I am going to assume that whether it be through a relationship breakdown, a deceased partner or a criminal situation like the one I found myself in, becoming a single parent is never easy. I also cannot stand the ‘Single Parent Stigma’, which I find is a very real issue, and I think needs to stop right now.
All parents are valid.
Single mothers, you are amazing, independent and respectable women – you are an inspiration.
Single fathers, I commend you – I’ve learned since gaining a single-Dad friend that you guys don’t have as much support as single mothers, you are invisible in communities – and you guys need to know, you are superheroes!
Co-parents, be you straight couples, gay couples, hell any other kind of couple – look at you! You guys work as a team to wrangle (I mean uh, care for) tiny dictators – one of the most stressful things you could ever put on a relationship is a child who is planning to play you off against each other – and you guys do it!
And while we’re at it, all the rest of you as well: grandparents, aunts and uncles, extended family who have taken on children’s needs, and lastly foster carers. You
are all AMAZING people, and all worthy of the same credit, admiration and respect, because parenting is the most difficult thing in the world. It’s a full time job for
the rest of your life, and you get no training.
So let’s all build each other up, instead of judging people based on whether they are a young parent, a single parent, a working parent, none of it matters.
However, there is something to be said for those of us who have, in whatever manner, lost a parenting partner. Becoming a single parent brings with it a whole new set of challenges and obstacles for both you and your children, and if you have always had a partner to rely on when it comes to rounding the little ones up at bedtime, or playing good cop bad cop, it can be really difficult to adjust.
Even in a situation like mine, consumed with hatred for X and never wanting to see his face again, it is normal to grieve your co-parent. For me it wasn’t the same as going through a break up, where you miss the person and everything reminds you of them and it hurts. I didn’t experience any of that, but instead had moments of jaw-clenching jealousy when watching co-parenting families sharing tasks. Things like opening stiff jars were enough to have me break down in tears on the kitchen floor, through sheer frustration that I couldn’t ask him to do it for me. I didn’t miss X, I missed the dynamic of being part of a team, of having someone to turn to.
My daughter also grieved the loss of a father figure; X had filled that role for almost all of her life thus far. Much like me, she didn’t ever say that she missed him, but she did get upset when watching other children with their fathers. She got over excited every time I saw male friends, and repeatedly asked when I would be getting a new boyfriend – which even professionals involved at the time noted as her trying to fill the gap by replacing him. Having always had my father around, despite some turbulence during my parents’ divorce, it was difficult for me to understand how my daughter must have been feeling. We had a lot of talks about how all families are different; how some people have one parent, some have two, some have step-parents or live with grandparents. We put a huge focus on ‘girly time’ at this point, making sure to have ‘girl only’ nights with baths and nail polish and chocolate, in an attempt to remind ourselves that we would get by just fine, we didn’t need a man.
Another relationship at any point in the future seemed impossible; how would we ever trust someone that much again? Would I be paranoid and accuse them constantly? Would they want to be part of our family or only be interested in casual interactions? Would they have to have children of their own, and if they did, would that make me trust them any extra? Without having another boyfriend, would I ever be able to have more children like I wanted to?
There were so many confusing questions, and absolutely no answers.
All I knew was that I was not even nearly ready to consider letting another man into our lives.