When my marriage ended, I became a single parent. Not a lone parent because as the other half of my parenting team I have my ex husband, Dave and he does a wonderful job as Daddy. This post isn’t about moaning or high-fiving myself, it’s simply me sharing my experiences of becoming the single parent, I never for a second I thought I would ever be. Perhaps you will identify with some, none or all of these. Either way, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments box below…
So here we go. Ten things I’ve learnt about single parenting..
1. You will feel lonely
This is a given. Of course you will, you are now effectively, alone (aside from the kid/s..). Children are wonderful and great company but nothing really beats adult conversation does it? Someone to chat to about your day, share those funny tales or just a person to moan to when everything is going wrong.
Well, I’ve realised there are two ways to deal with this. Accepting it and taking stock of why you are in this position. For me, the latter is the most important. I am a single parent because I chose to be. I made a decision to go it alone because I was unhappy. Even if you didn’t make that call, it’s still important to acknowledge that actually, it’s perfectly acceptable to be happier parenting alone. Loneliness is always temporary, you’ll have wobbles, we all do. But the most important thing to do is recognise it’s normal and for everything else there is wine and friends. And then more wine.
2. However, you will also feel empowered and accomplished.
I always thought I was accomplished. Maybe I was, but after becoming a single parent, I realised that I previously had it easy (ish). But with help comes shared glory! Remember that. At least now you even though you’re taking responsibility for (when it’s your parenting turn) most of the fun, love, care, decisions and nurture, you may also take responsibility for it all going perfectly too; hurrah! So celebrate those accomplishments and feel empowered. You are a superhero, ish.
3. When your children are unwell, you will feel like your world is ending.
This for me, is the most difficult part. Of course whether you’re a single parent or not, children being unwell is horrendous. But since living alone, I’ve met a whole host of new struggles with this. Firstly, there’s the physical and strategical plan. It makes sense, when as a couple, you split in two. One of you stays with poorly child; the other runs to the kitchen/bathroom/emergency pharmacy. But what happens when there is only one of you? Hell happens, that’s what. Sickness bugs, chicken pox, colds and flu virus’. We’ve all had them all, sometimes in cahoots and to this day, I’m still in shock that we all survived..
But we did and like everything, it comes to an end and you’ll get through it. Just remember that just when you hit a point where you think you can’t take much more, it usually means things are about to get better.
4. Your relationship with your children will change.
This is something I never expected, or even considered. But it’s obvious! Whether you see your children more, or less, or just the same. Being a single parent will change things and not necessarily for the worse.
In the last few years I’ve become so much closer to the kids, but also, I’ve learned to be apart from them and them me, too. That’s equally as important. I need and use more help too, so the kids now likely see more people, more regularly. Which I also think can only be a good thing.
Relationships are of course fairly dynamic, so who knows what would have happened anyway; so I just focus on the positives now. I have, arguably the best of both worlds and so do the kids so that suits us just fine.
5. You will become more organised.
Whether it’s laying out clothes, packed lunches or meal planning. You’ll suddenly become one of the organised people on the planet because without organisation things just don’t happen.
I previously thought I was organised. Heck I had no idea. Raising two toddlers and trying to get out of the door myself for work myself is a probably similar to a military operation. But, I’m in the laid back camp. Sometimes, there’s so much to do, you have no option but to just laugh it out and get on with it. (And do as much as you can in advance!)
6. People WILL help you.
I admit that I sometimes previously saw asking for help as a sign of weakness. I also liked to do things myself, or in our family unit. But being a single parent you will have no choice in this matter and actually what I’ve found is that mostly, people want to help. It’s not pity, it’s not because you’re useless or can’t cope. Usually it’s simply, help because help is well, helpful and most people are decent in this world we live in. So I’ve learned to take the help and just also ASK for it.
7. Social media will become your best friend (and your worst nightmare..)
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Which ever platform floats your boat. All wonderful, wonderful means of communication, sharing experiences and photograph uploading. Perfect for networking, catching up with friends and even making new ones.
All great, yes? No. Not all. Be prepared for seeing examples of perfect family life on your timeline and be prepare yourself for those feelings of grief, sadness and perhaps jealousy. All normal, but that doesn’t make it any easier sometimes, does it?
My advice, if feeling that way, just get yourself off social media and switch on some Radiohead. That will make it all better.
8. You will cut corners, take shortcuts and create your own ‘hacks’
Some of these, I’m sure you could be ashamed of. But don’t care about those who would judge you for your little ways of making your life easier. I sometimes let the kids eat their breakfast in the car, I also let them eat in front of the television, or if I need to make important phone calls or have a shower, then they watch a film.. Parenting is hard, sometimes we use Pinterest and create educational activities and sometimes, the kids sit and watch Swashbuckle whilst I play on my phone. It’s all cool.
You can’t be Mary Poppins (or male equivalent) all day everyday and I suspect she’d have got pissed off, knackered or fed up if she wasn’t getting paid.
9. You will reinvent yourself.
And I don’t just mean physically. Mentally, emotionally, financially and probably spiritually.
I’ve changed so much in the last few years. In every way. I’ve re-evaluated priorities, become far less materialistic and also become far more emotionally strong! However, I’ve also become more anxious. As a parent of any kind you have to adapt and make huge changes to your life and becoming a single parent is no exception. But what I’ve learnt is, it’s okay to reflect and change as a parent or the way you live your life, even if it’s marginally different to how you lived previously.
Change isn’t bad, it might not be great at first but resilience is something kids excel at. Just do what the hell you need to do and make the changes, if you’re living in a house you’re not happy with for a while (me!) or working in a job you hate for a short time then so be it. It’s a drop in the ocean compared to the rest of your children’s lives and it’s likely they will respect you for it in any case. Sacrifices and hard work always pay off.
10. But most importantly, you will find your way and settle eventually.
I’m there. I’ve found my way and this is now my normal. It’s been a rollercoaster but I’m proud of us all. We’ve come so far but there’s of course plenty more years to go.
My children are lucky, they have two loving, supportive and enthusiastic parents. But Dave and I are lucky too, our children make me laugh every single day and make life pretty special and are our raison d’être.
Whether you’re a single parent or not, children really do make us look at ourselves in such a way that motivate improvement. Use it to your advantage and reinvent yourself into something awesome. Make them proud and more importantly, be proud of yourself.