Do you like being a single parent? It’s a question you could ask 100 single parents, and the answer will never be the same. Yes, I love it. No, it sucks. Or, ask me again tomorrow. The fact is that single parenting, like every other kind of parenting, goes through phases. Some hard, some easy, some confusing, some exhausting and some so damn rewarding you could burst with pride. But, the question we are focusing on here is: Is being a single parent twice the work?
After all, not many of us set-out to become a single parent. Some do, and I take my hat off to them. Generally, our society sees parenting as dual role. A job to be shared between two people, who both have different attributes and skills to bring to the table … along with a never-ending supply of unconditional love, however hard it gets. But depending on how you like to operate, some single mums would actually rather go it alone.
Let’s look more closely at duties of the modern-day single parent and decide whether or not being a single parent is twice the work … or not.
IS IT HARDER OR EASIER BEING A SINGLE PARENT
Was your ex-partner a help or a hindrance?
The role of your ex-partner plays a huge part in answering this question. Occasionally I have the pleasure of coming across a couple who work brilliantly together. They demonstrate earnest teamwork with the effortless precision of a couple playing double’s tennis. I am in awe. The end of my marriage resembled a few backhanders that hit the net, or veered completely off the court, usually hitting an unsuspecting bystander. If a parenting set-up is full of miscommunication, frustration and people getting hurt, then parenting alone, has got to be the preferred option. Not only will you be a better parent, but your children (often the ones getting hurt) will benefit from a more individual style of co-parenting, where everyone is happier and calmer.
Are your kids a handful, or two?
We’ve addressed the ex, now let’s look at the children. All kids are different, and they change dramatically with age. Being a parent is a series of phases. Just as we get used to one, everything changes. It is the beauty of watching our children grow and thrive. The question is are you able to manage them on your own? A number of factors come into play here. How many do you have? I have two and consider parents with more to be superhuman. How oh how do you do it? After all, I only have two hands, two knees, two shoulders to cry on. If you are significantly outnumbered by your brood, being a single parent may seem like twice the work. Of course, age is relevant too. And don’t be fooled by thinking parenting gets easier. Our children need us more than ever during the teenage years. It would also add pressure if one or more of your children has special needs, or if they are clingy or particularly attention seeking.
Are meal times suddenly easier, or harder?
We generally eat three meals a day, with a variety of packed lunches and snacks in-between, so it is worth considering them when deciding whether being a single parent is twice the work. Did you have a fabulous Jamie Oliver style husband who couldn’t wait to get in the kitchen and cook up a feast his family would relish? Or did you have a husband who couldn’t cook a crepe, but was hands-on clearing-up and washing-up. Either scenario would be welcome at mealtimes. On the other hand, if your ex’s only kitchen appearance was to grab a fresh beer or he demanded certain ‘man foods’ (usually involving half a cow) then mealtimes would definitely create more work for you. One of the best bits about being a single mum is serving whatever you like for dinner when you are particularly tired. Think cereal, chocolate cake, take-away pizza. Strictly no guilt by the way … your kids will grow and thrive … and they will love you for it too.
Is the laundry pile bigger or smaller?
Something that amazed me when I became a single mum was how my washing pile diminished. Don’t get me wrong … washing (like housework) is still a never-ending task designed to torment us daily, however there is definitely less. Whether your ex-hubby was a tradie with dirty work clothes daily, or an exec who required, not only clean but ironed, shirts of a morning, it’s likely your load was more laborious. Then again, if you man was a whizz with the washing, then life would have been easier. Having another pair of hands to help around the house would definitely make lower your workload, as well as making you feel supported … which is just nice.
Can you do the DIY … could he do the DIY?
DIY. I am completely useless at it. It once took me 11-hours to assemble my daughters flat-pack desk. But I did it. Power to me! Generally (and I mean generally as I know many super-cool DIY divas) DIY work is reserved for the man of the house. I mean, us women can do it of course, but we need to delegate some stuff, right? The question is: Do they actually do the jobs? Or do they accomplish half a job and then lose interest? I know many-a women’s despair at a half-painted hallway that was started in 2003. And do you have to ask over and over for a job to be done, until you are eventually accused of nagging, but if he just did it … you know where I’m going with this. Look, I have a handyman who comes every 6-weeks. He does everything I can’t and I only ever ask once. Just saying, there is a difference between Do-It-Yourself and Do-It-Yourself-If-You-Want-It-Done-This-Decade.
IS BEING A SINGLE PARENT TWICE THE WORK? THE ANSWER …
If you are already doing the single parent gig, you will know whether it is harder or easier than parenting when you were coupled-up. If you’re considering a split then hopefully these points give you something to consider.
Every situation is unique, and I think we all know from our own unique situations whether being a single parent creates more work, or not. It could be that you find it less work in some areas but twice the work in others. Or you have a successful school morning and think ‘I’ve got this’, only to be exhausted by dinner time and wishing you had another pair of hands to fashion something your kids will eat.
For most, becoming a single parent is not a choice we made around workload, it is a choice we made for a happier, healthier life for ourselves and our children. Concentrate on what’s important … and everything else will fall into place.