact there’s been a huge decrease in children born in a two parent household from the 1960s to 2010. It went from 88% of children being born in a two parent household to about 69% in 2010. That trend doesn’t appear to be decreasing on the contrary it’s accelerating. It’s mainly due to an increase in births to unmarried woman and an increase in divorce.

Surprisingly there’s a new tendency that’s quietly shifting the single parenting world. The number of single fathers has increased by 60% in the last decade, and for the time being it’s one of the fastest growing family situations in North America. The North American social landscape is gradually changing and it brings with it its load of challenges and triumphs for the single parents who are living it daily.

Unfortunately, for many single parent families, financial precarity is a reality countless of them need to juggle with on a regular basis. Raising a child is already expensive with two revenues; now imagine doing the same thing with only one income stream. Nearly half of the single mother population in North America lives under the poverty line because many of them lack the financial support of the birth father and/or social support is insufficient to cover all the expenses.

What is single parenting? Single parenting is not a trend and it’s definitely not a stigma. It’s a real situation that millions of families are experiencing whether by design or not. It’s a societal shift that has been occurring at a rapid pace in the last 50 years without any signs of slowing down.

For me, being a single father has not been really difficult albeit it has not been really easy either. I’m really self-aware of my situation and as such I will try to give you the most unbiased opinion possible regarding the negative and positive aspects of single parenting.

Positives aspects of being a single parent

Deeper bond with your children

Very fortunately, there aren’t only bad aspects to being a single parent. The benefits of having your exclusive attention will help create a deep and special bond in the family. With time, you will tend to be their confidant and who knows maybe even become their best friend.

Children notice really small details that sometimes we haven’t even paid attention to. They make their own calculations and if they see that you’re always there for them when they need it, it will register with them. They will see that they can trust you and they will give it back to you ten-fold. More intimate details will be shared with you providing that they feel the communication channels are open and apparent.

Depending on the arrangement you have with the other parent, you might be with them every day or simply 1 week at a time and the amount of time you spend with them is one of the factors that will determine the bond that your family will forge.

Lessons about responsibility and independence

You’re alone in the household and you can’t do everything on your own. If your child is old enough, you will eventually have to delegate some tasks and leave him home alone for a few hours at a time. These tasks will teach your child the value of responsibility and independence at an early age.

In a two parent household, the majority of the tasks are separated between the two adults. As a single parent, you do not have that luxury and you cannot always pay for a babysitter or hire a cleaner to do your chores. This situation allows you to put more trust and gradually increase your child’s obligations in such a way that it will certainly trigger a virtuous circle.

Trust begets trust. Meaning the more you will trust him, the more he might show that he’s indeed trustworthy. What starting as leaving him home alone for about an hour might increase to 4-5 hours without any hesitation from your part hence you will cultivate his self-reliance.

Furthermore, by asking him to do chores in the house, he will learn the value of duty and owning his mistakes if ever he fails in his task. You are teaching him to be self-sufficient, responsible and to take ownership of his mistakes. These are life lessons that many adults still struggle with today.

Easier to manage your finances

Being alone to manage your finances can be a blessing if you’re financially savvy and are good with budgeting or a curse if you’re not. Since we previously delved into the latter in this article, I want to explore the other side…the good side.

Think about it. You’re the only one responsible for your finances hence you control when and how money leaves your account. No explaining necessary when you make purchases albeit your kids should always be your priority. If you’re financially stable, the subsidies that your federal and provincial governments provide will only increase your stability and allow you to invest more towards your child’s education and future.

Not to mention that in general a single income household with kids makes less money than a double income one, the subsidies and deductions are quite favorable in Canada for the former.

Negatives aspects of being a single parent

Insufficient time to do everything

The younger your children are and the more children you have, the more you will be able to relate to this point. It permanently seems like there’s not enough time in the day to do everything. When you’re two people in the household it’s often easier to separate the activities and tasks. With one parent, the children still need your undivided attention and will do whatever he can to get it. If not careful it can lead to exhaustion because you’re always trying to be in a million places at the same time.

The key in controlling such behaviors in your kids is to establish firm rules and conditions that they adamantly need to follow in order to have your undivided attention for a certain time. These kinds of situations usually arise when you pick them up from school or daycare. They’ve been waiting the entire day to speak to you and now it’s their opportunity to do so. In these situations, it’s really important to set your boundaries and to allow your children to speak when you’re ready to hear them. You’re the parent, they’ll listen…they’ll probably be really annoyed but your sanity is more important.

We love them however we need to be able to decant before the hurricane begins. The benefit in doing that is that when you’ll be ready to listen to them, each of them will benefit from your exclusive attention.

Financial hardship

Financial hardship is a constant neighbor when you’re a single parent. If you lose your job whether voluntarily or involuntarily, this is the kind of event that can crush the stability of the household. In a dual parenting situation, the same event usually has less dire consequences because the other party can always support the household.

In a single parent household, you might be able to support the family for some time but if you don’t act fast the well will dry up quickly and the bills will start accumulating exponentially.

It’s extremely important to take the situation as seriously as soon as possible. Meaning? You cut expenses as quickly as you can and try to increase revenues at a faster rate. I concur that it’s easier said than done but I went through a similar situation and I will tell you all the steps I took to stay above the water.

Firstly, call all the necessary government ministries in order to inform them of your new professional situation and request the maximum amount possible in terms of child and social support. That’s the easy part because the government will calculate everything for you and once that’s done; you will just need to patient.

Secondly, if your children are old enough, inform them of the situation and advise them that there will be a few changes from now on. That’s the hardest part because you will have to tell them NO more often than you would like. Again, they won’t like it at first but if you hold your own, they will get used to it.

Understandably, there’s a huge social pressure not only on us but on our kids to look, dress and behave a certain way. When you’re in a situation of financial distress, pride is your worst enemy.

Third, lower all the unnecessary expenses like cable, memberships, expensive outings and anything else that you consider frivolous.

Fourth, do not and I repeat do not rely on the services of payday loans and/or other debts. If you do that, you will start a very vicious debt cycle that will be extremely difficult to break regardless of how tempting the conditions might seem.

Fifth, if you have investments, start depleting the investment with no tax implications because as soon as you deplete the investments with tax implications, you’re starting to dig a deeper whole for yourself.

How it works in Canada, when you withdraw from these types of investments, you’re immediately taxed and you have to add the amount you withdrew on your income tax report for next year. Use them as a solution of last resort if possible.

In you find yourself being financially strained; financial survival is the most important aspect of your life for you and your children. Choose the bumpier road with all the twists and turns, it’s better than the newly paved road that leads to a huge black hole. Reduce this financial untenable situation to a simple accounting formula: Increase revenue and decrease expenses= return to financial stability.

Children blaming you for the absence of the other parent

In your kid’s mind, especially at a young age, he might comprehend why his parents are not together anymore but it doesn’t necessarily mean he accepts it. One of two things might happen, either he blames himself or he blames one of the parents. If indeed it does happen to you, it’s crucial to show empathy and ask the child why he thinks that.

If as a parent, you feel you did everything you could to ensure a smooth transition with your ex-partner than this phase should not be that hard to tame. Tell the truth to your child the most unbiased way possible. Later in his life, your kid will make his own calculations and analysis. To whirl the story so it favors you is utterly irrelevant, unproductive and at the detriment of the bond you’re building with your kid.

Put yourself in his/her place, your child is just trying to attempt to make sense of everything that is happening. It feels like an overload of stimuli yet your kid does not have the necessary tools to grasp all the complexity of the situation.

Professional stagnation

As a single parent when you finish work and come home, that period is often referred to as «starting the second shift”. Meaning that you probably still have to pick up the kids, prepare supper and help them with their homework as well as get everything ready for tomorrow for them and yourself.

It’s a routine can take anywhere from a few hours to the entire evening. Depending on the age and characteristics of your kids, it can be easy or truly exhausting.

In a professional environment, once you reach a certain level within the company, more and more tasks and responsibilities will be added to your workload. Since there’s only 24 hours in the day, eventually you will either have to bring your work home or stay late at work in order to finish thus reducing the number of hours you spend with your kids.

You now have to make a decision. Either you keep moving forward and take the challenges, rewards and consequences as they come or you take a breather and decide that status quo is where you will stay for the time being.

I’m not saying that it’s always like this and that these are the only conclusions. There are obvious exceptions and if you’re willing to truly put in the effort and assume the risks, I cannot see why you would not succeed in your professional environment as well as in your family life.

Nonetheless, as a single parent it is quite difficult to go full throttle at work and at home without one or both elements suffering. Understandably, the situation is not the same for everyone. For example, you can be a single parent with an infant or you can be a single parent taking care of three 3 teenagers. Your challenges and priorities will vary yet at one point or another a decision will have to be made as to where most of your attention will be directed.


As in everything, there are always two sides to a situation. You might be in a situation where you’re financially comfortable or in a financial conundrum. In spite of everything, what’s important is that you need to understand that each of these situations has their own set of challenges and advantages.

You’re commanding this ship and it’s your job to steer it in the right direction Establish your priorities and keep in mind what you want to accomplish. As long as you put your kids first, the solution is never far away albeit might be the most difficult decisions you will ever have to make but in the long run, it will be beneficial.

Where to get help if needed

Every province and territories has plenty of support groups and offer all kinds of help for single parents. One organization that is decisively pan Canadian is UNITED WAY or CENTRAIDE if you live in the province of Quebec.


What other either positive or negative aspects of single parenthood could I have included?

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