I count myself as a single parent. That’s because when I am looking after TJ, I am doing it solo. Singlehandedly. This is often without the presence of another human being. It’s definitely without the assistance of his dad in that particular place and time.
But, for much of the rest of the time, TJ is with his dad. We co-parent. Our little boy spends a good chunk of his time with his active and present dad, which is a good way for us all to be … even if it is particularly life-admin heavy and not without its own trials and tribulations. So, is he, or does he view himself, as a single parent?
Do these labels in families and relationships even matter?
Single parenting is more than just looking after the kid. Finances, running the home alone, making day-to-day decisions … that’s all down to me. But, it’s also the good stuff like having no one else to answer to and getting the mostly undivided attention of your kid whenever they are on your time. I really do love it … despite the difficult days and the obvious drawbacks. Honestly, I wouldn’t change it. It is also definitely better than what the alternative was for us all if I hadn’t decided to leave TJ’s dad.
I have learnt a lot about the solid and true community that exists within the single parent network since I joined it. Pockets of people are out there championing raising kids outside of the ‘traditional’ family structure and doing it well too. Apps like Frolo celebrate the single parent and work hard to bring them together. I made my first new friend through the app recently and it was like meeting a kindred spirit through the power of shared experience.
People become single parents in lots of different ways though, of course. Some people end their marriage, like I did. Other people are single mothers through choice. Some people have children as the result of a boozy night out – so what? We’re all doing a great job of raising our kids so does it matter how that child came to be? It doesn’t make any of us any less of a mother because of how we ended up here. We’re all parents putting our kids first and showing that we don’t necessarily need a man to make that work. We should all be proud of that.
I made no secret of my struggle to be single after my marriage ended. It’s only when I look back now that I realise how fucked up I was for a large proportion of the year immediately following Situation Separation. Alcohol, wrong men and too many late nights featured heavily as I adjusted back to life on my own. But, I got over that. I didn’t – don’t – struggle to sleep on my own anymore. I embrace the benefits instead of curse the drawbacks. Actually, I was finally happy to be flying the single flag when, lo and behold, I stopped looking and met the man I am now in a great relationship with.
To the outside world, that could be viewed as my happily ever after. I got the guy and now everything is fine again. Although I do love him, I could have had a happily ever after by standing on my own two feet as well. To the outside world, to those who don’t know me, it could seem that I’m another desperate single mum who has got her claws into a guy to be another parental figure in her child’s life. Nope, that’s not the case. Yes, it’s beyond lovely to see TJ and my boyfriend hang out together. I hope that they gain positivity and happiness by being in each other’s lives for the foreseeable future. But that’s as far as it goes.
Even playing field?
It’s probably different for TJ’s dad as he is living with and is engaged to the really lovely woman who he met after me. She shares a form of responsibility for TJ as they all live under the same roof. So, is TJ’s dad no longer a single dad? I think so. Yet, am I still a single mum? I think so too. Really, I am not sure where the distinction is to be made – or even if it needs to be made at all.
Actually, let’s just ditch the labels. We’re a blended family – a modern family. I believe that we’re the best parenting model we could be, given the sad circumstances of our failed marriage. So, who cares what words should be used to describe that – it doesn’t matter. I hope that as TJ grows up he will understand the reasons that his family life may be a little different to some of his classmates. Some – though not all – considering that single parent families make up one in four of us. I know – and I hope that he will know – that he is surrounded by people who love him and who would do anything to make him happy. That’s family – no matter what shape or size it comes in. That’s the stuff that matters above anything else isn’t it?
*Photo taken at Reading Brick Show, tickets gifted.