Yesterday, at the end of another week of solo parenting, I was feeling a bit frazzled. It wasn’t a bad week. Far from it. ‘I recognise that conversation,’ said the receptionist at swimming, as I rang off from speaking curtly to their dad, through nothing but sheer tiredness. She didn’t have to say anything but those four, simple words spoke volumes – ‘I understand and I know.’ They made me remember I’m not alone, as a solo parent. So, I’ve written a letter for ALL you other solo parents out there, to remind you of the same. You’re an amazing human being.
Dear Solo Parent,
The end of another weekend. How was it? Did you spend it with your kids? Or did you get some time alone? Perhaps you’re feeling all manner of emotions. Again. Sad. Confused. A bit lost. Exhausted. You waited all week for a break or you waited all week to see your kids and then the silence deafened you or you found it hard to get back into the groove of parenting. Or you miss them, now they’re gone. I hope you’re feeling happy, instead. But, just in case, read on.
If you’re separated or divorced, once you’ve grieved the loss of your relationship, you don’t have to keep marooning yourself in the sadness of it. It doesn’t help, does it? To hash over what could have been. To dwell on what went wrong. To beat yourself up and try to make things right. That plight that clouds so much of what we do and just makes us feel bad, because the very definition of the word suggests there is only one way to do things. And we fail if we choose a different way. Our own way. But actually, when you look at it, there is only one way. Accepting it is what it is right now. However you’re feeling. Whilst trusting that you’re going to be ok. And so are your kids.
I know that you sometimes struggle with the sheer relentlessness of it all. Of the juggling. Of the guilt that occasionally seeps in, no matter how much you push it away. When tiredness hits, it causes us to derail. To be short tempered with our kids, because there’s nothing left in the fuel tank. To make us feel like we’re not holding this s*** together (we still are, you know). It can be exhausting. On the other hand, it can also be really empowering. Because when you’re firing on all cylinders, you feel on top of the world ‘I CAN DO THIS SHIZZLE! LOOK AT ME ALL EMPOWERED!’
Please remember what that feels like when you’re overtired, overwhelmed or hormonal and being touched/ asked a question/ touched again/ whined at/ asked if you know where something is/ explaining how to put on shoes AGAIN, makes you want to lie down/ sob/ lie down some more/ leave on a jet plane. It will pass and you’ll be empowered. Again. Just look at all the things you are holding down! Be proud.
Because the juggling can be really challenging, right? Being both parents, so much of the time. You find yourself missing sharing the responsibility of raising your kids. You really notice it at bedtime, when bathing them and putting them to bed feels like climbing a mountain. In the middle of the night, when there is no one but you to deal with a wet bed, a nightmare, a fitful/restless sleeper. At mealtimes when there’s only you to get up 1,325 times to a) rescue a fork b) take someone to the toilet c) get someone a drink d) rescue a spoon (slippery buggers, these cutlery items).
The guilt of being a solo parent can eat you up, if you let it, regardless of whether it was your ‘choice’ or not. When your kids are sad, struggling at school or anything comes crashing down in their world, it is so easy to lose perspective and conclude that can only be down to your situation. And, of course it’s your fault because you are supposed to make everything right in their world (there we go, again) and you haven’t. Well, guess what? Kids in families with both parents have problems too. Kids are resilient (and egotistical) and the crisis is more likely because so and so nicked their Shopkin, than because their parents split up. Also? It’s never on us to fix everything in our kids’ worlds. It’s our role to support and guide them so they can see the way forward for themselves. You’re already doing this every day and giving your kids an amazing gift, by diffusing the outdated myth of what constitutes a normal family unit. They will know that anything is possible, because of you. So, jog on Guilt, you have no place here.
Of course, solo parenting doesn’t only come about through separation or divorce. If you’re widowed, I just want to give you the biggest of hugs and tell you that I’m beyond sorry you’ve lost your person and found yourself here. That I (and everyone else) think you are the ultimate Parent Warrior, not only dealing with your devastating grief but simultaneously finding the strength, every day, to raise your children with grace, dignity and determination. Likely without much of a break, ever. You may say, ‘I have no other choice’, and that may be true. But, still, you’re doing it. And you deserve to know that you are incredible, in every sense of that insufficient word. Keep going. We have your back a million times over.
If you’re solo parenting as a result of your other half’s work location, it’s likely neither of you is finding this easy. The constant transition from solo parent to parenting couple and back to solo parent again. You feel like you’re neither one thing nor the other. I hope that the readjustment eventually feels more like a new routine. That you see you’re amazing because you’re both doing what you need to do for your family, even when that is hard and throws a curveball at the very thing you’re trying to protect.
Finally, I want to say to all of you solo parents… those days, which feel SO HARD YOU WANT TO GET ON THAT JET PLANE? Well, you have got through them all. And will continue to do so. Keep believing in yourself. And in your path as a parent, which has so far led you here. Remember, there’s nowhere else you can be but right now. Accept however you’re feeling. Trust in the good times that are coming your way. Love your kids. And don’t feel bad when you lose your s*** and shout at them (we all do). Share a few words with someone else in your situation, whenever you get the chance. It will ALWAYS make you feel better because no one else gets it quite like someone in a mirrored one. And remember to be super kind to yourself. You are a really lovely and amazing human being with SO much strength.
You might not see it today, but I totally do.
All the love,