“Love And Anger: The Parental Dilemma” -Chapter Five: “Going It Alone”

Calling all my single parents!  I would love to hear from you and if you thought this chapter was right on or not. I do find it interesting that the authors also did not make notes about mothers who are single because they never married or mothers who are single due to death of a spouse or partner.  Also, even if you are not single I thought there were quite a few nuggets to be gleamed for all families in this chapter, so read on!

First, the authors open this chapter with the talks they held with a group of single mothers and she notes, “All of the women were the primary caretakers for their children.  Even in-joint custody arrangements, the women reported that they still performed all the essential functions of shopping for clothes, arranging doctor appointments, getting children haircuts, and the like.  When emergency calls were made from school, it was almost never the father who left work to pick up the child.  The joint custody was not entirely “joint” and certainly not equal.”

This chapter has sections on Shattered Ideals,  The Guilty Party, Everyday Conflicts, The Lonely Parent, and Making Peace as a Family.

I think one section that could be beneficial to all families is the section on “The Lonely Parent.”  I liked the mother who said on page 117, “As one mother reflected, “The hardest thing is letting go, especially since I sometimes feel lonely. I want us to share more.  But I believe that children retreat from “needy” parents.  If we are personally fulfilled, they pick up on that and are more willing to be open with us….”  The authors go on to talk about how it is not that children are incapable of “empathy, love, or generous gestures – just that their egocentricity is a basic reality.”  In the view of Waldorf Education, a child is not  considered full grown until age 21, and I think the authors have noted well that whilst children have capacity for all sorts of things, we should not expect them to rise up and  be adults because these children are not.

I also liked this on page 117:  “I have heard parenting described as a “thankless” task, and often it seems that way.  Many a parent has complained that their children do not seem to understand or appreciate all the time and effort that goes into making their lives better.  So much energy and emotion is invested in trying to fill our children’s needs and make them happy that sometimes we grow furious when children seem lacking in gratitude.”

There were also good nuggets for all parents to think about in the last section of this chapter.  What did you all think about it?

Many blessings,


7 thoughts on ““Love And Anger: The Parental Dilemma” -Chapter Five: “Going It Alone”

  1. It’s interesting to note that it can be ‘thankless’, I think this feeling is often swept away.
    Personally it took until I was approaching 30 and having my own baby (and the two years following that enormous experience) that I was really able to comprehend what my mother had done for me, endlessly, thanklessly, for years and years and years.
    The gratitude that has followed has, I hope, made up for the previous years of not being quite so reverent!

  2. I have to say I am very discouraged with the lack of awareness and focus for the single parent and especially the only parent within waldorf circles. I was very disappointed in the intro of the Christephurrus curriculum for this reason.

    Only parenting especially is a subculture of its own and deserves more attention and support within alternative venues. There in lies the challenge. Because if you have not experienced the monumental weight of it there is not much to offer as far as advice or support. Real, true, authentic, sincere support comes from experience. There needs to be more space and inclusiveness for all unique families.

    I am not sure how to comment on this chapter from this book i have never read.

  3. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t read the book either, but I’d like to chime in with Radha. I know this is not exactly what the post is about, but there truly is a lack of awareness of single parents in current Waldorf writing. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve read a Waldorf-inspired parenting book or blog that bases huge chunks of its suggestions on the fact that the mother is in a two-parent home.

    This isn’t just a Waldorf problem–it’s a problem in all parenting media. It’s especially frustrating, however, to continually read things that you find otherwise inspiring (as I do with Steiner-influenced parenting writing) and to feel completely excluded. The writings at times almost make it seem essential that there be two parents in the home in order to make a healthy life for the children. I refuse to allow that to be the case for my kids. I can’t do anything about the fact that I’m the only adult in the home, but I can do everything in my power to give them a child-centered household even though I don’t have a husband who can take over some of the duties.

    Radha–the general lack of awareness of single parents in the parenting media was such a serious issue to me that I became a regular contributor to Simple Kids on the subject of single parenting. Not to use this space to promote my blog, but if you click to go over to my blog, you’ll see a link to it.

  4. I’m kind of late to the discussion here. I bookmarked this post but didn’t get a chance to sit down and read it til today.

    Thank you for mentioning the chapter’s silence on mothers who are single due to the death of a spouse, as well as other not-as-run-of-the-mill circumstances. I am a widowed mother of a 2-year-old and 4-year-old, and I agree with both Radha and Two Chicks and a Hen, that a lack of awareness and probing/understanding of the issues involved is incredibly frustrating.

    Yes, there is the sheer overwhelmingness of shouldering the entire burden of the day-to-day tasks in order meet just your family’s essential needs and juggling the major priorities of home and work. Sometimes it feels like I run a day-long marathon only run another 10K after I put the kids to bed. Actually, running a marathon or two sounds relaxing comparatively, because at least then you have just the one goal to focus on, a more-or-less predictable path that will take you there, and some time to rest once you’ve accomplished your goal. Imagine running that marathon with a 2- and 4-year-old in tow and all the unpredictability and emotions that comes along with it: your concern shifts from just putting one foot in front of the other to doing that while you manage your children’s questions and worries and emotional ups-and-downs about this marathon. What I find to be most difficult, and sadly, rarely discussed, about single parenting is not the number of essential functions you have to perform, but weight of the social and emotional and psychological issues that you bear alone.

    In fact, I think I might have to object to the notion that single parents are needier than their non-single counterparts (I’ve met my fair share of needy parents who are not “going it alone”). I think what tends to get derogatively parsed as “needy” (or for that matter, “lonely”) is worth fleshing out. As a single parent, whether you choose it or not, you likely lack that very special counterpart who loves you unconditionally and is “running the marathon alongside you” and thus is the perfect person to offer you another perspective when you need one, to bolster and “second” your instincts in the face of a world full of parenting how-to books, to cheer you on when your energy wanes, to challenge you and inspire you to be your best while accepting (and even loving) your flaws, to reaffirm your most prized values and beliefs, to be your sounding board as you try out new ideas and embark on new projects, to bear some of the truck-loads of worry that come with being a parent and also to share some of responsibility for both the short-term and long-term psychological and emotional and physical well-being of your children. Are there others that can fill this lack? Absolutely. Do all spouses excel at all these roles? Likely not. But there’s something quite unique about the spousal/other parent relationship. What I miss probably more than anything else as I adjust to life without my husband is laying down next to him in bed at the end of a long, hard day and have him tell me all the cute things our kids (with whom he, more than likely, at some point lost his patience multiple times throughout the day!) did and said that day (even if I had been there as well!). Or talking about how much we love our life. Or our plans for the road ahead. This refueled my soul.

    As a single parent, I see myself as a lone tree standing strong and bearing the sole responsibility of providing a safe haven for my children in the face of “higher than normal” physical, psychological, and emotional “winds.” It takes a lot of effort to stand strong because I do second-guess even my strongest instincts sometimes. I do have to pretty-much rely on just myself to “push myself” (as my husband would have done) to do things that maybe seem too hard at first glance. I do have to find ways to be kinder to myself in the face of my flaws. I do have to seek out other perspectives, other sounding boards. I do have to practice mindfulness, especially with respect to all the emotions that we are all juggling — normal developmental emotions, but also emotions concerning loss, our identity as a family, and much much more. All these emotions, all the investments (and I’m not talking about financial ones) we make as parents in creating an environment in which our kids will be resilient and thrive, shouldering all the psychological responsibilities, bearing all the worries, day after day, with no end in sight (because our love for them has no end). This is incredibly overwhelming (and all the more so when what society sees is “needy”).

    Sadly, out of these overwhelming emotions and frustrations and effort invested in “standing strong” does come anger, so I’m glad that the topic of single parenting is given a chapter in this book. I don’t think I have ever had difficulty managing anger until becoming a single parent. And now it sneaks up on me out of the blue with some regularity. My limits (of exhaustion, of psychological strength, of ability to listen to my two little sweethearts compete for my attention while juggling 4 different thoughts and a work-related phone call, etc.) are hit, time and time again. And so I’m extremely grateful for books like this one, and blogs like yours and Two Chick and a Hen (coincidentally, have also been a fan of that one for some time now) that provides tools (even if single parenting isn’t mentioned at all) for giving us all some tools to better understand these forces and be better able meet the travails of life and parenthood with love and not anger.

    • Grateful,
      This is such a wonderful post, and I hope all my single mothers get a chance to read it. My dad was widowed at an early age, and it was difficult for him. I went to live with my grandparents, so he didn’t raise me, but I have often thought about how difficult it was for him. I think that is why I felt like this chapter missing talking about something essential.
      Many blessings,

    • This is an old post and comment – and I’m not single parent.
      But my mother was widowed and had to raise us two girls by herself.
      Your comment brought a lump to my throat Grateful, I am in awe of all you single parents who raise children by yourself.
      Lots of love and blessings.

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