I have been a single mother for three years now. There have been times when I have felt a little insane. There have been times when I’ve let it all get on top of me and overwhelm me. I have some tips for how to stay sane as a single parent.
My son was five months old when I left his father. Single motherhood was never my plan; it was never my dream. I had been with his father for six years. Our son was definitely planned, but parenthood changed everything.
I guess parenthood always changes everything.
I once read that becoming a mother is like finding another room in your house. A new and exciting room that you never knew was there. Apparently the new room that is motherhood expands your horizons and enables you to explore different aspects of your personality and character.
For me, becoming a mother was more like a total house refurbishment. Becoming a mother was like taking the roof off my house and moving all of the walls. All of a sudden the light shone in and lit up the unsavoury and uncomfortable aspects of my life that I had hidden in dark corners and under furniture. All the s**t in our relationship that I’d hidden under the carpet was suddenly in the spotlight. All those clues as to different values, religions, upbringing, the fact that we had different views on parenting and family life were suddenly in sharp relief.
There was not one reason why I left my son’s father. There were a million and one reasons.
I don’t think anyone chooses to become a single parent. Even those mothers who become single mothers ‘by choice’, and tootle off to the sperm bank, are women who desperately want a child, but just haven’t met the person who they want to have a child with.
Single mothers suffer from the single mother stereotype. Single mothers are seen as silly women who make bad choices. For me there is an element of truth in this. I did make a bad choice of partner, but I had the courage to do something about it, and of that I am proud.
Single motherhood can be tough, but there are some tricks for how to stay sane as a single parent. These are mine:
To stay sane – don’t sweat the small stuff
I co-parent with my ex and at times it is really tough. My ex gives our son lollipops, spoils him, indulges him, doesn’t bother to put his coat on in the rain and snow, doesn’t feed him vegetables, doesn’t discipline him, allows him to watch films that give him nightmares.
The nightmare inducing films I had to mention because my son was really upset, but the rest I have to turn a blind eye to. I make sure that I clean his teeth extra well, dose him up on fruit, vegetables and vitamin tablets and hope that in the long term my son will appreciate the stability and predictability of our routine and discipline at home.
As a co-parent with a very different parenting style to my ex, I could lose my sanity if I worried about every single thing that goes on when our son is with his father. There is nothing I can do about it (my ex does not respond well to comments about his parenting), so I have to lock those worries and annoyances away.
To stay sane – share your story to find your tribe
None of my close school, University or work friends are single mothers. When I first became a single mum, I felt that I had no-one to talk to. I knew no-one who had been through it and who would understand. I knew no-one who could give me advice and reassurance that it would all be okay, that my son would be fine, in fact he would be more than fine, he would thrive (as he is at the moment). Part of the reason why I set up my blog was to find my tribe.
I now have a few single parent friends, most of them online or on WhatsApp. I was fortunate enough to find another single mother who lived just around the corner from me. She has moved away now (she met someone and is now pregnant again and engaged to be married), but for about six months we met weekly, shared a bottle of wine and stories about our exes whilst our one year olds played at our feet. Her friendship (and the wine!) was massively important for me and my recovery from my separation.
To stay sane – make time for you
This is something that every parent needs to do, not just single parents. I am fortunate in some respects because my son goes to see his father every other weekend and for one night during the week each week. This gives me the opportunity to get my nails done, to go to the cinema, to catch up with friends, or more often than not just to catch up on some sleep. Full time employment and single parenting can be an exhausting life and I need a bit of me-time to keep me sane.
To stay sane – remind yourself that you are amazing – trust me!
Becoming a single parent can be really scary at the beginning. The feelings of failure and guilt can be overwhelming at times.
Friends and work colleagues often tell me that they are in awe of how I manage to hold everything together and come across as so calm, collected and in control. I know I don’t feel it. I may be the serene and elegant swan on the surface, but I am paddling like mad under the waterline.
When I receive these comments, I reply that I am really fortunate to have a massively supportive family. This is true, I am incredibly lucky, but sometimes, just sometimes, I allow those compliments to sink in.
I am amazing and so are you – trust me!