Today is single parent day on Offbeat Mama! Jasmine’s post covers a lot that is fabulous about single parenthood, and also some aspects that are less so. -Stephanie
Being a single parent can have its up and down moments.
Up: You get to name your child without any interference or compromise. Win!
Down: The birth certificate has an ugly and aesthetically displeasing void where it says “father’s/mother’s details”. Fail.
Up: You get to make most of the decisions. Yay!
Down: Many of your opportunities and decisions may be influenced or compromised by financial considerations. Damn.
You get the picture. Single parenthood was something that plagued me in the beginning, for all sorts of reasons. Emotionally, I’d never thought I’d end up a single mum, so it was hard coming to terms with pregnancy on my own.
I cried my way through the handful of birthing DVDs the midwives gave me – they all starred happy couples! I cried more when I saw pregnant couples in the street, holding hands, fawning over pregnant bellies.
Then I worried about money, about returning to work, about not pursuing any of the things I’d always planned to do, how I’d explain to my son the absence of his father.
My advice, as one single parent to another? Worrying excessively won’t change a thing, and it’s an emotional drain. Stop worrying. Move ahead with an optimistic outlook. Make an extended family of your own. Sure, some ups and downs will be far more significant than others, some more poignant.
For example, my son, Eduardo, tends to be a friendly little chap, and recently while grocery shopping he tried to show his toy truck to a man standing in front of us.
“Look!” he said. “Hey, look! Truck!”
Having failed to gain the man’s attention, he then yelled out, “Hey, Daddy! Look at my truck!”
While he knows I’m his mother, and knows what a mother is – he can link other children to their respective mothers – to him, “daddy” is just something to label grown men.
It wasn’t really a huge deal – I was a single mum before Eduardo was even born, and four years later I’m used to it. But there was a poignancy about the moment. While he knows I’m his mother, and knows what a mother is – he can link other children to their respective mothers – to him, “daddy” is just something to label grown men.
It was a bit of a sad moment, but ultimately? I choose not to make a big deal of this sort of thing.
The aim, then, becomes creating a positive, balanced life for our children. One that doesn’t involve missing out on the important things (and the simply fun things), or being sheltered from the reality of a single-parent household.
For the last three years, Eduardo’s carers at kindy have asked if he can take part in making a card for Father’s Day. Of course he can! He has a grandfather! Or he can just give the card to me! I do, after all, buy myself gifts for both Mother’s and Father’s Day.
There’s nothing we single mums can’t do with our children, but there are tasks and roles I do like to delegate if I can. “It takes a village,” the old adage goes—so if you’ve got that circle of friends, embrace it.
An example? Kicking a ball. I’m a girly-girl sort of woman, and the most attention I’ve ever paid to balls (don’t be rude!) is the fancy-dress variety. When it comes to kicking balls (don’t be rude!!), I haven’t got a clue. I’ve delegated that responsibility to a male friend of mine, and my sister. She’s into that sort of thing.
Peeing standing up: delegated. Learning about dinosaurs and bones and mega fauna: delegated. Cars? You bet that’s been delegated. Baking cakes and making jam? Hello, Grandpa.
The point isn’t to delegate a heap of ‘masculine’ tasks to males or enforce a heap of gender stereotypes. It isn’t even to delegate specific tasks to specific men or women: I was being a bit facetious above, but I do have a palaeontologist friend with dibs on teaching Eduardo about dinosaurs and mega fauna, and a car enthusiast friend who fancies himself the car expert in Eduardo’s life.
It’s simply a matter of creating a supportive network of close male role models, so that one day he’ll feel comfortable turning to these ‘uncles’ and ‘big brothers’ when he needs that masculine guidance. If you’re a single father with a daughter, you might want to arrange for your daughter to have plenty of female role models. And if you’re a single mother with a daughter, you still might want to have some close male friends around (or vice versa), just to create that balance.
Ultimately being a single parent doesn’t need to be a major concern or source of worry at any point. Look around you, identify those you trust, and invite them to become a part of your extended family.