Whoop! It’s the summer holidays. Well, in our house at least.
We’re off on hols soon, but first Flea’s spending a week with her Dad. I’m sure she’ll have a blast, but it’s always a bit odd finding myself in the house without my small companion.
Today, though, I’ve been pondering single parenting. I’ve been a single parent now for about eight years.
Have a guess how many dinner party invites I’ve had in that time from friends in the town where we live?
Not a one.
Not a single, solitary dinner party.
Which is sort of weird, because I’m a middle-class graduate, and dinner parties used to account for 95% of my social life. When I was married.
As a married person, we had a circle of friends and would generally be out for dinner at least once a week. We had journalist friends, college friends, neighbourhood friends. After Flea was born, we’d have dinner with NCT friends. If we didn’t fancy cooking, we’d all meet up at a restaurant in town for Tapas and lots of red wine.
These days, I’m a single parent. I do still have friends. I’m fairly sure I’m still interesting and fun. But as a single parent, I’m firmly in the category of “lunch friend”.
I get invited for morning coffee and cake after the school run. A late lunch with girlfriends. Or going to someone’s house so the kids can hang out while we drink tea in the garden.
But dinner invites? Nope.
When married people have dinner parties, they invite married friends. I assume this is because the universe will implode and the Four Horseman will ride through the town stealing infants if you invite an odd number of people to your house to eat your Thai green curry on a Friday evening.
I’ve lived in the same small town for eight years. Flea attended the same school for eight years. During that whole time I must have overhead a hundred conversations about parents hanging out, going out for birthday dinners, having supper parties, visiting each other’s houses and boats, and summer homes. Doing couple things. With other couples.
Is it weird that I was never invited? Mums would invite me for a cup of tea when the kids played, we’d chat at the school gate, we’d do play dates – but dinner? That’s couple territory.
Of course, nobody wants to make those single people feel awkward and inadequate by parading their intact, functioning relationships in their faces. After all, single people probably don’t even go to Center Parcs. I mean, what would you talk about? And of course, there are always women who are so desperate for a man they’ll just try and steal one if you invite them to your house. Newsflash: I’m too tired, he’s not THAT much of a catch, and I really can’t be faffed with the drama of dealing with married men.
I’m being sarcastic, of course. But honestly, single people CAN come to dinner. We can still talk about school places and house prices and the outrageous price of hummus at Waitrose. I play a mean game of Pictionary. It’s been said that I’m quite funny. And I’ll bring a really, really good dessert.
So, married people, next time you’re having a dinner party or hosting that summer barbecue, do invite your single mama friends. We’re desperate for a decent night out that isn’t a date (because OMG the level of work and stress involved means I can only do that six times a year, tops). And actually, that invite might make the difference to a friend who’s having a pretty tough time, especially in the early days of being a single parent.
And you, single Mamas? Organise your own dinner parties. Stop waiting to be asked! Hanging out on Twitter too much does not equal a social life. Maybe once you’ve invited a few couples over, they’ll return the favour.
Nag your friends into coming over for dinner. Make them play Pictionary, and drink too much wine so they have to crash in your spare room. My blogger chums are a regular source of entertainment in this regard. Blogging friends are THE BEST when you’re a single Mama.
Honestly, meeting up every few months for food, gossip and foolish games? Is just the stress relief you need after a long week of solo parenting.