1. It's lonely. People think it's hard. It is. And tiring. It is. But so is all parenting. Loneliness sets it apart: climbing down the stairs after bedtime to an empty room and having no-one to share the silly stories with is heartbreaking. It's the replaying as much as the experience itself that brings joy. This feeling can become overwhelming - how will it ever change when single motherhood creates so many barriers?
2. You question your parenting ability even more. Everyone has days when they question themselves, but as a single mum I feel extra self-conscious of my little one's behaviour. When he grabs a baby's hair - again - the look from other mums makes me want to cry. It's easy to become overly concerned that your little one, the one without a second parent, is the one causing chaos and it's your fault - after all there's no one else to blame.
3. You're unappreciated. Mother's Day is really about partners showing appreciation for their children's mothers. Cue, lone parents miss out. Whilst this can bring it home to you, it's a yearlong thing. When I'm up all night nursing a sick baby. Or scrubbing the floor after mealtimes. Or just feeding my baby before bedtime, every.night.without.fail. There is no-one to give me an appreciative smile, a caring squeeze or the holy grail - a thank you.
4. It affects friendships. Only being available for chats after bed time, or preferring to hang out in child friendly places makes friends feel sidelined. The truth is I often prioritise friends above myself (instantly phoning them when my son sleeps despite just wanting to collapse), but I cannot prioritise them above my son, single parenting just doesn't work like that. Having a little human relying on me entirely and completely makes it extra hard to find the space for friendships and many wither in the face of this.
5. It's different to a crap/ travelling partner. People often say it's the same. It's not. If your partner is that crap then you should come and join the single mum's gang! With travelling partners, of course it's difficult when they are absent but (thankfully) that's temporary, they can often be contacted and most importantly - they exist. Psychologically that makes all the difference.
6. You have a very small buffer zone. All the stresses and constraints of single parenting leave you with very little energy to deal with the usual/ extra crap life throws your way. This is especially the case for new single mums who are often also going through a stressful experience (divorce, death etc). Add in some financial strains (pretty universal for lone parents) and you can be meltdown central just from an angry passer-by shouting at you for bumping them with your buggy!
7. You realise how un-child friendly the UK is. This may sound ironic with the number of kids activities out there. But it's just that, activities for kids. What about activities for adults where kids are welcome. Or events outside of 10am-4pm? I got really excited about an adventurers' social group, but kids are banned for health and safety. Seriously? Cue exacerbating isolation and loneliness.
8. The judgemental parenting advice in the UK is extra annoying. You only have to go online and see the threads on topics such as 'crying it out' and you'll get the jist - claims that a (single) mum at the end of their tether is a 9-5 parent because they leave their little one to cry occasionally seems pretty harsh. Come on mums - surely we can be a little kinder. The best advice I ever got is that there's lots of rights ways to bring up a kid, and very few wrong ones.
9. You become the extreme you. I think I would always have been a bit of a hands off parent, as a single mum I'm about as hands off as possible.
10. Your rules rule! (Well in so much as any rules can govern a toddler). I love being the only boss. It makes me think through my approach more and I've learnt to play more varied roles.
11. It's full of silliness. My son's giggles are the best sound ever - fact. We often have a boogie. Or tickles before bed. If I had a partner I'd have less time for this. What's more, because of all the things we are missing out on I make extra effort to fill the house with laughter. Hopefully it will be that laughter which will win out.
If you too are a single parenting and you're struggling, or heck you just want to meet a few other people in your position, then Gingerbread have advice and information as well as lots of local groups around the UK.