My parents split up when I was 7. My (A MAZE ING) mum managed to raise 4 girls in London by herself. We all managed to work things out in the end, went to university, got married and are doing fine. Of course there are struggles and challenges (that is part and parcel of life) but there are also a lot of highs and moments to enjoy, as well as learning opportunities to benefit from.
For the last week I was parenting by myself. My husband was away at a course becoming accredited to support faith based disputes and mediations. For 5 days I was a single parent (well not quite, but I got a tiny taste of that experience). And in this post I am going to share with you what I learned…
Before I begin, **so as not to irritate anyone**, I know that being by myself for one week is not going to give me the reality of what it is like to be a single parent, but having been raised in a single parent family I hope that this article gives me the chance to share some of my personal reflections so you can benefit whatever your parenting situation.
And it doesn’t matter if you are the child or parent in the single family structure - as long as you are making progress you are doing fine... On the other side of struggle is always something better. I am living proof of that.
A single parent for a week…
I learned that although I am able to parent and raise my children by myself it is a lot easier with someone else - it takes less toll on your mental energy, emotional energy, spiritual energy, and you are able to give yourself a time out when you need one.
I believe that in all situations it is better to have 2 parents. However, there is always an exception to the rule - and for me it would be if the other parent is in any way abusive or is not adding to the family structure.
See the point, when there are 2 good parents who care about the family structure then things are better. But if there is 1 parent who is disengaged, not wanting to be there, disruptive, abusive etc… then it is better for the child to be raised in a single parent family.
One good parent is a million times better than two parents who stay together for the sake of the kids but fight all the time, and teach their kids how to parent badly. Remember, we watch and learn, not listen and learn!
When you parent by yourself you are everything - mother, father, advisor, cook, cleaner, support, guide, bank, etc! I know that first hand watching my mum. And it all has an impact. One of my sisters used to think that my mum never slept because she never saw her sleeping!
When you are parenting by yourself it is important to find moments to take care of yourself. I know a spa day isn’t going to happen (well, not regularly… and personally I find those things really boring!) But what you can do is find 5 minutes a day to generate some sanity, have a time out and a rest to re-calibrate yourself and be recharged for the day. If we can take time to charge our mobile phones regularly, then we can make time for ourselves too. It is all about making a decision.
Contradiction I know. However, there are many people (sadly, mainly women) who are married but are in effect single parents because the other parent has disengaged from the parenting role. I don’t need to say that it takes a few seconds to make a child, but a lifetime to raise one. And if you are going to the effort of making a child, please (for the love of God and all things good) take time to ensure that you fulfill your role as a parent.
All faiths, all humanity tells us that we should be responsible for our actions. A child needs both a mother and father who is active in the child's life. It doesn’t mean you have to be there for every meal, every milestone, every thing, but it does mean that you are part and parcel of the nourishment and nurture that a child receives.
In my opinion, biologically, emotionally, and psychologically humans are children until they are at least 18. If your kid becomes a teenager who can cook for themselves or get a job, it does not mean that your parenting responsibility has ended and you can hand it over to someone else.
If you are a single parent in a couple please find a way of opening the conversation with your spouse about your needs and the child's needs.
Just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean that you need to do it.
In some ways, I know I am speaking from a very privileged position. When my parents split up in the 1970’s not only was I one of two brown kids in my class, me and my sisters then became the only children of divorced parents in the school. Time for the bullies to step in…
I know things are very different now, and sadly a lot of parents split and children are raised in single family households.
BUT at the end of the day, having one good parent is better than having one great parent who in a flight or fight mode because they are in a situation of conflict, oppression, etc.
I know that I could parent my kids by myself but just because I can doesn’t mean I want to (and God help me to avoid that ever being necessary).
I have learned a lot about myself in the last week - eg, I can write emails, put the dinner on, and hoover the house all in the space of an hour. But just because I can do that it doesn’t mean I’d want to do it regularly. Get my drift?
I want to close this PSA by seriously giving credit to the amazing job that single parents do. I honour and salute you all. I think you are amazing and you are doing a really critical job. It might seem like hard work every now and then but know that your young person is eternally grateful and loves you dearly (even if they don’t have the language to communicate that right now).
Know that I am rooting for you and that if you are reading this I am part of your extended village.
Lots of love and with peace,