We all know what it’s like. Single or otherwise, parenting is bloody brutal even at the best of times. Mums and dads are always juggling so many things just to keep going. Life is a never-ending cycle of commitments. Yet, it all just happens thanks to a delicate balance of organisation and a little bit of luck. Yet, single mum struggles are real. And, they are something which I acutely felt recently. One or two of those spinning plates crashed to the floor and into a million pieces. They were small saucers at first. Then, bigger serving platters splintered to smithereens.
The little things
As a single mum, I haven’t got another pair of grown-up hands under the same roof to help me with stuff. I am also pretty crap at basic DIY – I once cut my hand to shit just changing a lightbulb. I am aware that my own inadequacies when it comes to basic life skills are my own fault. Yet, my single mum struggles are often in addition to that.
One Friday afternoon, I came home from a soft play centre with TJ ready for a lovely weekend of just the two of us. As I ran his bedtime bath, the tap which had been dripping for a bit spurted hot water everywhere. I did not handle it well. I panicked, suffered a mild burn, cried a bit and called my dad for help. TJ was adorable as he saw his mummy have a mini meltdown. “Mummy, if I do some funny faces, will it make you happy?” That made me laugh in the middle of it all.
With some help from my sister’s partner, the leak was downgraded to a drip once more until a proper repair could take place. Bath abandoned, TJ got tucked up in bed with his usual goodnight kiss from me.
Two days later, I got the flu. Not a bad cold, the full blown flu. I went into work for two hours on Monday before returning home and staying on the sofa for two days. TJ spends the beginning of his week living with his dad – he comes back on a Wednesday afternoon. I worried that I wouldn’t be well enough by then. That could have meant that I wouldn’t have been able to look after my little man at all that week. I was far from 100% but, with a huge supply of lemsip, I welcomed TJ back … with a little help from my family, again.
Freezing and fragile
They say that these things happen in threes. So, the next plate to smash in the single mum struggles was the ability to safely leave the house. The snow came. Basingstoke made the national news for being ‘like a disaster movie’ when insufficiently gritted roads turned into a blocked ice rink. Of course, this also happened on a Friday when I had to get TJ to his dad’s house for the weekend, which is an hour’s drive away.
TJ also quickly went downhill. It became clear that he had picked up some of my germs, despite having had the flu vaccine. But, with the little man snuggled under a blanket, we battled the roads to daddy’s house. It was OK, actually. However, it’s true what they say – kids just want their mums when they are unwell. So, the handover was up there with the worst ones we’ve ever experienced. My heart broke as TJ cried for me to not leave. But, I had no choice except to go out of the front door and hope for the best. A couple of days later, he was fine of course. I also checked in with his dad whenever I could to ensure that all was as well as could be expected.
Single mum struggles aren’t over yet …
It wasn’t. I went back into work on Monday morning only to be made redundant. There’s no hard feelings there. But, I was shell shocked. I was also more than a little scared at how I was going pay for stuff for me and TJ. An obvious part of the single mum struggles is a solo income. Yes, TJ’s dad offers some financial support. But, that wouldn’t cover the gap left from having no income of my own. However, I was exceptionally fortunate and I got an amazing job offer (or two) only a short time later. I enjoyed a few bonus days at home and with TJ, ready to start the new job. My first day was actually on my birthday. So, I took a Colin the Caterpillar cake along with me to butter up the new work mates.
These single mum struggles are things which are supposedly sent to try us. And try me they did. Keeping everything going on my own is hard. OK, I am not totally on my own as my amazing family helped. My dear friends also extended offers of help too (thank you!) But, I am largely fighting this fight singlehandedly. Sometimes, that means battling stuff which is totally out of my hands. But, that doesn’t stop me having to handle the repercussions of it all anyway.
Despite what Hugh Grant said in About a Boy, no man (or woman) is an island. We all exist together and, even the most independent of us, need a helping hand every now and again. As much as I talk about my dating, I am not desperate for a man. There’s no need for someone to come into my life to change anything, to help me to raise TJ or to bring me soup when I am unwell. I’m lucky enough to have people around me to turn to when I need them. That’s something that I will always be grateful for. But, I am independent enough to know that I would never shirk my core responsibilities if it can be at all avoided.
Having said that, sometimes it is more than a one-person job to always keep those plates spinning. So, it’s best to remain open-minded too and flexible to accepting assistance when the going gets a little too much. Because, my friends, life is tough for us all. This is never more so the case than when things don’t go according to plan.