Is it hard to be a single parent?
To be honest, it’s not a question I’m asked a lot. That’s not because I make it look so easy, but because the assumption is just generally made that being a single parent must be really tough.
There are two sides to this. On the one hand, yes it can be tricky. Being the only person responsible for my child’s health and wellbeing is not exactly how I had imagined my life panning out. I grew up in the 1980s watching Neighbours, and fully expecting to get married to Scott Robinson while Angry Anderson sang Suddenly in the background. But Jason Donovan’s just not the mulleted beauty he once was, and I’ve no idea what Angry Anderson is up to these days.
There are times when it would be handy to have a second parent around. Those are usually when either S or myself is ill, or when I’ve been invited to an event that means I will need to find someone to take care of S. On those moments, I have a brief feeling of “oh, wouldn’t it be useful if someone else was here to do the school run”
The other side of this though, is much larger.
Last year I was talking to a fairly new client, and was surprised when she knew I was a single parent without my telling her. She said, “so you’re doing this all on your own; that must be really tough.”
At this point I could easily have agreed with her, perhaps even played on her sympathy a bit: oh yes, it’s so hard, woe is me…
The truth though, is that it’s not. Or rather, that’s not the way I choose to look at it.
The fact is that I’ve been on my own with S since she was a couple of weeks old (and before that we were in hospital any way and Twunty was hardly around). This is my only experience of parenting; I’ve nothing to compare it against. I look at a lot of my friends with partners, and sometimes feel that actually I have the better situation as I make all of the decisions and rely only on myself.
If I’d had ten years of blissful marriage before becoming a single mother, perhaps I would feel differently. The fact is that S’s father is not a very nice person, and my pregnancy was far from a barrel of laughs; I was and am better off without him. Becoming a single parent – once I was over the initial panic – was more like a sigh of relief for me. But that brings me to my second point: it’s all in how you choose to react.
Being a parent is a life-long thing. It’s not like training for a marathon, where you train hard for months and months, then do the race and say “wow, that was hard.” I am a single parent all day, every day. I have been for the last four years, and I will be for the foreseeable future. If I got up every day with the attitude that being a single parent is hard, I may as well have the attitude that life in general is hard. While I know there are plenty of people out there with this viewpoint, it’s not something I choose to subscribe to.
The truth is that on a day-to-day basis, I don’t have a conscious thought as to whether my life is hard or easy. But when the question arises, my answer will always be that no, it’s not that hard. In fact, these days my life is pretty amazing. I love my life and S seems fairly happy too.
I really believe that life is what you make it, and going around saying that life as a single parent is hard can only serve to make my life seem hard – to myself and to others.
Yes, it can be tough doing this alone – but would it be any easier if there was someone else here alongside me? Then I would have another relationship to maintain after I’d tucked S up in bed at night and someone else’s opinions and feelings to take into account.
Yes, of course there are the people who will look down their noses at me because I’m a single parent – the root of all evil and the cause of everything that’s wrong in society. But the way someone else chooses to look at you can only affect you if you let it, and I’ve long since given up on caring about the opinions of people who think like that.
It’s not much fun relying on benefits to make ends meet; we moved house recently and I went eleven weeks without any housing benefit while the people at the council recalculated my claim (and forgot to tick a box, hence the long delay). Things got pretty hairy, and it would perhaps have been nice not to have needed that money – or to have someone else’s income coming in. We managed though, and all this has done is make me more determined that we will soon be in a position where we can stop relying on benefit. I’m not sure I would be comfortable relying on another person for cash any more than I enjoy relying on the council. I’d rather rely on myself and stand on my own two feet, and that’s what I’m aiming for.
So, is being a single parent hard? Just like anything else in life, there are positives and negatives – and just like everything else in life, it’s all in how you choose to look at it. I choose to look at my life positively as it makes everything much easier!