If you are here, it means that you have already read Part 1 (If you haven’t, find the link here), and you now know that being a Single Parent involves a lot of heavy lifting and not just the physical kind.
But, since I wasn’t done with the things no one tells you about Single Parenting, I’ve compiled a list of a few more tacit things that are the norm during Single Parenting.
Dating for a Single Parent is such a volatile topic, that there is a whole other article on it waiting in the wings already. Be assured that friends and well-meaning family will try to hook you up on dates with prospective rishtas as soon as they get the chance, but as Single Parents, we know that dating is just another chore on the list for us.
Having just found a new perspective on life and ourselves, Single Parents are terrified of losing the grip that we have hard-attained on our lives and would instead remain single, than needlessly take on more stress by re-entering the dating game. Plus, introducing the topic of dating or new partners to the children is a real challenge too.
My son, for example, is very wary and looks at me with suspicious eyes when I talk to a man, even if it is just a friend or a stranger asking for directions. So I am well aware that should I choose to date or bring a man home, he truly has to be of god-like qualities, not only to be able to fit into a Single Parent home but mostly to be able to win over my son.
Says Alissa, a freshly minted Single Parent to a six-month-old, “Dating is impossible even with a nanny! Between expressing milk, working full time, and being a mother, who has the time and energy to be elsewhere. Plus, I no longer have anything in common with ‘regular people’ anymore… Maybe later’, she adds, ruefully.
Ruth, a Single Parent of ten years to an eight-year-old boy, holds a different perspective, “My ex-husband left us a decade ago. My son was a wee baby at the time, and soon after, I began work. I met lots of people, initially just for sex, but then I met a man who I truly fell in love with. My son was only five at the time, so I had to ease him into the idea of having a man around, and now they get along well. Waiting for the right man, who will put in the time with the kid, is key”.
The start of the journey into Single parenting is often bumpy and fraught with long nights, lost tempers, depression, and sometimes even suicidal thoughts. But with some amount of bumping into rough corners and edges, most Single Parents soon begin to understand that they hold the full power to mold this in a way that suits their sanity.
Personally, it took me a full year to get the hang of, but now I am aware that, ultimately I decide, what chore to prioritize, which to dismiss, and, most importantly, when to stop. And, I also schedule and make lists like a boss. It comes to me like second nature, but if you’d told me this, last year, I would have cried from disbelief and exhaustion.
In this, I was inspired by Maye Musk, the world-famous Single Mother, supermodel, and more popularly known as the mother of Elon Musk. She said in an interview that the only reason she was able to work and earn a living as a young Single Mother was because she empowered her children with independence and age-appropriate chores early on, and this, in turn, empowered her.
This sage advice saved my life, for sure.
And, sure enough, with enough time and practice, my son and I, working on the dictum by Lady Musk, work well together, in almost perfect tandem, and have now become the A team that we need 24/7. Let me be honest, it’s not perfect, and we still have lousy mood swings, burnt meals, forgotten commitments, and temper tantrums, but we have learned to trust and forgive each other and come back from it, stronger than ever.
Says Noor, a Single Parent to two boys, “Make daily chores and responsibilities a priority, compliment them, and remind them if they forget, and in the long run, this will make them more independent. A Single Parent has to understand that instead of mollycoddling and overprotecting, the opposite is what the child needs”.
Sure, there are days when you feel as guilty as O.J, for putting your child in a situation arising from your failings at marriage, and you sometimes even feel tempted to go back to your ex. Sometimes, you self harm, because it’s the only thing that makes you feel better, and you indulge in unhealthy habits, all to distract yourself from the guilt of it all.
But, here’s the reality, whatever the circumstance that left you as a Single Parent, you are surviving it, and your kids will see that you are the parent that showed up and is putting in the time for them, and this will never go unacknowledged, no matter what you think of yourself.
And if you left a toxic environment, especially abuse of any kind, or cheating was involved, it will someday, show your kids, that abuse is unacceptable in a relationship. Boundaries can become a discussion you can have with your kids by using your example. They will cherish you if you exhibit honesty regarding their circumstances and make them understand why you did what you had to do.
Trust me, It takes strength to model healthy self-love by not settling for toxic relationships and behaviors, even if it is with their father, and although this will be hard-won, a day will come when your kids will see you as the role model that they draw and learn from.
So, do yourself a favor and cut yourself some slack.
Says Shereen, a veteran Single parent of two beautiful girls, “I knew I had to leave when my elder daughter asked me if all her friend’s fathers also hit their mothers. All the while, I thought that I was doing them a favor by staying. But with that one question from her, I knew that I’d have to take that risk and leave. I should not be the one normalizing abuse for them; they should learn from me that walking away from a relationship is not always a bad thing to do and that they should never settle for love in an environment of toxicity.’
Usually, a huge complaint among Single Parents is that they are hard-pressed for time. A seasoned veteran, Single Parent, knows that with military precision scheduling, the timekeeping skills of a bullet train, and a firm hand on what goes on in the house, they can have more time than they ever did before.
So, take those now-free weekends when the kids are with your ex and use them to rediscover yourself. Invest in learning a new skill or in a vibrator and have a go at yourself again. It takes a lot of courage and patience to grow, so why not use this huge life upheaval, and instead of cribbing about it, turn it around on its heel, and use it as a catalyst to do what you want to do instead of just doing what you have to do?
As a Single Parent, I know how difficult it still is for me to ask for help, even when I am hanging from a cliff, by a nail. It is not my ego that stops me from asking, and not because I have confidence in my parenting and housekeeping skills.
It is because I am terrified of showing that I need help. It would just mean that I am failing at the Single Parenting gig as well, and the last thing I need is to be laughed at or ridiculed for it. And also, most Single Parents, understandably hate to paint themselves as a victim, and would much rather drown in their own mess.
But with much effort, I have discovered that hardly anyone would say no to a Single Parent in need, and if they do, they are just mean people and keeping those mean people aside (who you now know to stay away from), it is ok to ask for help when you need it.
You are human, and all humans occasionally need help. Period.
While no one is asking you to become a regular cad and Don Juan it around town, being a Single Parent, and finding yourself free from the shackles of your toxic marriage, definitely gives you the freedom to explore yourself.
Whether it’s a night out with a vibrator or someone from the opposite sex, exclusive ‘sexy time’ is very often the only time Single Parents get to dress up and feel special. Just like other humans, married or otherwise, remind yourself that you deserve it too.
So put on those heels, wing that eyeliner (and, of course, arrange for a nanny, your parents, or a friend to take care of the kids), and go out, and feel your heart beating again. And if you can manage casual dating with your life as a Single Parent, kudos to you, just don’t let anyone guilt you for it.
Says P, who wishes to go anonymous, “Time with men is exclusively for me, I’d go nuts without it. It is the time that is separate from my life with my kids and the demands of it, and I cherish it”.
So, there you have, the end of Part 2.
Now lift that hand, or as I like to say, the glass of wine (or bottle) that it holds and give yourself a well-deserved toast! If you empathize with or are going through any of the instances I’ve talked about, feel free to share with me in the comments section of the article.