Top Story – Solo Parenting: Alone or All One?

Do you feel alone? Or do you feel all one?

OK—you’re on your own now. You may be on your own with the kids. Or without, if they’re living with your ex. There are a variety of “flavors” of being on your own. If you’re not living totally alone, you might be alone with only one kid. You might have several. You might have moved back in with your folks for financial reasons, or so that they can help you with childcare now that you have to go back to work. You might have taken in a roommate…perhaps another person who’s on her (or his!) own with one or more kids, so that you can help with or even co-parent each other’s kids. You might even have joined a commune of single parents, such as one I was aware of in my area several years ago, which accepted only people committed to a vegan lifestyle. Or you might be a non-custodial parent who’s now living with a roommate (or two) to help with expenses.

Maybe you’re divorced, maybe you’re widowed, or maybe you never were married. And your state of on-your-own-ness may be a recent thing or of long standing.

Heinz doesn’t have as many varieties as there are varieties of being on your own.

But does being on your own make you feel lonely, missing something, incomplete, unfinished? Or are you OK on your own?

I’m not asking whether you’d like someone to partner up with again, whether in marriage or just in a committed relationship. Most (but certainly not all!) people would appreciate having a Significant Other—marital or not—in their lives. Let’s assume, for the purpose of this article, that whether or not you’re actively seeking an S.O., you’d at least appreciate finding one.

What I’m asking is how you’re doing on your own in the meanwhile. As I asked at the beginning of this article, do you feel alone? Or do you feel all one? There’s only one letter and one space worth of difference between “alone” and “all one.” But there’s a world of difference in feeling.

Maybe I’d better define my terms.

Feeling alone is akin to feeling lonely, perhaps abandoned or deserted, incomplete. Needful. “Alone” is a needy feeling.

Feeling all one is feeling you’re OK on your own. You’re a capable person, standing on your own. Sure, you need help sometimes. Practical help. Emotional help. Very possibly financial help. We all need help sometimes, whether or not we’re in a coupled relationship. We need help from our S.O., from our friends, from our family. But we don’t feel incomplete. We don’t feel needy. There’s no weakness in occasionally wanting to lean.

But if you feel all one, you know that most of the time you can cope, you’re OK on your own, you feel whole, not missing an important part of you. Sure it might be nice to have a love interest, an S.O., someone in your life who truly cares about you and whom you care about, someone whose company you enjoy on an ongoing basis. But till you find that person, you’re not hurting. You’re OK. You’re dealing with the world on your own terms.

The person who feels alone is a person who hasn’t yet learned to stand on his/her own two feet. The person who feels alone is a person who doesn’t treasure himself/herself, sufficiently respect his/her own capabilities, doesn’t trust himself/herself to make the right decisions most of the time. (And none of us bats .1000!)

And the person who feels alone and is needy is less attractive to a potential S.O. Yes, there are men and women who need to feel needed. It’s not a very healthy psychological state of being, though. Emotionally strong inviduals want to be wanted but don’t need to be constantly needed. (Note that word “constantly.” Being needed in a given situation occasionally is an entirely different matter. After all, nobody wants to feel that his or her S.O. doesn’t need him/her at all.) We all like to feel helpful. But nobody—or at least no one emotionally healthy—wants to feel he or she is needed only because she or he can help you out of your loneliness (or only because he or she can help you shoulder the weight of parenting).

Again, notice I said “only.” Or substitute the word “primarily,” if you will. If Mary loves John for himself, enjoys his company, and likes being with him, there is nothing wrong with her appreciating the fact that he can also help her raise the kids. And there is nothing wrong with her appreciating the fact that the evenings, and the weekends, are much more enjoyable now that he’s there to share them with her. There’s also nothing wrong with her needing his help with certain tasks that she’s not good at, whether it’s fixing a broken toilet or knowing which wine is worth buying and which is inferior and not to be selected off the shelf.

But that is not the same thing as needing him there because she’s miserable alone. Or even just moderately unhappy.

If, on the other hand, she is all one, rather than alone, she’s going to be a much more attractive partner to John. (And the same is true in reverse: If John is good on his own, he’s going to be a much more attractive partner to Mary.)

There’s no quick fix or easy prescription for learning to be all one. But it is do-able. Learn to trust your own instincts and capabilities. Learn to be largely self-sufficient. Cultivate interests so that you are not dependent on having an S.O. to liven and brighten your life. Take a class (distance learning through the computer is more readily available than ever if you can’t get out of the house easily because of the kids). Make yourself a more well-rounded person. Develop a new hobby (or two). And if you don’t have many friends, cultivate more.

Make yourself a more fully rounded person, a more complete person, a more self-sufficient person, and you’ll make yourself more attractive to a potential new mate. If you’re all one, rather than being lonely alone, you’ll send out vibes that are attractive. You’ll be a more desirable partner.

And the odds are greater that you won’t be on your own for too much longer.



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