It's been two and a half years since I wrote my first single parenting column for Parentdish. The Semi-Detached Parent, so named because of my very peculiar single-parenting set up.
In the beginning, I was still living with my former partner in a very confused, very unhappy household, neither one of us prepared to give up our stake of the family home, neither one of us prepared to live away from our child.
But eventually, things changed, and my son's dad moved out. I've chronicled the ups and downs since then. Sometimes I'd write buoyantly that things were getting easier. Other times I'd feel I was back to square one.
The only emotions that never wavered or changed were the feelings of love for, and pride in, my marvellous little boy, who continued to take everything in his stride, never complaining, never making a fuss, never asking 'why?'.
In those two and a half years I've discussed my single parenting on TV and radio. I've written reams about it, both here and in print. I've become something of a go-to-girl when comment has been needed on lone parenting, and that has been one of the ups of the whole set-up - it's been cathartic to do so, and amazing to have feedback and emails of support (and er, outrage, criticism and suggestions that I get Jesus in my life).
So what have I learned since being thrown head first into this family circumstance and ensuing work-related specialist field? Well, mainly, that no parenting is easy and that no two families are identical, but having had a 'normal family life', and a single parenting life, I have to say that in my opinion, bringing up a child on your own is the tougher option.
And even though I am 'used to it' now, there are some things that as a mum (although I suspect there are many dads who feel the same) I still find it hard to cope with, and frankly can never see myself just accepting:
- My child having another bedroom I have never seen.
- Him having a wardrobe of clothes I have had no part in choosing/deciding on.
- Him going to family parties/events that I have no part in.
- Knowing he is going to bed and being tucked in elsewhere and not being able to kiss him goodnight.
- Waking up in the morning and the realisation that he is not just down the hall hitting me.
- On occasion, not being with him when he is unwell.
And, of course there is the interaction and dealing with an ex partner: someone you can't just cut out of your life once you have a child together, no matter how much you want to, and the ongoing stress, frustration and infuriation that comes with that (and that makes you think thoughts that you could probably be imprisoned for if officers of the law could see inside your head...)
Circumstances now dictate that this column has reached the end of its lifespan. My single parenting journey has been – and will no doubt continue to be – a challenge, but it's one I feel slightly more equipped to deal with than I did a few years ago. My interest in – and incessant wittering on about – single mums and dads isn't going to stop, and my clap-trap on that subject will have a shiny and dedicated new home on an interweb near you very soon.
I'll leave you with the image at the top of the page. It is something my son made and emailed to me today. Miranda is his favourite show (from which the Such Fun phrase comes), and not a day goes by where he doesn't tell to me 'keep calm'. It made me laugh when it arrived in my inbox (timely - was shortly before he went off for a three day visit to his dad's!) and I think it's a nice aphorism for families of all set-ups, but especially us single ones. And certainly me...
(Those readers who wish to keep in touch can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org)