What's the biggest misconception people have about single parenting?
Perhaps the greatest misconception re single parenting is the same as for any parenting - that there is one best way, or a narrow definition of how kids will react to various situations, and how we - as parents - should respond.
My experience of single (virtually solo) parenting is not the same as that of a mother who co-parents 50-50. My challenges with one artistic, introverted child and the other, gregarious and emotionally aware, is not the same as another parent's challenges. Finances and health are huge factors in overall stability in any home, and even more so the solo parenting home. Challenges in the teen years with only one parent are dramatically different than early years.
There is no one-size-fits-all single parent family, and no one-size-fits-all set of solutions to the issues that will present.
What's the most rewarding thing about being a single parent?
As we were unable to keep our home following divorce, which meant leaving life-long friends (for my kids), a neighborhood support system, and the familiarity that made us feel safe, re-establishing "home" in another neighborhood was a challenge. It took time. A good deal of time. Our lives were very different post-divorce, due to finances. But ultimately we made our little place "home" with memories, an open-door policy to all the kids' friends, and focusing on what really matters - honest dialog, the freedom to express one's feelings, unconditional love (which does not mean dispensing with a firm hand when needed).
There is no "one most rewarding thing" in being a single parent, but I will say that refashioning a sense of home and stability is very rewarding - knowing that my kids have that sense of security.
Beyond that, as I have watched my children move into adolescence and now, in college, continue to grow and learn so much - I see their autonomy and independence and decency, and realize that some of those hardships we went through have made them compassionate as well as strong.
What's the most important thing being a single parent has taught you?
Get back up.
It's not easy. In fact, it's damn difficult at times. There's much that's not in our control - an accident, an illness, the economic downturn.
Life will knock us down over and over again. We must get back up. Even if we don't do it for ourselves (though we should), we do it for our children. And in doing it, we must find the perspective to face our challenges honestly, but with the perspective that fundamentals are what matter: healthy kids, tangible values, family.