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How To Survive Becoming A Single Parent

Becoming a ‘single parent’ has been one of the most empowering yet terrifying experiences. I didn't go into parenting thinking, “Hmm, I think it would be great to do this alone!” or “It’s been nice being part of a family unit for six years, but let’s just shake things up a little!” There’s no positive way to describe the transition from a two-parent family unit to a ‘single parent’ family and at times, it has been a lot. But whilst it wasn’t a decision I would’ve initially made, it’s now a decision I wouldn’t change. 

I use quote marks around ‘single parent’ because I’m not parenting alone, but I am taking on the majority of the physical and emotional aspects of parenting. I am the only parent in the household and do 75% of the parenting, but the internet hasn’t given me a term for that, and not-in-a-relationship-with-your-children’s-dad-but-you’re-coparenting-but-not-50:50-and-aren’t-getting-back-together-or-even-having-casual-let’s-pretend-this-didn’t-happen-sex feels a bit long. 

But I digress. 

People mainly think of the physical aspect of doing the majority of the parenting alone but for me the mental and emotional impact are definitely more tiresome.

Now there’s no one else to blame if the baby falls off of the bed or you’re late for school for the third day running. The mental load falls primarily on you and it’s so underestimated. People mainly think of the physical aspect of doing the majority of the parenting alone but for me the mental and emotional impact are definitely more tiresome. There are constraints of the physical aspect, of course: there’s no manual on how to get two kids fed, dressed and out the house by 8.35am four to five days a week, or how to push a pushchair (that of course the baby isn’t in because she's hanging off your hip) whilst you’re trying to do a food shop and get your six year old to stop asking for things. But for me the emotional aspect is the worst of the two. 

It’s the constant thinking on top of all the doing. The house, the bills, the car, the children, after school clubs, which day they change books at school, which day my eldest needs to take her ukulele to school, baby classes and remembering all the things you promised to do but didn’t really mean because you just needed your child to be quiet for two minutes instead of yelling at you through the bathroom door whilst you’re trying to have a pee! Oh, and the baby has stood up for the first time, but she’s clutching your wig for support which you don’t want to fall off because you all should’ve left the house eight minutes ago, so you’re now peeing with your head to the side and trying to take a picture of the baby standing up and not include the knickers around your ankles. I’ve actually forgotten the main point of this emotional rant – but yeah, to be the main carrier of the mental parenting load is a lot! But to this I’d say buy a fucking notebook, honestly! Being able to transfer some of the load to paper is a life saver.

Mother and child walking hand in hand down the street © Sai De Silva

Secondly, as cliché and annoying-internet-meme-like as it sounds, you really do find out who is there for you. It’s important to establish who your support network really consists of, so you can strengthen the bonds and longevity of friends who are there for you instead of wasting time nurturing relationships that aren’t mutually beneficial. Of course everyone will have advinions (useless opinions disguised as advice) for you on how you were “couple goals”, so just get back together or the fact that they see him on your social media so you must be fine and you can bet when you move on everyone and their third cousin will have more advinions on it being “too soon” or your new partner being “too involved” or whatever other crap people say. But what really matters, is when you need a friend to invite you and your ratbags around for dinner so you don’t have to cook with a baby on your hip for the fifth day running, or when you need someone to pick your six year old up from school because you’re just unbelievably exhausted. And when you just want some adult company after bedtime you’ll really see who’s there for you, and without knowing it, those are the ones that’ll get you through this. So fuck Debbie and her mate’s cousin Barbara who got back with her workaholic, alcoholic husband “for the kids” and focus on the relationships that really matter. 

Then there’s the occasional isolation. It’s overlooked and underestimated, but it just creeps up on you. You put the kids to bed whilst coming this close to elbow-dropping the upstairs neighbour who won’t stop banging. You’ve cleaned up from the dinner that was mostly chucked on the floor and you settle down to watch a film and that’s when it hits you. No one else is going to be coming through the door, no one to laugh with or argue with in person. I mean you’re not completely isolated, you have friends and family but it’s not quite the same. And might I add it’s also not the same as when you’re in a relationship but your partner works and you’re alone with the kids during the day. If you think it is you’re a bigger idiot than people who eat smelly food in small enclosed spaces. But don’t start a pity party, something good comes of this.

There’s a spiritual shift that comes from aloneness that you don’t reach in the same way when you’re in a relationship.

From the isolation comes your growth. There’s a spiritual shift that comes from aloneness that you don’t reach in the same way when you’re in a relationship. When you have to continuously gift yourself support for your emotional needs there’s this strength that grows there. You sort of get to untangle yourself from the cords of everyone else’s shit and see who you really are and it’s nice to re-charge completely on your own terms. 

OK, enough of the spiritual inspirational ranting. 

There are times when I do struggle with the impact that this has had on my life, my career, and my goals, the financial pressure and how I’m meant to afford £900 nursery fees and stay alive without selling my body on my one child-free day. There are days when I’m frustrated, I’m angry, but I guess my journey and my career hasn’t ended, I’ve just taken a diversion of sorts. 

When the girls are thriving, the house is tidy and I’m genuinely happy, I can honestly look at myself and say, “Yes, bitch! I did that!” – I’m where I’m meant to be, my girls are happy, and rumour has it I’m still a MILF, so I’m good. Really good.