There’s an abundance of posts telling us about the challenges of being a single mum, I should know, I’ve written a fair few of them. I’ve been biding my time to write this post, waiting until the list was long enough; waiting until the feelings were true enough. Until I really could tell you what the best bits of being a single mum are. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean
everyday some days aren’t a challenge, they sure as hell are. But whilst single parenting is demanding, it’s also incredibly rewarding. If you’re on a single parenting journey this post is not my way of telling you that it gets easier or that you will get to this point too. Hell, you might not even want to get to this point, and you certainly won’t have a clue when you will get here. No, this post is me letting you know that people like you and I, people who have struggled day in day out, can find (with time), that single parenting has many amazing elements too. I have no doubt this list will grow as the years continue, even if the challenges don’t diminish.
You learn to appreciate the small things. The other day I had a haircut, the first one in about a year (or is it two?). I loved it, from the start right through to the end; I loved the feeling of the gentle head massage as my hair was washed, I loved being waited on as the assistant brought me a plastic cup of water to drink, and I especially loved not being interrupted by anyone or anything for over half an hour. It felt like the biggest treat ever, especially as I did it on a whim rushing home from work – whims went out of fashion circa 2013 in my house, so this was really extra special.
I love having my son to myself and I love that he has me to himself. If I get us out of the house it doesn’t matter when I get home. If my son wants to take an hour to walk back from the park he can. My life is simultaneously super busy and full of time. There’s a tonne of stuff I technically should be doing but I know getting home won’t help me do that anyway. Not having someone to tag team with can make things harder on a practical level, but it can also push you to sod the practical and live in the moment. Why rush and get annoyed my son won’t let me do some writing? Why stress to get back and tidy up so my son can throw everything around again? There’s no need, it’s just me and him and if I don’t care then no-one else will. I’d rather spend the time allowing my little one to walk home at his pace, taking in all the sights and sounds.
My Rules Rule – inasmuch as any rules can govern a toddler. Whilst my parenting approach may not be the best approach, it’s the best for me. I get to follow it each and every day. I get to follow it without having to explain myself to another, without having to expend energy to convince another adult that this is the best way to bring up
our my son. I can just get on with it. Considering my slightly inconsistent approach to parenting this is pretty useful. I get to be the main, and only carer for my son; choosing what influences he is exposed to and what he’s not. I love that sense of independence and – dare I say it – power.
I take greater responsibility for how my son is parented. If my son is being a nightmare I have no-one to run to. I can’t blame, or get annoyed with anyone else (apart from myself and my son!). Any challenging behaviour cannot be attributed, in a moment of frustration, to my partner’s parenting approach. I can’t snap at another adult if my son is repeatedly getting up in the night and I’m feeling like I’m not receiving the support I deserve and need. I know that whatever is happening in my son’s life is down to me. That means I take it all on and get the job done a lot quicker and with less fuss than if I was co-parenting.
I get to share my bed with my son every night. Just that really. My son has his own side of the bed. I have mine. We aren’t cramped (well apart from when he decides to sleep on my head). I love it. He loves it. In the middle of the night he often turns to me and murmurs “mummy” before holding my face in his hands and falling back to sleep. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve experienced in my entire life.
The bond. All this time together, all this pushing each other to the extreme, adds up to us having the most incredible bond a parent could ever wish for. Not a clingy bond, but a strong, I-know-you-love-me-and-are-always-there-for-me bond, which allows my son to face the world confidently every day and helps me to do the same.
It pushes me to be a better parent. The very pressures that single parenting places upon me push me to improve in so many ways. The constant testing has expanded my patience beyond recognition. It has made me think outside of the box in terms of teaching positive gender roles. It has made me focus on the love and warmth my son feels above anything else. I have learnt much more as a single mother than I ever knew possible.
I’m more empathetic. Single parenting has taught me that we never really know what goes on behind closed doors, even when we are sure we do. I’ve become more cautious of the words I use, I try to listen harder – be that to my son, friend or colleague. I’m not perfect, but single parenting is making me try to be better.
I’m through the worst of it. Whatever it was. Whether it was accepting that single parenting by choice was the best way forward (which usually involves compromising on your original life plan*), getting out of an unhappy marriage, clawing yourself free of an abusive partner. You’ve done it. You’re through the other side. You’re officially a single parent now. While this part is also hard, it comes with some pretty awesome benefits; the main one being your little bundle(s) of joy. You can’t usually say that about the struggles you went through to get here.
I am building the strength and confidence to do anything alone. OK so I’m
rarely never alone but you know what I mean. I have learnt to deal with so much. As you push yourself and strengthen your mothering muscle you become a stronger person all over. This strength helps throughout everything I do in my work and my personal life. Single mums are independent mums – if I want to do something I have to do it alone. Once you get used to that (and it can take some serious getting used to) it doesn’t seem such a crazy idea to just go and do it all alone on the other side of the world whilst backpacking around. In fact just writing about it makes me want to plan another adventure. If anyone can, single mums can!
*Though not always!
Are you a single mum? What have you found are the best bits of being a single mum? Are these similar for single dads – what do you find is the best bit to single parenting?
If you like this post you may also like the post on 11 Realities of Single Motherhood and Top Tips For Single Parents. If you’re no-where near feeling any of this and you’re wondering how you get there then this post on support for single parents might be of help.