I strongly believe that children should be raised within big families/communities. These support networks are not only good for the child’s development but also a support system for the parents. Nothing more magical than big Christmas day dinners when everyone comes together to spend the day as one. Big family events where you see people that you have not seen for so long and they grab you in a bear hug of love. Big parties with friends where you all laugh and dance together….nothing makes you feel better. It also shows your children how to navigate different social fields and circles.
But what if you don’t have that? What if you don’t have a village to help you raise your child and,in fact, you only have enough villagers to fill one hut?
“Single parent” can have many different contexts for each person. For example, you could have a single parent who shares the care of the child/children 50/50. You could have a single parent who lives a few roads down from their own parents. You could have a single parent who is in a relationship with someone else who has children.
You can have single parents who are raising a child completely alone. Maybe the parents have no mum, no dad. No siblings. No extended family. Maybe the child has no contact with their father and sporadic contact with the paternal family. Maybe the single parent has two older children that are grown now…so have moved out to make their own life. As an example.
Maybe the single parent has a child with SEN.
I don’t think anyone can truly understand what it means to be a single parent until you have been exactly that. I get deeply offended when people make comments like “oh I am like a single parent” because their partner works long hours. No. No, you don’t. Because you have that other person at the end of the phone. You have no idea what it is like to be a single parent if you have additional wages coming in, you have someone there at the weekend/evenings. Having to do the school runs, sort out all appointments and do the day-to-day stuff is not even close to understanding what it is to be a single parent.
Some single parents get maybe….6 nights a YEAR with no child. Imagine that…. 6 nights in a year you get to be off the clock. Imagine how exhausting that must be.
Some single parents dread Christmas because they know there will be no large Christmas dinner with lots of people sitting around and dancing and singing into the evening. They know that people…friends….may invite them over but who really wants to intrude on someone else’s Christmas.
Some single parents feel overwhelmed as they know they are responsible for every event….Halloween, fireworks night, birthdays Christmas, holidays. All these events where memories are made are all reliant on one person to make it work…make it enjoyable.
When a village helps to raise a child, you will never have that. These things are a joint effort. Memories are created through family traditions and events. A child gets caught up in what is going on with different people involved. Maybe they will go and stay with grandparents and get spoilt on Sundays. Maybe they go and spend a week in the summer with the other parent on holiday.
But some people don’t have that,
Some people are the sole provider of security, love, moral guidance, growth. I don’t think a person unless you have been there, can truly understand the pressure when you realise that you are solely responsible for another human turning out OK. And that each and every mistake you make is amplified x10 because you don’t have the beats of the drum of the village to drown it out.
Imagine being a single parent and on top of alllll that you have to work full time. Maybe you must work more than one job to bring in enough money. Maybe you also study because not only do you know it will help you in securing better jobs, but you also want to try and show your child that this is what we do…we work hard and study hard so that we can get where we need to go.
Being a single parent, no matter the context, can be a very isolating existence. You may have to make very important decisions for your child alone. You may have to deal with things such as school and medical issues alone.
For me personally, the hardest thing is not having a mum I can call just to run things past her. Sometimes I am implementing a boundary or trying to figure out what to do next and I would give anything to have a mum to call and say….” Do you think I should do this?”. Or my mum to tell me I am doing a good/bad job. To tell me to pull myself together. To run to when I am at breaking point. I have some elements of this in other people around me. But not really. If you get what I mean.
I’m writing this blog because over the past few weeks I have realised that lots of single parents feel like I do right now. It’s like a sudden low has hit many people. I notice it each year around this time, and I think it’s because people are starting to plan for Christmas. Especially if you are a parent like me who has to work hard to create an amazing Christmas with limited resources and people.
I know it’s very cheesy…but…if you are a single parent and all you did today was hold your shit together….Be proud. I’m proud of you. Because I know how heavy them days can be.
If you’re a single parent to a child with SEN….Then you need to know that you are truly epic. Because being a single parent to an SEN child is honestly the biggest roller coaster, I have ever been on in my life. I have never been so scared and amazed at not only my strength but my child’s…all at the same time. So, hats off to you my kings and queens.
If you are friends with someone who is a single parent…or a family member….trust me when I tell you that they are not telling you how hard it really is. They just know they have to do it and then learn some different kind of resilience.
A kind of resilience that only a single parent knows about.
And, if like me, you are a single parent to an SEN child AND they are a teenager….well….I feel like I need to kiss my 3 fingers and raise them like Katniss in Hunger games because I see you.
I am writing this blog because I think people don’t truly understand what it is like to be a single parent. In most cases, being a single parent was not part of the plan. It’s what happened along the way. Single parents shave to sacrifice a lot. More than most people will ever know. And for those without the village around them, this can be a very scary experience.