Single Mums: Suck It Up.


At the risk of repeating myself (though I think it’s allowed once you get to my age) one of the things about getting older is realising life’s almost never black and white.

For this reason, I try really hard not to be judgmental about other parenting decisions. What works for my family might not work for your family, yada yada.

Still, I read something this week that stopped me in my tracks. On one of the big parenting forums a young woman was asking for advice ahead of a meeting with a solicitor. She was pregnant and the baby’s father had made it clear that, when the baby was born, he wanted to be involved.

There was no question that the man was abusive, or a risk – it was just that they weren’t together any more, the woman didn’t really want the ex hanging around, and besides, she’d find it hard to be away from her baby for any extended period of time.

Honestly? I thought this sort of woman was a myth cooked up by the nutters at Fathers For Justice. And I think she’s doing a massive disservice to all of us single Mums who recognise that when you’re a parent you don’t just have rights, you have responsibilities – to your child.

I’m divorced. And like most people who go through divorce, there have been days when I would happily have stabbed my ex through the eyeball with a rusty nail. I’m sure he’s felt the same (very rarely, though, because for the most part I am PERFECT).

But no matter what disagreements we might have had, one of the most important jobs I have as a parent is ensuring that my daughter has a close relationship with her Dad. I always wanted her to feel able to love him and tell me about the fun she’s had with him without feeling disloyal. If that means sometimes I’ve answered the door with a cheery smile when I really wanted to stick his head in a pan of boiling water, well, so be it. Because it’s not about me. Or him.  

I simply don't understand why some women seem to be okay with cutting Dads out of their kids' lives. Or making it so hard that eventually the Dad gives up and drifts away. How does that make you a good Mum? So he makes you irritated or unhappy, or you miss your kids when you're not with them. Suck It Up.  

I'll tell you a secret, too.

When you let go of the small stuff and suck it up – you get happier. Honest. All that trying to win every argument, punishing your ex and battling to be the ‘favourite’ parent? It's a fairly hollow victory. It means your life revolves around bitterness and negativity, and that's never a good place to be. 

You know what feels good? Being able to spend time with your ex and be civil, and see how much your child enjoys that. Or watching your child come home after a visit with their Dad and listening to what a completely brilliant time they've had, and knowing how much they love sharing it with you. 

After five years of single parenting what I've realised is that –  for better or worse – we’ll always be family. 

When the chips are down and the world is collapsing around me, I can call my ex and he’ll help out. Okay, I only call him if I’m really desperate, and I've tried everyone else I know in the entire world, but it’s nice to know he’s got my back – because I’m Flea’s Mum and he knows that helping me be okay means she’s okay too. It works both ways, of course – I don't want to see him unhappy, because that just hurts Flea. 

It's family. And we take care of each other. And who doesn’t want that for their children?

And just to prove what a BRILLIANT ex-wife I am, the photo on this post was taken last night. Flea wanted to buy that t-shirt for her Dad for Father’s Day. And I didn’t let her. See? Perfect.   



Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. Joanne
    14th June 2011 / 11:20 am

    Sounds like you’re doing a good job Sally. I see my girls with their Dad and I can see that they gain a lot from him.
    This woman hasn’t even given her ex the chance of being a good Dad.

  2. HerMelness Speaks
    14th June 2011 / 10:44 am

    Maybe because people’s lives and their thought patterns are not as straight forward when viewing the world from inside their head. I suppose the best we can say is that we don’t understand another’s choice and resist the urge to judge them maybe. The paint box of life is not always neatly separated into black and white – which is a pain because the messy and colourful bits can really get on my tits sometimes! 🙂 Best wishes. HMS

  3. 14th June 2011 / 10:50 am

    I have to admit in the early days finding it hard to be civil to be my ex in front of the kids on one infamous occasion slammed his fingers in letter box when he was being threatening (police sided with me!). Now I don’t stop him contacting the kids but he doesn’t bother as he can be traced electronically to try and get maintenance! I never say horrid things about their dad in front of the kids if I can help it. I will no longer send stuff to him as his new partner “loses” it…

  4. 14th June 2011 / 10:51 am

    That’s all well and good and I don’t judge Mums who are making choices for themselves. When you’re making choices for your kids and trampling over their rights to protect your own feelings? That’s not okay. Sorry. I don’t judge you, because it’s not my place, but your kids just might do, one day.

  5. Nicky
    14th June 2011 / 11:12 am

    I saw this post too and felt I should have responded but didn’t have the time, My little boy doesn’t have any contact with his father (his choice , not mine) it breaks my heart, my lad deserves a Dad, this week is particulaly hard as they have a week long celebration at school. He hears what he mates got upto with their dads and misses out on that. Sorry gonna stop now as I’m only going to get either upset or angry

  6. Vic
    14th June 2011 / 12:12 pm

    As I said on the old FB, you’re a better ex wife than I am!
    You’ve also hit the (rusty) nail on the head. It’s not about us, it ceased to have any chance of being the moment we split with our respective partners. At the end of the day you do what’s best for your kids. Kids need dads if dads are happy to be around (same for mothers too) and trying to prevent your kid’s dad from seeing them because you can’t deal with your own issues is only going to hurt the kid.

  7. 14th June 2011 / 12:42 pm

    Ugh, sounds tough – I think you’re right, though, as Mums we can make our choices but we can’t force our former partners to do as we’d choose, or indeed make choices for our children – I always think I’m enabling Flea to have a relationship and if she chooses not to when she’s older then I’ll be happy that it was HER choice, not something I influenced – though I’d be sad, of course.

  8. 14th June 2011 / 12:43 pm

    I don’t know if we saw the exact same post, but certainly I agree that children deserve Dads and it’s horribly sad when you see that gap in someone’s life – I grew up without a Dad for a time, and certainly I felt that as a gap.

  9. 14th June 2011 / 12:44 pm

    I think it’s sad she doesn’t seem to be, but hopefully once the baby is born, she’ll feel a little differently, who knows?

  10. 14th June 2011 / 12:45 pm

    It’s true. I am an AWESOME ex-wife. A terrible wife, mind.
    I’m not sure it was the same post, to be fair, but I would agree that the moment you have a child, it’s not about you any more. I get a little sad when I see so many parents talking about THEIR rights. Sure, that’s important but not as important as your child’s rights. Huh.
    Rant over 😉

  11. 14th June 2011 / 1:21 pm

    There is not much I can add, as I grew up in a strong family unit and hope to bring my children up in one too. But I can from first hand experiance say you do a fab job of being a single mum and you do suck it up for Flea’s sack, I have seen that first hand and think you are a super mum for doing so, for putting your child first always. Hats off to you

  12. 14th June 2011 / 2:27 pm

    My parents divorced when I was 17, and I cut my Dad out of my life for a year at that point because I blamed him entirely for the breakup. My Mum stayed calm and fair, and eventually I brought myself around and started rebuilding my relationship with my Dad.
    It’s still not perfect, many years later. But I am very grateful to both my parents that they are able to be there for me – they were both there when I graduated, they were both there when I got married, they’ve both been around for their Grandchildren. They can remain civil to each other at family gatherings. That means a lot to me.
    I have no idea how hard it must be to put your own emotions on hold for the sake of your child, but I have no doubt at all that it is the Right Thing To Do.

  13. 14th June 2011 / 4:17 pm

    Great Post! As a child of a father who didn’t bother with his kids after my parents divorce I know first hand how important it is for kids to have their Dad in their life (of course providing he isn’t a druggie or abusive etc).
    We had the opposite problem My Mum would beg my Dad to see us but he was more interested in doing his own thing. He told everyone (inc his family) that his reason for not seeing us was that my Mum refused him access (total bull). My Mum would have done anything for us to have had a relationship with him because like she told me later in life it’s the right thing to do for the kids even if she did feel like killing him half the time and thought he didnt deserve our love. At the end of the day she recognised that it wasn’t her decision to make, it was ours. The kids needs must come before Mums…simple as. Hope that woman sees sense for her kids sake.

  14. 14th June 2011 / 7:40 pm

    Really interesting post. I wonder if the woman in question will feel differently once she’s had the baby and it’s perhaps the elevated hormones coupled with the fear and anxiety of what will come whiles she’s pregnant, which might have contributed to her feeling this way. Sometimes people want to draw a line in order to feel in control. Having a father in your life is vital so hopefully once the baby has arrived and she’s had to time to heal, and providing he is a sane person, she will reconsider. Never easy to know what is going on in people’s lives.

  15. 14th June 2011 / 8:14 pm

    Having chosen not to have a father for my child (you can read my post about coming to terms with donor sperm if you are interested) rather than have a man who is not a part of our family necessarily involved in all our life decisions, I found this article very interesting. Today in the park we were talking about mummies and daddies of various children who we knew. I waited for DD to comment about her lack of a daddy but it hasn’t come yet. I think there must be a difference between no daddy and a daddy who doesn’t see you. I hope so.

  16. illbefrancoise
    14th June 2011 / 9:30 pm

    Having read the post in question I’m still quite floored by it. As an expectant mother (and a sane one at that) I can’t wait to see the relationship between my partner and my daughter develop. If anything went wrong with us there’s no way on earth I would keep my partner from having a relationship with her.
    I almost think this is different though. I feel as if perhaps this is more like another one of your commenter’s situations with ‘donor sperm’.
    I come from a divorced family – as so many do now, and we were made to feel guilty for talking about mum to dad and dad to mum. In fact, my sister gets married next month and even 20 years on I’m still a little nervous about how my mum and dad will ‘be’ with each other.
    Life really is too short to get caught up in silly stuff – I commend you for biting your tongue in situations with your ex.

  17. 14th June 2011 / 9:02 pm

    Yes, it’s definitely the Right Thing although I can see that there are often cases where it’s more complicated than that. Just seems like it’s worth a try.

  18. 14th June 2011 / 9:02 pm

    Oh wow, that must be really hard, having to deal with that. Sounds like your Mum was very supportive, though.

  19. 14th June 2011 / 9:03 pm

    Yes, I did almost post a comment to that effect. I sometimes think you should ignore 90% of what women say from the moment of conception until the baby is 6 months old, as most of them (me included)are pretty much incapable of rational thought.

  20. 14th June 2011 / 9:03 pm

    Oh, I definitely think there’s a difference – it’s about knowing there’s a Dad out there who isn’t in your life that must be so damaging, I think.

  21. 14th June 2011 / 9:10 pm

    If (god forbid bite your tongue) NotBlondeHusband and I split up I could never keep Blondie Boy from his Daddy. Both NBH and I are the product of divorced parents and we both have relationships with both our parents.
    I can understand there are some situations where it’s not best to have Dad in the picture (one of my BFF’s ex is a prime example of that), but if Dad is there and willing to be part of baby’s life and isn’t a risk to baby’s life why would you keep him out just to quiet your own anxiety?

  22. 14th June 2011 / 9:13 pm

    I really don’t get people that act like this. Yes, sometimes the father is abusive or causes problems (someone I know had to leave twitter because her ex was stalking her and trying to prove she was an unfit mother, plus do some really quite terrible things) but if the father is being reasonable, I don’t get why she shouldn’t let him see the child. It often feels like people treat children like possessions. I’m quite uncomfortable with that.
    My sisters had a different dad but he had regularish access. He was a bit of a ne’er do well (and basically, an alcoholic) but he wouldn’t harm the children and anyway, he remarried so he would often have them at weekends. My eldest sister was far more bothered about seeing her dad (as she was 4 when her parents split up) than my other sister (who was 2).
    I don’t recall my mother being funny about him having the children. I saw my sisters as lucky as they had two dads because my dad brought them up as his own.

  23. Nikki
    15th June 2011 / 10:04 am

    Ok – I’m going to ignore all of the non judgemental comments and go for the juglar – WTF is she thinking???????????? It takes two to make a baby so unless she divides the baby in half on arrival and gives 50% to him, she has no right in keeping him away. Sally – you’re spot on – it’s about the childs rights, not hers. I hope he has a bloody good solicitor.
    Rant over!

  24. 15th June 2011 / 2:57 pm

    I have the opposite problem these days, of *really* trying to get the boys’ dad to have more time with his kids, but he just doesn’t seem to be able to put them first. I guess that’s always really been the case though. “My kids are the most important thing in life” doesn’t exactly fill me with good thoughts when he sees them for less than a fortnight per year. He only lives a 2.5-3hr drive away, not abroad!
    Ahem, rant over…
    I bet she’ll change her mind once the little one is born, and she’s exhausted and in need of a break. 😉

  25. 8th December 2011 / 4:30 am

    I am not a single mom but when my husband has done something to irritate me and I grump about it in front of my kids my youngest is angry at Dad when he gets home. Not saying anything bad about Dad works for the kids whether you are together or not I think. Thanks for the thought readjustment