30 January 2018

Being a Single Parent

I remember the exact second I realised that I was going to be a single parent to my two boys. I was driving in the car one night listening to Skunk Anansie surrounding myself in a nostalgic haze that took me right back to the cider fuelled summer of 2002 when suddenly, a song came on that mirrored my life at that exact moment, and the distance between my partner and I. That song wrapped itself around my chest until I had no breath left, hot tears fell and burnt my cheeks as I began to fit the puzzle pieces together, I felt my throat constrict every time I swallowed and a big, heavy knot started to form in my stomach. A week later I was on my knees in the dining room, begging him to stay. I cried out for him to put the children ahead of his mistress before running into the bathroom covering the back of the toilet in vomit. It was clear we weren't going to win this one, the kids and I, and within a few weeks, he was 109 miles away under her roof. 

The months that followed were both the shortest and longest periods of my life. It took me 4 months before I went a day without crying, it took 3.5 months before my 2 year old stopped calling for him during the night, and it took a bout of self harm, an emergency doctors appointment and a CAHMS assessment before my 8 year old stopped blaming himself for the split. Amongst that was a blur of schools runs, a few too many ready meals, a couple of awkward tinder dates and a fuck tonne of self criticism. 

Becoming a single parent is both hugely exhilarating as it is overwhelmingly isolating. It is ordering a pizza in your pyjamas whilst you gather your brood to watch a film in bed with tummies full of love as well as a ham and pineapple, and it is sobbing into your pillow at 4:30 am because the toddler has turned into an early riser and the lingering sleep deprivation has penetrated your sane and rational mind like a terminal illness. It really is relentless, and whilst you muddle through just keeping your children alive, longing for the end of the day where you can look forward to old box sets and a cheeky gin, you have to work through a load of shit in your own head. So much shit, an absolute clusterfuck of stuff that needs to be sorted out in order for you to move forward, physically, emotionally, mentally, financially...all that whilst trying your best to nurture and mend hearts that have been broken and left behind, including yours. 

I really think that lone parents, the ones that are well and truly flying solo are some of the strongest people on the planet. We get a lot of stick, a lot. It's relentless and frustrating, and its disheartening and disempowering. We are putting our children before our careers, we are sacrificing the small things every day to make sure we can keep the big things like the family home and cheap weekend camping trips, we are meticulously planning each minute of the day, each hour, each week, each month, our heads feel like 35 internet browsers open at once. We. Can't. Switch. Off. Our happiness takes a back seat, guilt floods our blood stream like a scene from The Shining when we find a few moments for ourselves, we become cosmic wizards at budgeting and we can make gourmet meals out of dust and a jar of old chutney. 

We are puking up into a drain on the way to school because we don't get sick days, we are asking for another morning off to watch a school assembly even though we had a Harvest Festival a few weeks before, we are staying up late attempting to turn a duvet cover into a Norman tunic ready for the Battle Of Hastings. 

No one is a single parent out of choice, it's usually a decision made out of circumstance, and it's never an easy one. Without a doubt we are doing incredible things with the shit we have been handed, and we should bloody well be proud of that, because it's not easy, even though sometimes we make it look like a walk in the park. If you see someone doing an awesome job, please tell them, because the appreciation we get is minimal, but the stigma we receive is huge. 

Written by Sarah @sarahcladwellblogs 


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