The term 'perfect' does not apply to me, nor does it reflect my performance although sometimes I get certain aspects of my job spot on as I'm sure most parents do. However, very rarely do I achieve perfection across all areas, although I never stop adapting and evolving, always striving to find the feeling of immense satisfaction that comes from having a wonderful balance of all things personal and parental.
'Winning' in single parenthood strikes me as being as easy as winning the lottery, except in single parenting there are more numbers to choose from, more areas that you may not have even thought about and therefore cannot have prepared for in order to successfully pull them out of the bag.
Parenting as a couple is difficult enough as it is, being the 'young three day a week dad' and the 'seven days a week all and everything parent' are also on my parental CV, as well as being brought up by a teenage mum, foster parents temporarily, and a volatile step-father. I've experienced parenting from lots of different angles and I've been denied it too - having never met my biological father - which is why I write with great insight, depth and feeling, as well a tinge of regret and sadness for myself and for my boys who have had to put up with just me for eight years now.
A single parent is a manager; a manager of lives, time and of an environment and we have to divide our time and energy up amongst those who rely on us, the means to fund the process and the fuel to keep us going. It's the toughest job in the world but, also the most rewarding.
Considering what perfection in single parenting looks like is easy if I imagine what I might have liked to have experienced growing up and, similarly, what I would like to offer my children if I could click my fingers and make it so, eradicating any of the limitations we commonly struggle with.
Needless to say the 'Perfect Single Parent' always wears a smile. If they have a problem or stress they are aware enough not to share it in front of their children, the #PSP will find a solution to this in their own time by understanding the vital requirement to have a support network around them so that they can be heard and advised so to avoid the suppression of a feeling that can grow into something unhealthy for them personally, and rub off on their children who are absorbing every habit we form.
A #PSP is human and therefore makes mistakes, but has the courage to apologise for them so everyone can move on. The #PSP also recognises the value in sharing some problems with their children, because it teaches them to share and to find solutions together. We do not try and sell the fact that life is plain sailing to our kids, who will one day find out otherwise, we sell reality but how much reality and how often is to our own discretion.
A #PSP also protects their innocence by not subjecting them to the sometimes difficult realities of separation, the hand we were dealt with should not become their own. The #PSP upholds the image of the other parent because they understand that the child will see the truth from their own perspective when they are ready to do so, but in the meantime to weaken or to devalue the other serves only to devalue your child's self-esteem.
The #PSP maintains their child's sense of boundaries by not making the child their friend; enjoying the love and togetherness when it's there but understanding that harsh words and unwarranted coldness and defiance is inevitable and should be taken as part of the role and not a betrayal.
A single parent's child may offer greater maturity at times but a child they must be allowed to be. A #PSP allows a child to make mistakes in the safe knowledge that they will not be judged or embarrassed otherwise they might learn to decline the opportunity to excel for fear of failure.
The #PSP understands the precarious role of being both good and bad cop and accepts that too much of one can be debilitating to a parent/child relationship. A #PSP is fun and engaging but is able to be assertive and consistent in the discipline department in order to warrant the respect of your child.
Respect is lost when we don't follow through with our word. The #PSP is a leader and appreciates that our word is our bond and that a child who knows their parent is accountable and true to their word is a child that is easier to reassure and comfort.
The #PSP has the balance of a tightrope walker with intuition as sharp as a sword. They have an alarm bell in their stomach that rings when balance is slipping and has the motivation and creativity to do something about it immediately.
They know that time with their children is sacred and that quality time requires full attention, each #PSP has a personal target for the amount of time that they wish to spend interacting, playing, relaxing and supporting their child. Once this is achieved the management of their environment can then be tended to.
Too much time can mean we fall behind in other areas, too little can lead to bad behaviour from child, #PSP has worked out exactly what's right for his/her family on a daily or weekly basis. The kids don't count the quality hours you put in but it reflects in their general happiness. The #PSP does count the hours, in their methodical minds each target successfully achieved gives them validation to stop, to relax, to think about themselves.
Without managing your expectations how do you know when you've done enough when you haven't told yourself what enough actually is?
The #PSP doesn't suffer from parental guilt. They are organised and have spent time planning the week ahead, they have set aside the opportunities to play, to clean, to sleep, to relax, to cook, to watch TV, to do homework and even to do nothing! It's all by design. Days are broken down into hours and hours are allocated to people, places and activities both parental and personal.
Normal parents find it hard to motivate themselves, perfect single parents are just following their realistic pre-determined plan, and it makes life so much simpler.
A #PSP follows their independent interests and understands the significance of keeping touch with who they are and who they are becoming, what they like, what they would like to be when the kids have grown up. Without our own sense of self we're just mum or dad. How can our children expect to know how to follow their dreams and live life to the full if we; their full time example of how to perform as an adult, live solely for them?
A #PSP is someone who uses the disadvantages from their own childhood as fuel to motivate them to be the absolute best they can be. #PSP never allows those setbacks to fuel a repeat experience for their children. A #PSP is truly the parent they wish they had although they're aware that sometimes there is a tendency to over compensate so is able to adjust and reconfigure with complete versatility when something presents itself as a new parental challenge.
Nothing is set in stone, everything is open to speculation. The #PSP accepts that some beliefs and approaches may often need revision especially as our children change so much as they fly through the stages of growing up.
On a personal level
My #PSP takes responsibility for me, they walk away from harmful relationships to keep me safe and they don't let people batter their self-esteem. They stay strong throughout difficult times and they forgive themselves for things they are powerless to change. They find self-acceptance by congratulating themselves for what they achieved and not echoing remorse for what they didn't and they let go of bitterness and resentment of past influences, taking some accountability for the fact that they were in our lives in the first place.
They also don't allow their parents to make decisions for them no matter how young they are. They certainly don't raise their voice or their hands around me either and it is not ok to continuously and recklessly endanger our lives just so they can vent their frustration.
That ended up being about a few people from my past and I kept it suitably brief. It highlights where I feel I may have been wronged as a child even though I truly feel forgiveness for those peoples' actions who influenced my life at a young age. What would your personal #PSP have done for you?
If you're a parent, mark yourself out of 10 for each area discussed. Does this highlight particular areas you could improve upon? Please visit jeffbraziercoaching.com for more blogs and online courses designed to ask the questions we all need to consider in order to gain perspective and move forwards in life.
This summer The Huffington Post UK is spearheading an initiative helping families thrive, with a focus on parent wellbeing, the challenges facing stay-at-home and working parents, friendships and navigating the landscape of modern parenting beyond the 2.4. To kickstart the campaign, Jamie Oliver will be guest editor on 15 July 2016, bringing a focus on feeding healthy families.
We'll be sharing stories and blogs with the hashtag #ThrivingFamilies and we'd like you to do the same. If you'd like to use our blogging platform to share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved. Jamie's new cookbook Super Food Family Classics, published by Penguin, is on sale at £26.