Being a single parent is bloody tough. At times it is lonely, exhausting, depressing and downright thankless.
But at the end of every day when I finally make it to bed, I find myself reflecting on my day and smiling. With every new thing my son learns, every accomplishment, be it little or big, every emerging like or dislike, not only do I celebrate how far he has come but I quietly congratulate myself for every moment that I have invested in him.
Single parents are literally working their asses off night and day and spending every waking moment trying to raise well rounded and happy little beings. It is no walk in the park. Whether you’re fortunate enough to have a supportive co-parent working with you or you are flying solo, this journey is no easy one.
I spent months teaching Oak to sleep in his own room. I don’t know how many nights in of waking 3-4 times to a crying toddler I was before I laid myself back in my empty bed and cried, wishing I had a partner beside me to share some of the load, or at least cuddle me and sympathise with the exhaustion and guilt. How different would it be if someone else could sometimes be ‘the bad guy’ and be the one going in and explaining to a 2 year old that he is a big boy now and needs to sleep in his big boy bed? We’ve worked so hard on toilet training too. As the primary carer I am the one who has had to clean up pee puddles and do the sneaky undie flip and plop a rogue poop into the toilet. Oakland doesn’t stop to tell me I am doing a good job. He doesn’t cuddle me and thank me for stripping down his car seat and washing it after he’s peed in it. As I said, it is a thankless job. But having a little boy who now doesn’t creep into my bed til 6am and who will proudly (and loudly) announce to the world that he needs to find a toilet to do a poo is my reward and my thanks. It’s those moments that I smile about at night. I definitely try not to lay there and reflect on how every morning I make him at least 3 different breakfast foods and how every day he doesn’t eat any because ‘it’s yucky and I don’t like that’, or how every night I sit at the kitchen table alone for 40 minutes and try bargaining, negotiating and bribing a toddler who inherited my stubborn streak to eat just one bite of the dinner I spent the last few hours cooking.
One thing I have discovered is that other single parents are a great support network and they so get it. They are also a wealth of knowledge for budgeting, job seeking, finding cheap activities and events and even where to get cheap groceries! My other friendships have also grown stronger. I had one beautiful friend cook Oakland and I meals, another who surprised me with a Mother’s Day present and even friends come around and cook me dinner at my own home. I’ve reconnected with old friends and am probably more social now than I have been in years. I realised that I’ve been neglecting myself and my own happiness for some time. Something that someone told me really stuck with me, and that is that as a mother I need to take care of myself first and foremost, so that I am able to take care of my son.
Financially single parenting is just jacked. Trying to find employment that works around day care hours, balancing hours you can work with trying to not impact on Centrelink or childcare benefits and weighing up if you will end up working lots and seeing less of your child and being maybe $100 better off is a struggle. Finding suitable day care and trusting other people to help raise your child is emotionally stressful. On top of instantly becoming a single parent, I was also trying to accept and grieve over the loss of my relationship. It was as though my entire world turned upside down overnight. It has honestly taken me over 5 months to get myself to a point where my life is finally settling down and I am actually beginning to accept my situation. I am now getting to a place where I feel I am able to move forward. I want to get my single ass out there and meet people! So I guess this is the next dilemma a single parent faces, where the hell and how the hell do you meet someone? How do you know who to introduce into your child’s life? Surely it’s easier to date other single parents as they would understand you cancelling because you can’t find a sitter or your kid came down with a runny nose or even that they were clingy today and you don’t want to leave them? I guess that is just a whole new ball game for me to discover…