Single Parents and Child Abuse

Today is brought to you by the letter “D”.  For depressing.  The theme of my day today was child abuse.

At 8am I had a lecture on child abuse, because dentists are mandated reporters of suspected cases.  I’ve had the lecture before, in dental school, so I knew how it would go.  Basically the lecturer shows a bunch of graphic pictures while I look anywhere but at the screen, and then feel guilty for not looking at the screen because I am supposed to be learning to help these kids, so then I look at the screen and feel sick and look away, and rinse and repeat.

In these lectures, they always discuss the populations most at risk for child abuse, and one of them is children of single parents and divorce.  The reason is obvious, of course– the parent gets frustrated with the child, doesn’t have any help or support, loses their temper, and lashes out.

Then, of course, there was the Casey Anthony verdict this afternoon.  She is a young single mom, about my age.  I won’t say that I “get” her, because I truly believe that the evidence indicates that she killed her daughter and so I think she is vile.  I will never understand what she did and I certainly don’t mean to make any excuses for her.  I will say that I see it– I recognize the danger and the increased risk to children whose parents are single, young, and have no support.

Think about it.  Even if you’re not a single mom, haven’t there been times when you’ve been alone with your baby or young child for extended periods of time, and you start to lose it?  The baby cries, and cries, and you try everything to make her feel better, but she’s still crying, and you don’t know how to make her stop and her screaming frays each and every one of your nerves and makes every hair on your body stand on end.  There is no one to help you and you haven’t slept in days and you would give anything, anything, to just have one single second of peace.  I get it.  I remember it.

But hopefully you step away from the child and regain your composure, count to ten, and jump back in.

Some parents don’t.

Having been both a married and then a single parent, I am of the opinion that for single parents, feelings are magnified.  The fierce love and devotion and protectiveness you have toward your child are stronger, sure, but so too are the feelings of frustration, resentment, and yes, even rage.

It is a frightening and sickening thought, but it is a reality and the danger exists.  It is the reason why reaching out to single parents you might know, offering them help, offering them company and support, might mean more than you know– not only to the single parent, but also to their child.

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  1. by Kelly

    On July 5, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    I love the way you think and I love the way it comes out so clearly when you write. You’re a rockstar mama, my dear. You and Caro coming to VA any time soon? I’m still up for taking the three little ladies for a day!

  2. by Karianna

    On July 6, 2011 at 9:52 am

    While I really like what you had to say, & agree with most of it…she did have help, her parents. It has been said over & over again that they would have gladly taken Caylee, if Casey couldn’t or didn’t want to do it anymore. Granted, those things are easy to say now that the deed has been done…but I do believe that it is true, for the most part.
    With that said…I don’t have parents that are around 24/7, & certainly I don’t live with them. I understand the frustrations that come along with being a single parent. Never, EVER, have I thought about leaving my son while I go party.
    I have so much honor & respect for single parents (Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents, etc)…& please if we’ve learned anything…please check in with those people on a regular basis to see if there’s anything you can do (even if it’s just to listen to them) — they…WE…appreciate it more than you could ever know.

  3. by Athena

    On July 6, 2011 at 9:53 am

    I have been a single parent for 10 years now of 2. It is hard, I yell more than I should but I know that I am doing the best for my children. It alarms me when I talk to my friend and she tells me about a single mother who has a baby crying at the grocery store and everyone starts staring at her and judging her. How hard is it to go over and ask if she needs a hand? You may be refused but sometimes all a mother needs is acknowledgment that they really are not all alone, their is always someone around willing to help. Along with your advice, stop judging single parents, you never know why they are in the situation they are in and reach out to help, a little acknowledgment goes a LONG way.

  4. by Megan

    On July 6, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Thank you so much for speaking the truth about what it’s like to be a parent. You can love your child with every ounce of your being and still feel ridiculously frustrated and at a loss as to how to even breathe once in a while. People seem so afraid to talk about those feelings, as if they’ll be condemned as bad parents for feeling frustrated. Still, it’s important for us to know others have these feelings. Otherwise, when we do feel frustrated or on our last nerve, we feel isolated and even worse: “Is it just me? Am I awful for feeling like this?” So thank you again so much. (And I agree with you… Ms. Anthony is vile.)

  5. by Mee

    On July 6, 2011 at 10:08 am

    I am not a single mother but I do stay home with my daughter all day. I do get frustrated with her more times than I would like. There are times when I seriously just want to punt her across the room. But for me, just having that thought is enough because I know if I hurt her, I would die. As a mother, I could never lay a hand on her in a way that would cause her harm no matter what thoughts I have in my head when I’m frustrated. To hurt your child deliberately, to kill herto make your life more convenient, there are no words to describe the horror of that. Children are so special, so precious, we should only love, nurture and protect them. Never hurt them. It makes me sick.

  6. by Military Wife

    On July 6, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I am not a single parent but my husband is military and I know the spouse that stays behind is kinda like a single parent for a year until their loved one returns home. As a mother of five myself I would never even think of harming my babies..The sad thing about this case is that I am the same age and have way more children, okus her daughter was bornthe same year as my twins..My children are my life and i would do anything to protect them..I agree with many of the comments on here like Mee “Children are so special, so precious, we should only love, nurture and protect them. Never hurt them.” I myself believe that if you dont think you can handle a baby you shouldnt have kids..I have a baby and toddler as well as two preschoolers and a 1st grader and yes we have our rough days where the baby’s crying and everyones’ “MOM!!____ doing this or MOM! ___ blah blah blah”..lol..but I Ido is take a deep breath and handle one problem at a time..I have told my kids many times, “I’m one person against 5 let me get help one person at a time”… we are mother/parents when you bring a life into this world you are suppose to protect and raise them to live great lives..

  7. by Chrissy

    On July 6, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I’m a single mother and have been for 6 years of 2 wonderful children, 1 of which is mentally disabled. My children came from an abusive, confined situation that I couldn’t get away from for almost 3 years until someone finally stepped in and helped us get out, since then it’s been me and my 2 kids, and there’s nothing in the world that would change how I feel about my kids and their well-being. I enjoy being a single mom, yes, there are times I’d love to have someone special in my life, but my kids come first and when it comes to dating and relationships, my kids are 100% involved and if the person doesn’t like that then they don’t need to be in our lives. Out of the whole 6 years I’ve had my kids, I’ve only been a part from them twice and that was because grandma wanted to visit with them and took them for a weekend. My mother doesn’t live that close to me, and can’t help as much as she’d like to, but I always make things work. If I want to go out and do something, I find kid friendly activities to do, if I want some alone time, I wait til the kids are content at night or I take them outside to play with the neighbors. There’s never a reason to hurt a child for anything. My daughter has major flip out modes and so forth due to her problems, but when she does, I just hold her in my arms and do everything in my power to help her, and if that doesn’t help or she just wants to be left alone, then I find a safe spot within the room or adjoining room for her to sit and cool off on her own and just check on her here and there. If a parent really wants to make the best of it for their child, then it can be done. Then too…it takes a lot of patience which is one thing I’ve always had a lot of, but taking a step back from time to time and analyzing the situation is always a good thing, or you can take classes that’ll help as well. For instance, due to her problems, I actually decided to get a degree in Psychology so that I can better help her as well, and it has helped me to better understand things that she’s going through as well as some useful techniques that’ll help.

  8. by katie

    On July 6, 2011 at 11:33 am

    The difference bw a good parent and a Casey Anthony is an untreated mental problem. When I worked w emotionally disturbed middle schoolers I was taught that if that disturbed child had a gun to my head they would pull the trigger then think about the consequences. A person that’s not narcissistic or mentally ill will consider the consequences and put the gun down. She’s clearly missing a conscience. So I love this article, but I’m still and will forever be at a loss about what to do about people without a conscience.

  9. by jessica

    On July 6, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    she lived with her parents and her parents took her daughter all the time and mainly took care of her. casey had no idea what it was like to be a struggling single mother trying to make ends meet without support or breaks or time away from her child. she didn’t support herself or her daughter at all. her parents constantly gave her money. i see how this article applies to casey at all.

    i am a single parent of four kids. my oldest has autism and my youngest is one. it is stressful. i don’t have my parents to help me what so ever. they would never in a million years consider babysitting for anything. i asked them once if anything should happen (like dying)if they would take my kids, and they both said no. my sister says she doesn’t think so. even though their dads (my son has one, my four girls have another one) are assholes and are not involved in their lives, don’t pay child support, and are horrible drug using abusive people who know nothing of raising a child and have no problems having their future 13 year old do drugs, have sex, or have their future boy/girl friends live with them… my sister still says that she would rather my kids live with their dads then live with her and that she would not fight them in court… so there you go. i think i am a lot worse off then casey and yet i don’t abuse my children at all. i love them through the stressful parts and the good parts. i also only get one or two breaks a year and the most i have gotten in the last year and half was five hours total. i think this article is informative but at the same time limiting. i think it is fear inducing for single moms and anyone that knows single moms. i think it is too biased and unfair. the truth is anyone can abuse a child in any situation. to say single mothers are more then likely is unfair.

  10. by jessica

    On July 6, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    i meant to say, i don’t see how this applies to casey at all. sorry!

  11. by Julia

    On July 6, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Well, I don’t mean to say that Casey Anthony was a typical case, or that any stress in her life made what she did excusable in any way. She clearly had a lot more issues that went deeper than just being a single mother. However, her case has been very public and it does at least *highlight* the issue that I’m discussing in this post, even if it wasn’t typical.

    And, I realize that it may be scary to single moms, but that doesn’t make it any less of a *fact* that being the child of a single parent is a risk factor for abuse. It’s just an epidemiological fact, unfortunately, and I think it’s important that it be recognized as such. I don’t think all single parents hit their kids, or that it’s only single parents who have issues. I’m a single mom myself so it is certainly not my intention to point fingers or make anyone feel defensive. I’m just trying to raise awareness of it, I guess, because I think the issue is an important one.

  12. by samantha d

    On July 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    she was found not guilty. Hello everyone she did not murder her child maybe get your facts right. Maybe show a bit of sympathy to this women she lost her daughter.

  13. by Kathryn Quigley

    On July 6, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Amen! I am a single parent.

  14. by Janice Heming

    On July 6, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    To Samantha D,

    Just because Casey wasn’t found guilty does not mean she is innocent!!! Everything points to her… let me ask you, if she didn’t do it, who did? She was the last one seen with her daughter alive…
    I believe if you can lie and steal to the extent that she did, you can certainly commit murder. Don’t be foolish, think about it…

  15. by Diane

    On July 7, 2011 at 4:22 am

    please ! please ! If you feel you’re even close to raising your hand,stop for a second take a deep breath and ask someone for help or take a break really you would be amazed how many people are willing to help. Do it for you and you’re beautiful angel.You only have one life.

  16. by Danielle

    On July 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    I feel like what you wrote about today is really relatable to not only single parents, but married parents as well. The fact is, is a lot of the time being a parent is HARD, and I don’t know if people on the outside actually realize that.

    I think it’s also true that most people aren’t sure what to do in a situation (like the one with the screaming baby at the grocery store), or they may be hesitant of the reaction of the person if they do offe–either way, doing nothing is not helping.

    There are ways to get involved. You can donate your time to organizations like CALM which raise awareness of child abuse through campaigns and provide workshops for parents. Just a thought :)

    Thanks for the post Julia!