I’m a single parent to a six year old daughter and a four year old son. I’ve been single for almost a year and during that time I have moved from Singapore back to the UK to a town I’d only ever visited twice before. The three of us have started a whole new life and although it sounds scary (and was a bit) it has been fantastic.
People often assume that because I’m a single parent now my life is much harder than life as part of a couple. But do single parents have it tougher than married parents or is it just different?
My day probably looks the same as any other Mum that works part-time, single or not. Granted, I don’t have a second pair of hands to help with the household chores and babysitting but I also don’t have an extra person making a mess and creating extra laundry. My major indulgence is a cleaner who comes for three hours each week and if I had to choose between that and my weekly wine intake the cleaner would win (and I really like wine!).
A major upside of living as we do is that the children, even at their young ages, really understand that we all need to pull together to run the house. They know that the time they spend emptying the dishwasher in the morning means I can prepare dinner for the evening which means they can participate in an after school activity. I’m not saying that children living in two parent families don’t behave in the same way but mine didn’t previously because I didn’t need their help. Now I do, they’ve really stepped up and I think they will be better people for it.
I work from home and although that works really well with my family commitments I find that I miss the adult interaction that I would get if I went out to work. I exchange brief chit chat in the playground in the mornings but it’s not enough. I’ve settled into a weekly wine night (did I mention earlier that I like wine) with a couple of girlfriends and we always hold it at my house so I don’t need a babysitter. It gives me time to focus on things outside of my own little bubble.
The Other Parent
I completely believe that children do better with role models from both genders. In Utopia everyone has a mummy and daddy who live together happily ever after but with two million single parent families in the UK alone that is obviously not the case.
My kids dad lives in the USA and geography means that they only get to see him for a weekend every two months plus some of the school holidays. They do however talk to him on skype at least twice a week and more often if they want to.
It’s not perfect but he and I have a friendly, respectful relationship and I send photos, videos and anecdotes of the kids on a regular basis to keep him involved. Very early on in our separation we agreed that we wanted our kids to grow up as happy and emotionally healthy human beings and they needed both of us to be friends to be able to do that.
I definitely don’t feel that I have to be both parents to our children which is something you hear a lot about single parents. I’m their Mum, he’s their Dad, and to the kids we’re still a family, just a different one than we used to be.
I recognise that even though we have a good relationship, day to day, my kids, particularly my son, need more male interaction than their dad is able to provide them. To facilitate this they spend a lot of time with my father and brother who offer them things that I’m not so good at, such as wrestling on the floor. One of them usually takes time off work to attend my daughters school concerts so that she has two people to be proud of her and of course we video it and send it to Dad.
They are amazing, polite, well-adjusted children and I truly believe that living with a single parent is not damaging to a child if you meet their needs of the second parent role in other ways.
It’s not only the kids who feel the benefits of our extended family. I receive a huge amount of love and emotional and practical support from this small group of people who are very special to me and my relationships with all of them have grown much stronger since I’ve been on my own.
So, the question is, is my life tougher than the Mum down the street who is married, has two kids and works part-time. I don’t think so. She probably has some upsides that I don’t have like a husband to watch the kids while she goes to zumba class on a Wednesday night but I definitely have some too. I’m eating whatever I want for dinner, only washing my own (and the kids) socks and there is NEVER any football on my TV!