Why Being A Single Parent Sucks

Often when I say I’m a single parent I get met with ‘oh that must be really hard for you’ and ‘doing it all on your own’ well yes, it is hard being a parent on your own, but possibly not why you’d think.

I’d like to say I didn’t set out to be a single parent, I was engaged to who I thought was the man of my dreams and we were starting our family together, but things didn’t work out and here I am. 

Now people often think it’s hard because you have to do all the parenting tasks by yourself, cooking, cleaning, washing up, bedtimes, bath times, mealtimes, but honestly, most mums will say that they end up stuck doing those tasks whilst dad is at work so to be honest in that respect I see it as no different to a ‘normal’ family. Maybe they get an extra bit of help at bath/bedtime, and maybe dad gets up early one day of the weekend to give mum a lie in, I said maybe! But honestly all of those things have now become every day to me, it’s not there that I miss having someone to do this with.

When I have had a rubbish day and Jackson’s kicked off or not eaten the meal I’d slaved over, I sit on the sofa and I’d love to turn to someone else and have a rant, a grumble, have someone to reassure me that dinner was lovely, or that it sounds like Jackson was just in a mood today and you’re not a rubbish mum because he kicked off. 

When we go out somewhere to have someone to share those moments with, when Jackson squeals at a seagull or runs along a beach, kisses a goat or jumps into my arms, I see it all alone, I can’t look to someone else with that ‘oh wow did he just do that’ look because there’s no one there and out of all of this, the loneliness and the long days, that’s the bit that sucks the most, that I don’t have someone to marvel at (and grumble about) this little human with me. 

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Missing Her

How can you miss someone who was never there? Well, I guess it’s hard to understand from the outside, but from the inside it’s simple. 

I miss the fact she’s not there all day, every day, stealing my food and snuggling up in my bed, I miss her first tooth, first word, first step, first day of school… I miss everything. 

So when I say I miss her, I don’t mean it how you mean it when you miss someone you’ve known a long time, that knowledge they won’t call again, make you smile again, but I do miss her, I miss, and will continue to miss everything about her for the rest of my life.

Life

My life isn’t what I was expecting.
It probably could have been, I mean, I didn’t want anything fancy. I never wanted to invent something amazing, own islands, learn to fly. I just wanted something normal, a family, a home, a place.

My life isn’t what my parents wanted for me.
It could have been if I’d made better choices earlier on, if I’d studied harder, gone to uni, got a decent career, met a man, fallen in love, got married then had lots of babies.

But it’s not. I tripped at the first hurdle and have been falling ever since. I find something, start something, get bored, get disheartened and stop. I meet someone, I like someone, I get bored, or disheartened and break up.

Maybe I expected too much from myself, other people, life.

Maybe though, it’s not too late to make something of this. I have a home and a family, ok so we are smaller family than the norm, but the love in it is the same. If I can raise my son to be the best boy that he can be, to make good choices and be happy then maybe my life can be almost what I was expecting, maybe just a slightly lonelier version.

To My Ex

We met, we fell in love. It should have been as simple as that. Happily ever after. We picked out a ring and I wore it with pride, happy to know I’d be spending the rest of my life with you sleeping next to you, carrying babies for you…

Then we lost our little girl and life changed, we changed. Something shifted irrevocably and here I am 3 years on laying in my bed on my own, waiting to be joined in the early hours by our toddler, the boy I did carry to term, the son I’ve dedicated the last 2 1/2 years of my life to. 

I love my life I have with our boy. It gives me purpose and grounding in a world that otherwise is terrifying and lonely, but some nights I can’t help but wonder what could have been if life had worked out how we had planned…  

So yes, some nights I cry about us, about how happy we should have been if loss hadn’t torn us and our plans to shreds. I cry for the daughter who should be in my arms and for the man who should be beside us. For the smiles and laughs and holidays that we should have had. 

I can’t look back too hard though, what good does that do? So come the morning I’ll be dry and steely eyed ready to face the day alone again.

But I do think of us sometimes, just sometimes I let my mind wander to us and the beautiful life we let go of.

Fantasy

I lay, scrunched up, in the toddler bed. My arms wrapped around my infant, eyes tight shut, feeling them breathe, listening to ‘Bing’ playing on my phone. Through my closed eyelids I can almost see the pink, floral bedsheets over us, the mousey blonde hair trailed over the pillow, the Disney princesses staring down at us from the walls and the vividly pink curtains lit by the headlights of the passing cars. Yesterday’s dress thrown carelessly on the floor and a doll propped up on the bookcase. 

I lay there totally absorbed in the fantasy that I am there with my three year old little girl, that she’s just had a busy day at nursery and we are relaxing together waiting for her eyes to grow heavy and for her to fall asleep.

I don’t want to open my eyes, to shatter the illusion I’ve created, but I must. ‘Bing’ is finished and my son shouts ‘Mummy!’ demanding that I put on another. 

So I open my eyes and it takes a second to adjust to what I’m seeing, my two year old son, short brown hair, laying in his rainbow duvet staring expectantly at me completely unaware of the war going on in my head fighting to adjust back to reality. I put on another episode and hug him close staring around his rainbow room. 

My rainbow baby.

Dating

I wrote recently about the possibilities of me starting to think about considering finding a partner, but how do you date as a single parent?

I don’t have an answer, I have no idea how to do it, but I would love to find a solution.

I posted before an ‘agreement‘ that I came up with and Jacksons dad agreed to, and though he hasn’t kept to his half of it, I still stand by it being best for Jackson. My mention of not introducing Jackson to new partners for 6 months until we are fairly sure it will last to stop people just walking in and out of his life is, in theory, the best for everyone, however I have no idea how this will work in practice!

Single dates are fine, I can arrange with my parents to have Jackson for an evening or two, but what about when you find someone you want to spend a bit more time with? I can’t rely on them, even use them to that extent, they have their own lives too, but Jackson doesn’t sleep through the evening or night in his own bed, so I can’t have anyone back here whilst Jackson’s here because he will just wake up and suddenly he will be introduced earlier than planned!

Does this mean that I cannot date until he’s 18? That I can only see people once a week, because I don’t know if that’s enough to know if a relationships strong enough to introduce them to him, and how can I know if a relationship is going to last until they have met Jackson?! I genuinely don’t know what the answer is!

Obviously once they have been introduced to Jackson things become easier and they become more a part of our daily life, with occasional dates needing babysitters, so do I relax the 6 month rule? Obviously making sure it is serious, but 6 months is a lot of dates to use my parents as babysitters for…

For that matter, at what point do I tell his dad that I am dating again? I was going with when it affects Jackson, ie. them meeting. We have been broken up for 2 years, so it’s not really anything to do with him except through Jackson, but I think he is harbouring a hope that we might be able to patch things up, a hope that I have kept myself, but it has been fading quickly as he has shown no interest in getting help for his issues.

I’ve never really dated anyway, but Jackson adds a whole new dimension to it, and the whole thing is really scary, I don’t want to get it wrong and have it affect him badly in any way, but at the same time I don’t want to be alone forever, or settle for second best!

Any advice will be gratefully received if you’ve been in a similar situation!

 

Learning

I’ve learnt a lot since I’ve had Jackson. I’ve learnt that mess is part and parcel with babies, I’ve learnt that sleep is underrated, I’ve learnt that time flies when you have a little one, but mainly I had learnt that he isn’t mine

No I don’t mean his dad has staked a claim on him.

I mean he isn’t mine to own, he isn’t my property, and honestly if anyone is anyone’s, then I am his. 

I am his mummy. 

But he also has a daddy, grandparents, uncles and aunties and lots of friends whom also belong to him! 

This child isn’t going to be a mini me, however much he looks like me. 

He is a blank canvas, but he’s slowly being filled in. Each minute he spends with someone he learns. Sometimes it’s a trick, sometimes it’s a skill, but he’s like a sponge, always learning.

This boy is not mine. We are all his, we are his parents, his teachers, his friends, and we will all leave a mark on him in one way or another. 

Single Mum

‘So how often does Jackson see his dad’ is a question that is asked regularly, not only by people just finding out about our situation, but people who have asked before hoping for a new answer. 

My stock answer now is ‘a few hours a week’ and you see their faces change from hopeful interest to confusion and almost disgust. 

I know that their initial thought is ‘why’ and they wonder if that’s my fault, if I’m making it difficult, or discouraging it. Think Jeremy Kyle, possessive mum blocking access, but it isn’t me. I always have and always will actively encourage his dad to come and see him and spend time with him, infact I have wasted days upon days sat waiting for him to show up when he says he will, and then doesn’t.

I used to answer ‘a couple of times a week’ which though at the time also true, probably never equated to many more hours, and when I thought about it, a few hours is probably a more accurate answer. He won’t turn up until 2 or 3 in the afternoon when he wakes up, leaving again at any time between 6-10 depending how tired he is, whether he has work and whether Jackson’s asleep or not. That’s a minimum of 3 hours, and a maximum of 8 or so. But equally some weeks pass without a visit at all. 

When I first broke up with his dad at 7 months pregnant I almost felt it would be easier if he left and never saw us again, but the second my baby boy was born my world changed and I knew he needed his dad in his life. From then I have tried to facilitate him visiting as much as possible, but the hours have steadily decreased and his interest wained. 

This kills me inside far more than I expected it to. He has me, loving grandparents, adoring uncles and some fantastic ‘aunties’ in my friends, but he needs a dad. This boy won’t miss out on love, heck I’m pretty sure if he was any more loved he would pop, but he won’t know the role a dad is meant to play in his life. I know that with us being separated that was always going to be a difficult relationship to build, but it’s nigh on impossible when his dad doesn’t seem to try. 

Jackson was a planned baby. After losing our little girl we waited months for the doctors to give us the go ahead to try again and when they finally did I was hesitant. I wrote at the time that I was worried I’d never love another baby as much as I loved her, of course that all changed as soon as I found out I was expecting again, but it was him who pushed for it, who persuaded me we were ready, only 2 weeks later when I took the test and told him I was pregnant, he was less keen. He says it just took him by surprise that it happened so quickly, but really he wasn’t ready. He still isn’t ready, still hasn’t got past the grief for our little girl who should be in our arms, can’t get past that to see the special little boy who is. 

I spend my life running through this in my head. Screaming internally that how can his dad not want to spend every waking hour with his son. How can I facilitate it so he might want to see him more, what more can I do? I literally feel like I’m bashing my head on a brick wall and getting nowhere. 

Jackson does need a dad. However you look at it, it’s a special bond that cannot be easily replicated. Maybe one day I’ll find a partner who loves Jackson as much as I do, who accepts him as his own and becomes a father figure to him, but will that be too late for Jackson to create a strong bond with him? I don’t know. I grew up in a 2 parent family and I planned the same for my son. It breaks my heart that he isn’t getting that stable, happy, easy start in life. 

Maybe his dad will read this post and come to his senses, get some help for his grief about losing our daughter and step up and be the father Jackson needs. But then again, it’s been 2 years of me telling him all of this and nothing has changed so far so I don’t hold my breath. 

As a mother trying to do my best for my son, nothing kills me more than seeing a situation arising that will hurt him and being able to do nothing to stop it.

A Pot Noodle Family

I’m a single mum of a gorgeous boy and I own my own house, and I have a part time job that pays the bills. We are a premade family waiting for someone to come along and sweep me off my feet, but not only that, someone who will love my son as much as I do, who will fit into the life we have built together.

Of course, if I had to live with what I have and nothing else for the rest of my life I would be more than happy. I am so lucky with what I have, but isn’t it human nature to always want more? To have someone to love you is just natural though, isn’t it?

But who wants a pot noodle family? Just add a man? Who wants to take on the baggage of an exhausted single mum and someone else’s son? Someone else who is still around and who will continue to be part of their sons life (don’t for one second think I’m complaining, I know Jackson needs his dad) but doesn’t that just add to the complication of dating? Your ex coming round once a week or so to see his son? 

I know the modern world sees things differently and families come in all shapes and sizes, but there are so many single girls my age without the stretch marks, the emotional baggage of losing a baby, the toddler running round their ankles and the ex still in the picture, that surely I don’t stand a chance! Put in their position I probably wouldn’t be able to date a man with a child, and I don’t know why, but I’d totally understand any rejection of me because of my son.

So this is why I am terrified to take that plunge back into dating, I don’t want to be rejected, but that’s all I can see happening. Who would want me, us? As gorgeous as my son is, wouldn’t it be easier for them to go and start their own family rather than joining mine, as ready-made as we are?! 

‘One of Those’

Yesterday I became ‘one of those mums’ you know the ones, those in the supermarket with a harassed look in their eyes with their shrieking toddler running away from them while other adults look on with amusement, understanding and pity.

I love taking Jackson out without a pushchair, he hates being confined in it and on the whole is really good walking around holding my hand. He has his moments when he wants to go and look at something and I want to go another way, then we have a screaming tantrum and he eventually comes with me normally after I’ve picked up the snivelling wreck. 

He also doesn’t get on with reins, he likes his freedom and the slightest tug from me being on the other end of the reins and he is kicking off.

Yesterday we went into a shop and it defined every reason I love having him walking with me. We went down the clothing aisle and as always happens in discount stores, there were lots of clothes on the floor. I didn’t want anything so just started walking down glancing side to side and noticed Jackson had stopped. Turning back he had picked up a pair of wellies that had been strewn on the floor. He looked around and then headed back a few metres to where these wellies were hanging up and tried to hang them up. He struggled getting the hanger the right way round and needed me to turn it the right way but he wasn’t going to give up until they were hung in the right place. Ok so he’s a neat freak. That’s from my mum not me, if only he was like this at home! I beckoned him down the aisle and he stopped again at a pile of clothes that had been dropped on the floor. He then proceeded to pick them up one by one and hang them up. My heart swelled with pride and wished that the whole store could see this, that this 18month old was tidier that all the other shoppers who had just walked past (including me).

That however was the polar opposite of the next store. Within minutes of walking in he had run off. He was out of sight. I came out the end of the aisle, nowhere. SHIT! My stomach sank. Where the hell was he? Down the next aisle, nope. The next, a little blue coat disappearing round the corner. He was there. This was repeated multiple times in the next 15 minutes we spent in that shop, inevitably he was squealing in excitement and then screaming and wailing when I caught up to him. By the time we reached the checkout I was about ready to lose my shit! I was keeping my cool but it was a knife edge that must have been visible to everyone in the vicinity. I paid and got out of there as quick as possible.

Strapping him into the safety of his car seat and as I sat in the drivers seat breathing to calm down I looked back and saw he had fallen asleep. And that reminded me: he’s a toddler. Full of energy until he drops. I can’t blame him for being fed up of shopping, he didn’t want to look at pencils and Easter decorations, I can’t blame him for wanting to run and play and I certainly can’t blame him for being tired! 

I suppose I will have to be ‘one of those mums’ every so often, and if you tell me your child is ALWAYS a little angel when you’re out and about you must be in denial, I work in a supermarket, I know!! 

  • An 'Angel Baby' is a baby lost during pregnancy or early childhood, who sleeps in the clouds instead of our arms.

    A 'Rainbow Baby' is a baby born following the loss of an 'Angel Baby', a beacon of hope after a storm, while not denying the storm happened.

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