Lots of people including myself have grown up with the idea that being a single parent is a bad thing. I’ll be honest for years I saw it as the one thing I never ever wanted to be. It shaped a lot of my decisions in the early 20’s and 30’s and actually I know now that this attitude was detrimental to my own well being.
I get it, we’re taught it from a young age through the attitudes and actions of others. The media loves a story of a single mother who’s taking our money with a bigger house than yours. Teachers in school look on the child with the single parent family with pity, and your own family can have a lot of influence in this too. I see this attitude being based in the teachings of a lot of religions that form the basis of the societies in which we live. But it’s just not true. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here’s my story; at 22 I found out I was pregnant, it was scary, me just out of uni working to help my partner through his own uni course we were not equipped to deal with the impending birth of our child, and yet there we were, soon to be parents. We both worked hard to be the people we both thought we should be rather than being the people we really were. We did everything we could to give our child the best, better ourselves with little financial help, no benefits, in our student flat with reliance on my daughter’s paternal grandmother for child care. Without her help I don’t know what we would have done.
But the relationship itself was held together by traditional expectations that we had to stick together to be a single family unit, in our heads there was no other option and the tensions of trying to live up to the expectations of others and not do what was probably better caused us to break more than going our separate ways probably would have.
So here’s what I have learned so far about being a single parent;
I feel as though I’m better off financially even if the numbers say I’m not. I have control over my finances because I make all my own decisions. I may not have the latest everything, holidays or cars etc. But what I do have I know I’ve earned myself and I know where my money goes, there is never a need to justify my spending to anyone, as long as my child has everything she needs as a priority I’m doing okay.
Parenting can be easier. I have my own way, my own style and no one to conflict with it. I can just get on with parenting in the way my child needs. Discipline issues no longer become a drama, because it’s a one to one conversation with my child rather than a trial by jury.
I don’t feel guilty. Okay we were grown ups about shared parenting and maintenance, this helps and I strongly advise anyone going through a break up to deal with your personal issues and child care issues separately. You cannot use your child as a weapon, this is about giving your child the best, and both parents happy in a separate place is better than two waring parents. You should not feel guilty that it didn’t work, just feel happy that you are both still there for your child but your child gets to see the best of both of their parents.
You get time for yourself. If I was still in a relationship I would still be bargaining for time to do my thing as would he. Now I have freedom when my daughter is at her dad’s to be my own person and do what I like without the need to justify it to anyone. It’s about balance, and I actually get that a lot more now. Even if it’s a day spent doing nothing, I can do that guilt free.
You’re not lonely, when you get over the initial shock of no other adults living in your house you realise it’s actually pretty good. You haven’t got to negotiate over every decision, you have friends you can hang out with in your own time, but you also have the space to think.
You’re never a failure. Just because the relationship didn’t work you’re not in any way a failure, you’re doing this yourself, for yourself and your child. Your child will grow up to realise you don’t need anyone else to make you a success, it’s all in the attitude you have about yourself. When you decide to be happy and do what makes you happy you somehow just get things done, and that is the key to being a success.
Your career gets better. Because you’re not worrying about fitting in, because your confidence is better, because you’re determined to make the absolute best of yourself and be the best role model you can be to your child. Plus the decision to move company, take the promotion or whatever it is that follows your dream is now only your own. You spend less time mulling it over and just get on with it.
Drama is gone. I don’t know about you but for me, the biggest dramas were arguments. I just don’t have them anymore. I just don’t need to, I don’t rise to anything, it might seem cold on the surface but taking the emotion out of a stressful situation makes it easier to deal with, and without another person being the catalyst for the other (we were both good at that) you don’t freak out so much anymore, you just get on with things.
You can focus, because you’re not concentrating on keeping a relationship alive you have just your child to focus on. Then in your spare time you get to focus on yourself. It’s not selfish to do that either. You get decent quality time with your child, and then quality time for you to do whatever you want.
So there we have it, my conclusion on single parenting. It’s easier in my experience once you take the drama away. I sometimes used to feel a little stigmatised when people described me as a single mother, but actually I’m proud to be a single mother. Things aren’t perfect but we have it mostly right and my child is much happier in two happy homes rather than miserable in one stressful house…