Relationships

Single parenting – Part 1

In the UK there are approximately 2 million and in the U.S, 13.7 million single parents.

Being a parent myself I have spent half my life mixing with friends and families with children and being part of their lives too. I’ve watched families ‘just about’ stay together, ‘blossom and grow’ or ‘break up’ for many different reasons.

That’s life, isn’t it? Nothing is perfect, nothing stays the same and no one can guarantee anything.

When a family unit breaks up it can be heartbreaking, a mistake or the best thing that could happen for all concerned. I’ve been a single parent for over 10 years and my children have been lucky enough to enjoy a happy life even though their father and I aren’t together. You could say a better life than what they may have had if their father and I were still a couple. I don’t know, we are very different people now.

We are both good people, good parents and we have done the best we can.

There are so many questions that could be asked about the topic of single parenting:

  • Should parents of children be made to stay together unless the child is in danger until the child is 18? Not realistic
  • If a couple is unhappy together should they have the right to split up or because they bought a human into the world who didn’t choose to be here, should they have to stay together until the child is 18? Not realistic
  • Should couples that want to start a family together have to sign a legal document to say that they have a legal responsibility to stay as a unit until that child is 18? That’s never going to happen – too much paperwork for starters
  • Should a child be given the right to divorce their parents at a young age? Imagine the paperwork!
  • Should couples who want to split up have to go for counselling for a fixed period of time to help a child cope with the break up of a family? That would be interesting

This is quite a controversial subject and one that we will touch on and expand on in another article. There are so many ways that you can look at single parenting.

It was a real pain for me as a child

35 years ago my family unit fell apart and I still feel the effects of the aftermath even today. At 49 years old, I still can’t find peace because one of my parents has made that impossible. I was 14 yrs old at the time when my parents split up and I was not aware of any major issues with my parents before the split. Now, knowing how extremely unhappy one parent was, I realise it was for the best but at the time I was distraught. I was shocked, I had no warning – one minute we were a unit, the next, we fell apart into what felt like a hundred pieces.I remember it affected my education, I had to live with the parent that was dealing with the effects of being left and their mental state which was very challenging. In their life, there was only black and white, bitterness, self-pity, a need to make friends and family choose their loyalties and using emotional blackmail.

To this day it is still a problem but it is something I have learnt to deal with in a way that works for me. Even though the experience was awful for me, it has helped me. It has taught me how not to be a parent and I am grateful for that.

 

Times have changed now, divorce is more common

Times have changed, divorce and single parenting is a lot more common and accepted now. At the time of my parent’s split, there weren’t any other children in my class at school that had divorced parents. These days it’s a different story.

In this article we are going to look at the lives of four single parents in the UK:

  • Gary has two daughters 23 and 25 yrs old and he has been a single parent for over ten years
  • Rebecca has a 1yr old son and has been a single parent for 6 months
  • Steve has a 10 yr old son and has been a single parent for 9 years
  • Jenny has a 20 and 22 yr old and has been a single parent for 13 years

Our four single parents have at least one thing in common, their offspring ‘appear’ to be mentally and financially better off coming from an upbringing by two parents who don’t live together for many reasons.

There are no guarantees

Of course, we can’t guarantee that those children aren’t badly affected, we don’t really know what goes on in each other’s minds – their minds (definitely the one-year-old).  However, it appears that the positives of the splits outway the negatives for our four single parents.

The first of our single parents is Gary

Gary’s wife had multiple affairs and left him and their two daughters in 2008.

The girls were 13 and 15 yrs old at the time. They lived with their dad after the split in the family home and saw their mum on a regular basis who lived a few miles away.  The daughters had a lovely home, everything money could buy and they were allowed to come and go as they pleased. The mother would visit the family home and they would all hang out together. The mother had a job, received maintenance, got child benefit and tax credits so she was able to spoil the girls and do things with them.

Gary had a good wage and was able to make sure the girls didn’t go without too. Gary, his ex-wife and the girls still go out as a family every time it’s the girl’s birthdays.

When the youngest daughter left university Gary had to sell the family home and give half of the money to his ex-wife. Gary bought another lovely house where the girls stayed briefly but they have now moved out and are independent now. 

From the age of 13 and 15 the girls never saw their parents arguing because they weren’t living together and when Gary and his ex-wife were together for birthdays etc, everyone got on really well. In the girl’s eyes, they had the best of both worlds. Had Gary and his wife stayed together for the girl’s sake, who knows what atmosphere they would have been brought up in?

We do know from Gary’s point of view, it would have been a big struggle to keep a calm and stable environment for the girls. However, the struggle Gary did have was the fact that he was the disciplinarian and had to deal with the hormones. The girls were the mum’s best friends, they did all the lovely things together and she didn’t have to deal with the hard work.

Gary loves being a father and feels happy that he has done the best he can for his daughters. The girls to this day are not aware of the full extent of their mother’s infidelities. Gary didn’t think it was appropriate to tell them. He didn’t want to ruin the relationship between the mother and their daughters.

Our second parent is Rebecca

Rebecca fell pregnant by accident in 2017 and after 6 months the relationship with the father of the child became so toxic that she decided it was better to not live with him. Rebecca is a young mum and there isn’t a financial tie keeping her and the father of her child together so it was easy for Rebecca to make her decision. Rebecca now lives with her parents with her son. She is in a safe environment and has a great support network around her.

The father of their child isn’t a bad person, he’s just not a good boyfriend/partner. It appears at the moment, he is a good dad and shares the custody of the 1yr old. They currently split their weeks and share their time with him. The child has such a big family around him on both sides so there is always someone willing to help.

The father of the child takes the boy away on days out and holidays as does Rebecca. The child is provided for and loved and no longer in a toxic environment. The challenge Rebecca has is her self-esteem, she feels that she won’t be attractive to another man or have a relationship because she has a little baby.

Whoever Rebecca ends up with will be extremely lucky.

Next is Steve

Steve had a son in 2008, a year later the situation between him and his partner became unbearable and he left. However, he is a very active father and spends a lot of time with his son.

Steve lives just around the corner from the house that he owns and the mother of the child and his son lives there. He pays the mother maintenance, she has a small job, gets child benefit and tax credits so she is able to give the son a nice life, as can Steve.

The son has grown up living in two homes and has a big family network around him. He doesn’t go without and both his parents do everything they can for him.  Steve and the son’s mum socialise together and they all hang out as a family. It is an amicable situation and the son is happy.  He doesn’t experience any family arguments or disagreements when the three of them are together.

The issue that Steve has now, is even though he has gone above and beyond for his son and made sure that the mother is cared for too, he lives with extreme guilt. There wasn’t an affair, he just didn’t want to live with the mother and there was a toxic environment.

Finally, we have Jenny

Jenny split with her husband in 2005. It was an amicable split but the father lives a few hours drive away, by choice. His job is very demanding with lots of travel involved. Jenny’s ex-husband earns a lot of money and pays maintenance, Jenny has a job, gets child benefit and family tax credit. Jenny is able to give her children a lovely life. She is there for the children 24/7 but the father only sees the children once a month for a few days.

Jenny doesn’t come from a big family or support network. She has struggled mentally and feels alone a lot of the time. However, her children appear happy and that is the important thing to her.  Much the same as Gary, Jenny has been the disciplinarian, wiped away the tears, done all the parent taxi service and been there for everything.

There is a tiny bit of resentment on Jenny’s part because she feels she does all the hard work and the father of their children just gets the ‘lovely’ bits. It’s not a problem and nothing is brought up about it.

For me, it has been an honour to have created my children with a lovely man and to have created two children that are gorgeous human beings.

I had hoped due to my experience as a child that my children wouldn’t come from a broken home. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up that way. However, I tried hard to be the best parent that I could and not make the mistakes that my parents made.

I think I’ve done a good job.

I love being a parent, being a single one has had some challenges but nothing we couldn’t deal with.

What I can say is my children who are in their 20s now, never saw their father and I have big arguments or say awful things to each other. They didn’t witness their parents struggling through and tolerating each other. Would they have been happier people if their father and I were still together? I’m not convinced. I do know that they haven’t gone without and they know they can rely on both of us.

To all those single parents out there. Remember, your children didn’t choose to be born so it’s our job as parents to make sure we support them and guide them.

I didn’t choose to be on this planet but I’m here because my parents wanted to have children. If I’d had a choice about being on this planet or not, knowing what I know now, would I choose to be here? I’m not sure.

I do need to be here because I chose to be a parent and I need to do a good job at it. Single or double.

 

Are you a single parent? What tips do you have for parents out there that might be struggling?

We would love to hear from parents and grandparents on this topic.

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** The content on this site should not be used as medical advice, we are giving our readers information and insights. If you are concerned about your health or need medical advice please see your doctor. If you are struggling with any issues please talk to someone – don’t suffer in silence. **

 

References:

https://www.gingerbread.org.uk/policy-campaigns/publications-index/statistics/

https://www.verywellfamily.com/single-parent-census-data-2997668

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