There is no denying the loneliness and isolation being a single parent brings. I have become an expert as making money stretch, have got used to not having much of a social life and can manage to do most small DIY jobs around the house on my own. I know that once the girls are in bed by 8.30pm the front door gets locked because there will be no spontaneous trips to buy milk/a takeaway/visit a friend.
I make all of the decisions for the family, attend all of the girls' school events on my own, arrange and attend parents' evening meetings alone, doctors and dental appointments are organised by me. Their father - my ex-husband - sees them every so often, when it suits him. He did recently decide to have the girls to stay with him once every two weeks but somehow, unsurprisingly, this arrangement has fallen by the wayside.
But being a single parent also has its benefits too.
We have learned that time spent together is more important than money; that we have to stick together and support each other if we are to make the best of this family unit; that good friends are hard to find and you have to work hard to keep them; that those same friends are worth their weight in gold when times get tough. We have learned some of the more important values. Money is great - of course it is! - but even when it's limited you can still have a good quality of life based on fun, friendship and family. And I think that will stand my girls in good stead for when they're older.
But there is no doubt that being a single parent is a tough gig. Nobody can prepare you for it. I would compare it to becoming a parent for the first time. You can read as many books as you like about it, watch TV programs and observe your friends with their children but nothing - absolutely nothing - prepares you for the shock of the real thing. When my eldest daughter was born I was amazed that the hospital allowed us to take her home. Without supervision! Nobody checked if we could cope - and as all new parents do we struggled at first.
It's a similar thing being a lone parent. Once you realise that you are it - the buck stops with you and you alone, then it's a bit of a shocker to be honest.
Lone parents are also the butt of all society's worries about the breakdown of family life. Single mums are encouraged to go to work, yet married mums are encouraged to stay at home.
Why am I writing about this now? Because I've come in for a lot of criticism just recently from my ex-husband who called me an 'unfit mother'. No, not because I need to lose weight (although that's also true!) but because I had shouted at my eldest daughter. Hands up any mums who have never shouted at their children, especially pre-adolescent ones?
The situation escalated to a preposterous level where he threatened to call in Social Services. It has been very unpleasant and upsetting and all completely unnecessary.
I've spent the past two or three weeks feeling hurt, angry, stressed and vulnerable. But do you know what? I refuse to be cowed. My motto has always been "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger" and it applies now more than ever.
Forgive me for being self-indulgent in this post, but I felt I wanted to say something about this odd situation I have found myself in recently. I can't (and don't wish to) go into more detail, but I feel better for getting something down in writing.
I'm not looking for sympathy, far from it. I think on the whole I have a pretty nice life. But, if you could find it in your heart to just bear this post in mind next time you read another newspaper article about a bad single mother, then that would be just wonderful. Thank you.