For the past six months have I been classed as a ‘single mum’ after my 20 year marriage ended. In this short time, I have already been acquainted numerous times with the so called single mum stigma. Despite the fact the number of single parent households have skyrocketed in recent years, amongst my close female friends I have quite a few fabulous single mums. Mothers who are juggling being a single parenthood and making a living, building their professional careers, keeping the house running as tidy and effective as possible and trying to have a little social life too. I also have a few single dads amongst my friends who try and do the exact same thing. So before I continue I’d like to point out this blog isn’t about slating the daddies out there. It took one of my close single daddy friends nearly two years to be accepted on the school playground by a group of mothers. Just saying! The points I am going to mention are purely my own experiences. Experiences that have opened my eyes, surprised me at times and also left me lost for words. As most of you know the latter is a pretty rare thing! So let me address some misconceptions about what the experience as a single mum for me have been so far.
The most common misconception about being a single parent I come across on a weekly basis is the cringe worthy: “Es you must be desperate to find a significant other so you are less lonely.” Often followed by an even more painful: “Don’t worry lovely, you will be snapped up soon.” I realise people mean well and are probably only trying to be kind. So no hard feelings please if you are one of guys reading this have said the above. However, I am perfectly happy being on my own and at present not even bothered I might end up on that ‘passed her sell by date’ shelf!
Secondly, the comment: “At least you get a break when they’re spending time with their dad.” Trust me when I say that that break consists of doing everything I can’t do with the kids around. As I’ve neglected the running around like a headless chicken, making sure everything is in place when the kids return so I can have proper quality time with them both. Oh and of course… catching up on my beauty sleep. My much needed sleep as the days and nights have definitely become lots longer since I am a single parent!
Another one I was most probably guilty of myself when I was still in a relationship and have since opened my eyes enormously is the comment when other women say: “Oh but I so know what it’s like to be a single mum as my partner works a lot.” I understand that can be difficult too. However there is still emotional and mental support amongst the financial stability. Not to mention the fact that when your partner is around he can help out and it’s all back to ‘normal’ family life. As a single mum this will never be the case.
Don’t you think the phrase ‘single mum’ has a slight negative edge to it too? Like it’s a totally bad thing. This is definitely not the case. If I look at my single mummy and daddy friends I even think they are often stronger, more determined, more effective at juggling lots of balls at once (no pun intended) and are excellent problem solvers. There is after all no one else to do it all for you. So gradually you become an expert at so many different things.
Other quite insulting comments I have come across are the two opposites: “You must feel miserable and trapped as a single mum.” To the opposite: “You must have lots of wild nights out getting drunk, swinging off chandeliers in hotel rooms when you’ve ditched the kids!” Seriously! When I ‘ditch’ my kids they are still on my mind, constantly. I worry even more about them when they are not in my immediate reach. And no I don’t feel trapped. My kids were, before the separation and will always be, a big part of my life. As for wild nights out getting drunk and ending up being naughty. I wish! No I take that back. I am very happy sipping lemonade on a rare night out knowing I will be driving home soon to dive into my double bed doing star shapes! As for hangovers? I really can’t deal with those anymore at my age.
I must admit I had the misconception myself that my children might grow up damaged after splitting up. Hence the marriage probably lasted that bit longer. I have found out since becoming a single parent my children are much more relaxed at home. Much more at ease. Knowing they won’t walk into another argument or a negative atmosphere. My bond has even grown more intense in a positive way with my fabulous two. We are a team now. We look out for each other. We help one another more with tasks. Whether it’s homework, a quick hoover up or prepping food. I feel my kids have emotionally grown more confident as they know now it’s ok when circumstances change. The bond between my two has always been remarkable. But since being a single parent they are even closer. They look out for another, and I couldn’t be more proud.
Not all single mums are on benefits, take ‘his’ money or must be bored. If they choose to be a stay at home mum, just make sure you have your facts right before calling a single mum a benefit user. I shall leave it at that.
Lastly, I’d like to say to those who feel we aren’t allowed to have a moan and a whinge at times because it was our own fault. Or that we chose to do it all on our own. That’s simply not true!
On a very possible note, me and the kids are doing great! I can’t lie and say it’s been a stroll in the park, and some days are still very hard or we have to adjust again to the new circumstances.
The last couple of months have been trying and an enormous learning curve. One where I realise I was to a certain extent guilty of having a certain misconceptions about single parents and I am not proud of that. I have so much more respect now for all those mums and dads out there that are there for their children single handed. Making the most of each day and embracing it as best as possible. Exactly the same as most traditional families. After all we all want our kids to grown up with happy memories.