Filling out forms is always a problem for me. None of the choices listed for status– single, married, separated, widowed–seem to apply to me.
I’m definitely not married anymore as I’ve finally already gotten my annulment. Because I was once married, by default, I’m not exactly ‘single’. Neither am I ‘separated’. Under Philippine law, legal separation is simply just the division of assets of a couple; meaning you and your spouse are still considered married, and therefore may not re-marry. And though the death of a marriage always brings with it a level of emotional pain and loss as the actual physical death of a spouse, I am not ‘widowed’.
My friend, who has been annulled for the last 7 years is someone I consider way ahead of the game compared to me. I asked her what box I should check. She advised me with unflinching certainty, “You should check single! An annulment means that the marriage never even happened.”
Hhmmm…. Never really happened…kind of hard to deny that when I have an actual living souvenir of the marriage that supposedly never was in my daughter. I don’t think my friend faces this same dilemma when filling out forms; she doesn’t have children from her past marriage.
Though I suppose that the fact that there are now more civil status choices available is already an improvement.
Nine years ago when I first became a solo parent, there were only two choices – you were either single or married. It was like any other status was simply not recognized. If you deviated from single or married, you were considered an abberation.
Those who have been solo parents for a longer period of time will tell you about the discrimination that they have encountered in the most unlikely places and the little everyday things that rub salt into the stigma of being a solo parent.
There were the churches that turned away baptisms if the parents were unable to present a marriage certificate. (Since where do people have to be married to have kids?) There were schools that refused admission to children because their parents were divorced or worse, never married.
As a solo parent, you never really know where you belong because while you are single, you have the responsibilities and obligations that will never allow you to live a typical carefree existence. You’re a hybrid, who at school events or children’s parties, can’t help but feel the isolation amidst the presence of all the dual parents.
Perhaps the rising incidence of single parenthood and its different permutations – widowhood, adoption, OF parent–has made the addition of these new civil status boxes: widow and separated–necessary. May be now people are realizing that other parent segments deserve their own civil status and recognition.
Relaxing of certain laws has also made it a bit simpler to be single parent and somehow indirectly deflect the blame on the innocent children who are unfortunately, collateral damage.
There has been the recall of the law where children who are traveling abroad with only one parent must first secure permission from the
other parent secure and then clearance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Then there is the Solo Parent Welfare Act which gives benefits and privileges to solo parents. Also, the term “solo parent” is defined as “a parent left alone with the responsibility of parenthood”, which may include death of a spouse, physical and mental incapacity of spouse as certified by public medical practitioner, imprisonment, among others. This liberalizes the definition of a solo parent and doesn’t limit the circumstance resulting to parenthood only to a failed marriage, or in some cases, none at all.
Small steps, but steps in the right directions.
Maybe at some point, there will be a box that will be appropriate for my civil status. I don’t know, maybe something like “Single…again”, or “Hopeful”.
In the meantime, with the help of the process of elimination, I have decided to check “single”. I don’t pay much attention to it anymore.
I realized that a bunch of little boxes are just that—a status.
This article was originally published in the Parenting Section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2009.