Single Parenting. Not better or worse. Just different.

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There’s a lot of chat about single parents in the blogosphere at the moment. Notsupermum and Rosie Scribble have written eloquently on the upsides of solo parenting, while MyShitty20s is talking openly about the downsides.

I’ll admit – I've been trying to write a post for days but struggled to say anything sensible about single parenting. It wasn’t a choice I made. My marriage imploded when I was six months pregnant, and it was a bit late to think, “probably shouldn’t have kids with this guy”. We limped along for a little while, but within months I was single, and had Flea.

After writing posts, deleting posts and rewriting posts, here’s the thing: I don’t think single parenting is any easier, harder, better or worse than any other sort of parenting. It’s just different.

I’m not a perfect parent. I forget stuff. A lot. We’re always late. Flea eats breakfast in the car. The first time she saw my brother ironing, Flea turned to me with eyes like saucers and said: “What’s THAT, Mummy?” Oh, and once I dropped her head first into a toy box. Not on purpose, in case you were wondering.

But Flea’s teacher told me this week that she’s one of the best behaved children she’s ever taught. And that my daughter is (excuse me while I polish my halo) “just so completely full of joy and life, I’m lucky to have her in my class”. So, you know, I think we’re probably doing okay.

Actually, I think what’s hard isn’t single parenting. It’s divorced parenting. I think that might just be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There are days, like today, when I could cheerfully crawl under the bed and never come out. Days when Flea lays her hand on my arm and says, “Be happy Mummy,” and I think my heart will break.

Being a divorced parent means constantly being pulled in different directions. On the one hand, there’s the instinct to distance yourself from the person who betrayed you. But on the other hand there’s the instinct to protect your child, and that means nurturing and supporting her relationship with two parents. And you’ve got to feel sorry for the new guy, because he’s the one paying the price for all the shenanigans the old guy got up to – and he has to hide under the bed on a semi-regular basis.

All this is bad. But today, I think I hit the nadir of divorced parenting. In a moment of what can only be described as emotional Armageddon, I downloaded a Miley Cyrus track on iTunes. I know. Where will it all end?

All I’ll say is, if you ever catch me with Celine Dion on my iPod, it’s time to stage an intervention.

About 

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.

16 Comments

  1. 29th September 2009 / 10:39 am

    “I’m not a perfect parent. I forget stuff. A lot. We’re always late.”
    – You don’t need to be a single parent for that. 🙂
    I know some excellent single mothers, and some “interesting” married mothers. I think children are best off in a loving home. Which you obviously provide.

  2. Just a Mum
    29th September 2009 / 11:47 am

    It sounds as though you balance a lot, but I think all parents do to some extent – like you say, it’s just different parenting and I think we’re often too quick to label something inferior or harder because it’s different to the norm.
    Also – I find Whitney Houston is my shameful music of choice on a bad day!

  3. 29th September 2009 / 2:11 pm

    We all make the most of what we have, and sometimes we don’t choose what that is.
    It looks like you’re doing a great job with Flea.
    Don’t forget to make yourself happy to.
    On a lighter note: I can dance to one or two songs of Britney Spears in my most shamefull and silly days 😉

  4. Liz (LivingwithKids)
    29th September 2009 / 4:33 pm

    I can think of a few mums with partners who might be better off as single parents!
    Not sure about the downloading Miley tho x

  5. Chris Brennan
    29th September 2009 / 9:04 pm

    You had me right up to Miley Cyrus and then I lost all sympathy.
    Full of joy and life says it all really.

  6. 29th September 2009 / 9:14 pm

    @Mwa – I do agree, I just get bored sometimes of the assumption that Flea is somehow starting from a position of disadvantage in a single parent home. Not necessarily!
    @Just a Mum – Whitney?? Oh, hang your head, woman.
    @Cecilia – Britney! Who could forget Britney – not yet in my itunes library but that could change.
    @Liz – I know. I know. And me a fully-fledged fan of Social Distortion as well.
    @Chris – I don’t blame you. I’d have done the same.

  7. 29th September 2009 / 9:24 pm

    I just hope that a teacher says that about my daughter one day!

  8. 29th September 2009 / 9:34 pm

    A really good post. Thanks for the mention. I didn’t choose to be a single parent but as that’s the situation I’m in I just have to get on with it. I agree, it’s just different and actually statistically quite normal! Keep up the good work.

  9. 29th September 2009 / 9:44 pm

    Having been a single parent for a while, in-between episodes of co-parenting (available on iPlayer) I think I can honestly say that it made no difference to how I brought up Sally. In many ways it’s harder on your own, but you are who you are and you’re the parent you’re always going to be whatever situation you find youself in. Having said that (and if you’ll excuse the slush) Sarah makes it’s so much easier, and in so many ways. I’m inspired to be a better parent by her, and that’s worth everything.

  10. Insomniac Mummy
    29th September 2009 / 11:22 pm

    I’m not a single parent, but am a child of a single parent family. I was brought up for a few years solely by my Dad after my mum passed away when I was just 5.
    For me, that was the only upbringing I knew and life seemed normal.
    I think you hit the nail on the head, it’s just different. We’re all just different.
    🙂

  11. 30th September 2009 / 2:32 am

    My boys have no clue what an iron is either. And I agree. I used to panic about having to deal with the children single-handed when my ex and I finally separated last year. But that has actually been a doddle compared to having to handle amicable relations with him.
    have just read a ton of your posts and love, love, love your blog.
    Thanks for the great read.

  12. Yummy Mammy
    30th September 2009 / 12:23 pm

    Eck – Miley!!!!
    Luckily my small child is also regarded as the happiest, friendliest and most well behaved child in the class. And god only knows why having a dysfunctional mother like me.
    I do the breakfast in the car thing, I NEVER iron, which is now a standing joke with small child, I can never find her matching socks, and to tip it off she insists on vetting any potential boyfriends.
    Think I now know why I’m a single parent 😉

  13. Sarah Wolf
    30th September 2009 / 1:31 pm

    I do the breakfast in the car thing too, sometimes we just go for a walk to the fish and chip shop and I always try to have a bath with my small person on a Sunday night (when she gets back from her father’s house).
    It’s different – you are right there – but I find it ‘easier’ in a sense than when we were together. I’m a wee bit of a control freak so it used to annoy me when he didn’t do things my way (pathetic things – like reading the correct words in a book). Now I’m happy, my daughter is happy, he is happy. We have a co-parenting agreement (puke) so big things are sacrosanct, like manners and food and stuff. But the little things that used to make me sweat are now mine and mine alone.
    Sarah

  14. 1st October 2009 / 2:46 pm

    Many times over the last few weeks I have remarked upon the fact that I have no idea how single parents manage at times. When my gorgeous baby is being difficult and I have had no sleep and my head is going to explode I can look at his dad and he will know it is his turn. The same goes the other way round. Being a parent is hard and I just have the ultimate respect for anyone that does it on their own.

  15. Peggy
    1st October 2009 / 4:50 pm

    You make a fab job and it must be very hard at times not to be able to “hand” the child to someone else. I would be lost and probably losing the plot more than I do now! Well done you!!

  16. jo
    15th January 2011 / 2:38 pm

    sooooooooo useful…. i totally identify :/

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