1. Being in a secure relationship. You can’t help but think they deserve a strong relationship more than you do. It must be hard for them to see their son or daughter, who is 20 or so years younger than them, end up in a functional relationship. They’ve been looking for it for so much longer.
2. That they’re single, because you’re scared it’s your fault. It’s not. It never will be. But you will still think back to all the years when they chose to take care of you instead of meeting people. You will think of the canceled second dates because you had a stomachache, and it will always make you feel like a burden.
3. Moving far away. Crossing countries, oceans, sometimes even state lines, can be challenging. You feel like you’re intentionally leaving them. You’re not, of course, you’re leaving to have your own life. But it never seems that way when you’re putting miles between you and one of the most important people to you. You couldn’t get home to them if you ever really needed you, and that will always leave you with a guilty conscience.
4. Going out on New Year’s Eve. It’s the holiday that starts out as a familial celebration but is celebrated with friends as you get older. And you’ll never feel okay about leaving them home alone to ring in the New Year when you’re out with friends.
5. Getting married. It just seems unfair to get married before them. It’s not that they wouldn’t be happy for you, but it will feel like a shot against them when it shouldn’t.
6. That they aren’t retired yet. That they’re still working harder than ever, even though they’ve long since paid their dues. Living in a one-income household puts strain on them, and they deserve some relief.
7. Doing things exclusively with your siblings. Your single parent considers you and your siblings a team. They don’t think of themselves as the elder, so much as part of the crew. And they are, of course. So it’s hard spend time one-on-one with a sibling without feeling bad for not including them.
8. Not accepting their help financially. You’ll know you’re dong the right thing when you become financially independent, because you’re easing their burden. But you’re also breaking the financial tie and are concerned it comes with an undertone that say you don’t need them anymore. It’s not true, but you hate to even send that message.
9. Making decisions without them. When they’ve always been your go-to, it seems like a form of betrayal when you go to another confidante first. When your go-to becomes a significant other, a roommate or a sibling, you feel wrong that they weren’t your first phone call.
10. Not having enough time to devote to the conversations they need to have. When you’re the child of a single parent, you’re not just their kid. You’re also playing the role of their best friend, spouse, and therapist. You were the person they turned to, even when you were too young.
11. Spending a holiday with the other parent. You want to split your time evenly, but it’s hard when you have to choose to leave the unmarried parent entirely alone. There’s never enough time around the holidays to give everyone in a scattered out family enough attention.
12. When they’re upset and you can’t be right next to them to help. Of course you can’t move mountains to be there for your parent. But when they need you, you feel guilty for not trying to achieve the impossible so you can sit next to them. You’re their #1, you need to be there to care for them.
13. That you’ll never be able to show your gratitude and replicate the sacrifices they made for you. Everyone will tell you that you don’t need to repay your parents. But whoever said that never had to watch a single mother or father give up everything for them. It’s different and we think they deserve so much for the world they gave us. They will never know the measure of our gratitude.
14. The fact that you can never be the replacement for what they actually need. You can try, and they will appreciate it but yours isn’t the only support they want.