5 Things Not to Say to Divorced Moms

Rant 62

ringGrowing up as the daughter of a single mother, I swore I'd never be a single mom myself. My mother did her best, as I think most of us do, but I was well aware of the fact that her situation -- our situation -- was far from ideal. My mother worried about money, and with good reason (we were usually broke). My mother was lonely, though she wouldn't admit it. My mother was overwhelmed. Did I want to face the same struggles when it was my turn to be a mom? No way.

Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans.

At least I was prepared. As a divorced mother-of-two, the territory I travel day-to-day feels largely familiar; had I been raised in a two-parent household, I think single motherhood might have been more of a shock to my system. I've been here before, just on the other side.

So I'm never surprised by the questions people ask or comments they make when they find out I'm divorced. I've heard it all before.

Of course that doesn't make it okay. If you're not a single mom, you might be shocked to hear how nosy and insensitive even perfect strangers can be ... if you are a single mom, you've no doubt heard most of these yourself ...

1. What happened to their dad?

This one drives me nuts for several reasons. First of all, depending on who's doing the asking, it's usually none of their business. Plus, the question implies that you're a single mom because you were either abandoned or widowed or otherwise rendered powerless to change your fate. What happened to their dad? He fell in love with the nanny and ran away with her ... he had a "spiritual awakening" and went to live on an ashram. Whatever your answer, it's expected to be a variation on "something happened to make him not want to be married to me anymore and that's why I'm a single mom." It's sexist, quite frankly.

2. How are the kids dealing with everything?

From the patronizingly pitying facial expressions that accompany this question, I'd say "everything" is a code word for "the chaos and instability of your fractured family's home life." So things never get chaotic in a home with two parents, is that right? Spare me the dime store pediatric psychology. There is no reason to assume my children are any less well-adjusted than anyone else's simply because I'm divorced.

3. Does their father help you out?

I'm never quite sure if this is an inquiry as to the exact dollar amount and frequency of mandated child support payments or just a way for people to say, "I can tell you're poor because you have that beat-up old car and your clothes look like they came off the clearance rack ... I just want to know HOW poor, so I can feel better about my two-income household."

4. Oh, that's a shame.

It is? Being a divorced single mother is a shame? Whose shame? Not mine. Again, even if this isn't intended to be a slight, the direct translation is: "Oh, too bad your life sucks." Who said my life sucks?

5. At least you get time off when the kids are with your ex!

Look, I've made jokes along these same lines myself -- the only good thing about divorce is joint custody, etc. But they were, as I said, jokes. In no way, shape, or form does having regularly scheduled alone time make up for the drawbacks of being a single parent. Make no mistake, there is no "break" from motherhood. There is only the ever-present hum of anxiety that occurs whenever your kids aren't in your immediate proximity for more than a day.

Are you a divorced mom? Do people ever say these things to you?

Image via slgckgc/Flickr



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Kritika Kritika

You're being too sensitive. The only thing my divorced mother has ever been offended by is someone introducing her to a friend at church as a divorce. Now THAT is offensive.

Kwiat2 Kwiat2

Seriously. I think these are pretty normal questions, although it is nobody's business in the first place unless you make it.

And maybe you're different, but all the divorced friends I have party and act like single college girls when the dad has the kids. Sometimes make me jealous! So you can't say there isn't a little bit of a positive to that.

Cafe... Cafe Suzanne

Wow @Kritika, the writer is entitled to her feelings and to say that she is "too sensitive" is frankly insensitive. We can never tell someone how they "should" feel about something - everyone is different and entitled to their emotions.

Kritika Kritika

Sounds like you're too sensitive as well.

Eques... EquestrianMom

Well, I guess I'm lucky! No one has ever asked me what happened to his father, or any of the questions except "does his dad help you out?" and then only by people whom I haven't minded asking me. And I'm proud to say that he pays for his preschool, but nothing more. No, we don't have much to our name, and yes, we are broke, and I know I work very hard for not much money. But ya know what? We are ok, we have what we need, and I'm making that happen! :) 

 I did have a gal ask me why my husband didn't love me anymore when she found out I was divorced. That one kind of threw me off, but I very nicely told her that I left him, and the look on her face was priceless :P

NatAndCo NatAndCo

Okay... 1 & 3 I can understand being annoyed by. Thy touch on sensitive topics that really shouldn't be pried into. The other 3, I'll agree you seem a little too sensitive about. They are simply askingw how yours kids are doing in #2, dont know what else to say about you being divorced in #4, and are trying to lighten the convo in #5. Maybe you should let them next time...

leila... leilaraine

i agree with the writer 100% these questions are rude! and ive been asked several other that are even worse. it isnt necessarily the questions asked by the way they are asked, in what context, and the implications that can be very insulting and damn right offensive!

leila... leilaraine

oh thats a shame is an insensitive thing to say to a divorced single mom, it implies that the lives of the children are so much more awful post divorce and casts judgment. what if the man she divorced was an abusive alcoholic, would that be a shame too?

Pamal... PamalaLauren

Eh I don't care much about those questions. I think it says something about what women think about men in general but other than that whatever. What I have found offensive is people assuming that I am married.

bb_mommy bb_mommy

So basically you are saying that I need to pretend all is ok and divorce did not happen and say anything at all? Isn't that worse?

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