Monday, 30 May 2011

The good, the bad and the single parent

Being a single parent is at times difficult and at other times rewarding. I've written before about my own experiences of being a single parent, so I thought I'd ask some other bloggers for their views on the pros and cons of being a single parent. Here's what they had to say.

Rosie Scribble has a 7 year old daughter:
I would say the best thing about being a single parent is you develop an incredibly close relationship with your child that is beneficial to you both.

The worse thing, for me, is knowing that the lack of a father figure in her my daughter's life is a huge loss for her and one that is likely to impact on her for the rest of her life.

I'd also add that no stereotypical single parent family unit exists. We've all found ourselves in this situation for different reasons.

Bob at Only Dads has two daughters:
Pros: A sense of pride when things go well - that may sound potentially big-headed. It's not meant to and perhaps other single parents will know what I mean?

You learn new skills. I read of many Mums who get a bit handy with the all DIY stuff. For my part I can put full family meals together (while working) with complete ease!

I find this hard to articulate - but I tend to live with the feeling that as every day passes things will get just that little bit easier. It's an general feeling of optimism.

Cons: not being able to share the hard times (a problem shared is a problem halved) but my down times come when something brilliant happens - a moment of laughter or parental pride (like when my youngest acted in the nativity play and astounded me with what she was able to do). Not being able to share those moments is hard!

Nova from Cherished by Me is a single parent with five children:
For me the hardest part of being a single parent is having to deal with all the worry that comes with parenthood alone and not having anyone to discuss various milestones with. Not being able to ever sit back and let someone else deal with the stress or hand over to for a while is exhausting. Being the lone 'taxi driver' in the family is pretty tiring too.

Also, even surrounded by lots of children it can be a very lonely place at times.

Since becoming a single parent, strangely I find I do more for me than I ever did whilst married, even with five children in tow. We tend to go out as a family more and for some reason it is less stressful when we do. I don't have to share cuddles either, they're all mine! I believe we are all stronger though, I am and the children are too. We are close and the children all pull together when the 'going gets tough'. I'm not sure they would be quite like that if life had carried on as it was.

Nicola from Some Mothers Do Ave Em has two boys and recently moved back to the UK after living in Chicago for several years:
Pros. I am tired. I am lonely. I am sex starved (TMI?). So trying to dream up pros of being a single parent, beyond "hey, I get sole control of the TV remote and no longer have to pick up skanky boxers from the bedroom floor on a daily basis!" is a little challenging right now.

I guess one thing that can be construed as a plus is I no longer waste time in my day either planning to nag or actually nagging the co-habiting parent. There is no longer a sense of frustration that he is not 'keeping up his side of the bargain' where the children are concerned. I am responsible for EVERYTHING in my house and that simplifies things. If I don't make it happen...well, it pretty much doesn't happen. I no longer have to wait for someone to do things for me or feel disappointed if they don't. I just get on with it. When I first separated from my husband, this made quite a difference in my life. It was as though a weight had been lifted. A daily emotional minefield was instantly defused. Mind you, that's possibly due to the fact that I was married to an arse. Possibly.

Plus, I do get regular breaks from my children, where I get to be me. This version of me is somewhat similar to the person I was before I had children, except now I am much more capable of luxuriating in the notion of Free Time. I get to spend my whole day without the constant demands of my offspring. The only desires I have to concern myself with are my own. If I am not hungry...a meal doesn't get made! I can watch any television programme that I want to...before their bedtime! I can drink tea, read a book, eat chocolate, steal their sweets, write a blog post, scratch my bum, pick my nose - oh the list is endless - without any fear of interruption or being caught out whatsoever! At the start of my separation, this was very heady stuff indeed.

Cons? I can't list them all. I have found it to be tougher than I expected. Particularly right now where the brunt of the day-to-day childcare is my sole responsibility, without the aforementioned regular breaks.

However, my biggest loss is the fact that I am not sharing my sons lives with their dad. He is the only one who gets it. He is the only one who loves them like I do. He is the only one who can possibly share the daily joys and concerns to the same extent. He is the only one with the history of being there with them, from day one, as I was (due to the fact we were 4,000 miles away from family and friends). Other people may love my sons - but it's no match for the love that their dad and I have for them. And I miss being able to share that with the one person on the planet capable of it.

I also find it incomprehensible at times that my own children have a huge chunk of their personal life that I am not privy to. There's a whole new family now, with my ex and his girlfriend, that I am not a part of. There are people in their lives that they are developing strong emotional attachments to, that I don't know from Adam. I want my sons to be happy. And they are. I want them to be loved and adored by a myriad of people in their lives, both family and beyond. And they are. But to not be a part of it? Right now, I find it crushing. Soul destroying. Heart breaking. I'm sure it will get easier, but if you're asking me my honest opinion at this very minute? It's nothing other than totally and utterly pants.

Kairen who blogs at Confessions of a Single Mum, has a son and a daughter :
The pros. Not having to share a bed. I really don’t miss someone sharing my bed one bit. They other species snore way too much and as for all that excessive wind they proudly produce trapped under the duvet really isn’t my idea of fun. It doesn’t feel cold or empty in any way but does feel like mine, the place I can retreat to at the end of the night and really wind down and relax.

I have found life is more relaxed as a single parent. Yes there are moments of sheer panic and unorganised chaos but with only three in the house we're more likely to want to watch the same things on the TV, want to eat the same foods and generally get on better. The kids don’t have to via for my attention either, when they are at my house its more one on one. Then when they go to their dads they have one on one time with him. I am lucky that the children split their time between their dads house and mine so I have more concentrated and quality time with the children as well as adult time to do the things I want to do. Their dad has said the same thing so it works very well for both of us.

The cons. As they spend half their time at their dads and are also now old enough to be more the free range kind of children, there can be days when I don’t actually speak to anyone. It sort of brought it home to me the other day when I was counting something and suddenly counted out loud, I made myself jump so much I thought I had induced heart failure. They are at the age that I don’t walk them to school and would probably die of embarrassment if I tried to do it, so there is no school gate banter with other mums either. There are times I feel I am winging it. I don’t know if I am tackling parenting issues the right or wrong way. Not that there is a right or wrong way but it would be nice to have back up and input on some issues. It would cut out a lot of trial and error. I know a lot of single parents may say the money side of things is a bad side of it all, for me it has taught me a lot about myself and society. Yes money is tight, we don’t have holidays or latest fashions but living on a tighter budget has made me a lot less materialistic and learn what actually is import in life. This has also passed onto the children, they don’t consider themselves hard done by (well most of the time) and they have a good idea the value of money and how far it goes.
I can only nod my head in agreement to all of the above. The low points can be extremely low, but the highs can be life affirming. If you've been a single parent you'll know that you have to find inner strength from somewhere in order to cope with the sheer relentlessness of it all. But the sense of achievement you feel to know that you've managed to cope on your own and raise kind, loving and balanced children is second to none.

I'd love to know your own views on single parenting. If you're single parent what are your high and low points? If you're in a two parent family how do you think the two compare?