“You didn’t fail. The relationship failed.” The group therapist looked earnestly at a room of somewhat bewildered women.
If one has children, one of the greatest fears is a failed relationship. The idea of being a single parent and baring the full responsibility of not only caring for one’s self, which is daunting enough in our current economy, but clothing, feeding, and sheltering dependent children as well…is daunting. The idea of having to do that without the support of a partner in many cases, is paralyzing. Add to that lack of a family or social support system and it can feel terrifyingly paralyzing. Lack of support is often the defining factor between a good experience or a bad experience as a single parent.
I was about to say, “Nobody grows up saying I want to be a single parent…” Then I stopped myself. True, the majority of the time people find themselves a single parent due to being widowed or making the choice to exit an incompatible, therefore unhealthy, relationship. That said, just like there are those who have elected to never have children, there are those who are perfectly happy with the idea of being a single parent from the jump. Here is why…
According to The Better Health Channel, clinical studies reveal some of the positive effects of single parenting are:
- A child from a single-parent home who is loved and supported has no more problems than a child from a two-parent home.
- Whether or not the child uses their free time constructively (for example, reading or playing sports) depends on discipline, family routine and quality time between parent and child – not whether the child has one or two parents living in the house.
- The child is typically mature and responsible.
- The parent is typically self-reliant and confident.
- The relationship between parent and child is close.
- Single fathers are more likely to use positive parenting techniques than married fathers.
- Single-parent families are less likely to rely on traditional gender-specific roles than two-parent families.
- Single parents tend to rely on positive problem-solving strategies rather than punishment or discipline when faced with difficult child behaviours.
While I am not one of the brave forward thinking single parents pioneering the option by initial choice, I have found great joy, freedom, and fulfillment in single parenting:
- My bed, my choice. I sleep on what seems to be three inches of a king size bed each night. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I would have never guessed that I would enjoy the closeness I share with my kids as I do sleeping with them at night. They feel safe, loved, and nurtured in spite of missing time with me during working hours. I have just as many stories of elbows and knees in my face, a horizontal sleeping five year old, and blanket steeling as my married friends. Also, it’s a fantastic reason to give myself permission to decline asking anyone “back to my place”.
- My house. My rules. While yes, there are rules that are mutually respected between the two homes, my house, my rules. I do not have to concern myself with going into round 10 of the same argument about the same petty disagreement on parenting style. I don’t have to worry about the “man of the house” being too hard on the kids for any reason let alone when it’s not warranted. Conversely, I don’t have to concern myself on permissiveness that makes it difficult to parent. I do not parent the girls on their dad’s parenting time. Their dad does not parent the girls on my parenting time undermining my authority. The only exception is in light of a major infraction.
- My mini staycation. I was raised in an extremely family oriented religion. Mothers had their role and fathers had their role. The family unit did not include a clause for single parenting. In my mind, until my children turned 18, I am their mother 24/7. Personal time is for the weak. That was my mythology. Thank goodness that got trashed. Now, every other week I get a break. I am not a scrambling crazy person to make it to their events because I have time to pace myself to get there. I actually have time to decompress, take a long bath, read a book, and feel like a human adult again…dare I say a woman. I actually have time to shave my legs. By the time I start to really miss my girls because enough time has gone by I have forgotten about their bickering…they’re back. Perfect timing.
- I have a social life. It’s not grand mind you but, again, a perk to “time off” is being able to meet and bond with friends. I have time to pursue personal interests, which makes me a more complete person. My friends and I are able to hold adult conversations, unedited, that don’t always revolve around our children. The rotation actually has an opportunity to orbit around our musings. As a complete person I am able to be a better role model of an independent adult for my children.
- I don’t need a relationship to be happy. Again, I get to set the example that adult happiness does not revolve around searching out and finding your soul mate. It has more to do with searching out and finding one’s self. If I choose to share that with someone on a committed long-term basis, it is only because I want to. It isn’t because I feel I need someone to make my “fairytale” complete. Relationships are not supposed to be about co-dependence. They are about supporting each others independence through life.
- Independence. I make the bacon, fry it up, and serve it. If the leg of the table needs tightening, I tighten it. If the light fixture needs to be installed (God forbid the lightbulb be changed), I install it. Better still, I teach my children right along side me. Last time I got a flat, I waited for no one, changed it myself. I am not saying that I wouldn’t let someone help out if they offered but, I am not helpless either. Nor are my children and their strong self-esteem and boundaries reflect it.
- On good terms. My children do not feel compelled to “choose sides”. Their father and I are not obligated to make an incompatible relationship…compatible. I get to enjoy him for the attributes that attracted me to him to begin with. He is funny, down to earth, good natured, loves dogs, and genuinely loves his kids. Right about the time I start to witness the reasons that I would walk past him in the hallway gritting my teeth…wouldn’t you know the event is over. Everybody wins. My children do not have to live with the silent treatment as we try to get along for their sake. Instead, they get to see two grown adults enjoy each others company, in a mature way, in spite of their differences. The kids get to feel loved from both parents.
Our society is not as supportive of parenting, let alone single parenting, as it should be. Agreed. But, as the needs of society are changing so is the support system. If you are in an unhealthy relationship, trying to make it work out of fear of being a single parent, reconsider your fear. There can be many more rewards than you realize only because you haven’t taken the opportunity to explore the alternative. As difficult and challenging as single parenting can be, I am happier than I have ever been in my history of relationships.
Live your life. Don’t just survive it.
Better Health Channel:
Samakow, Jessica. “55 Personal Photos That Capture Both The Challenges And The Joy Of Single Motherhood.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 Feb. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/27/single-motherhood-challenges-joy-images_n_6555512.html>.