Where to start…
I had a friend approach me this week and ask me if I could write about the struggles of becoming a solo parent. Now my friend is in a position where she is truly unhappy, and desperate to leave. But, it’s not so easy.
I have not been married, or in a relationship for fifteen plus years like my friend – but I do remember the desperation of needing to leave. I remember thinking anything is better and safer than what I had. It was also the reason I moved 1000 kilometres away with a three-month old baby. I had no idea I was pregnant again, until I had already moved. I was a solo parent from the very beginning, and well before my second son was born.
Who can answer these questions?
What is like to become a solo parent when you have always had that support and structure of a family unit? My friend has been asking me plenty of questions over the last few weeks. How do you do it? Do you ask your children who they want to live with? Do you struggle? What about my family? Yesterday she looked at me as she asked about breaking up a traditional family unit, and I saw pain, fear, insecurity – mixed with plenty of worry. She wants some indication that what she is doing is right.
It’s certainly not a question I can answer, but a choice everybody has to make themselves. But, if you fear the arrival of your partner coming home, you sleep in separate rooms, you do not speak to each other, and he not to the children either – and you have done EVERYTHING to make it work – then yes, maybe it is time to put you and the children first – before the marriage or relationship. When there is any sort of abuse in a household, be it physically, verbally, or mentally, then it is not an ideal situation for anybody living there.
When you are married, own a home, have children together, and your bills are joined, I can imagine just the thought of working out how to split them up would be mind-bending to say the least. The thoughts of having to separate everything, move to separate homes, give the children access to both parents, and make sure the children are affected in the least possible way is hard – and it’s completely and utterly devastating.
So, being a solo parent is hard right? Yes, it is. But, if your living in a situation where you and your partner are so disconnected that you feel alone – you feel like you parent alone, cook and clean alone, and you are alone mentally and physically – then the transition to solo parenthood has started already. The fear of the unknown can keep people in an unhappy place long after they could have left.
There are so many could’s and should’s that will go through your mind at a time like this. And all I can say is that if you are truly unhappy, then it is time to find your support system. YOUR people. Find the people who support your decision to better your well-being and your future. Find the right lawyer and mediation for the split of your house, contents, and custody arrangements of your children. Make sure that child support is fair and sorted out for the main care-giving parent.
Most of all, meet the needs of your children. Try to keep their lives as close to possible to what it was before the separation. Really listen to them – and make sure their safety and needs are met over and beyond yours and your ex-partners.
Things to remember through a break up
Don’t waste your time worrying about the effects that the relationship break-up has on your children. Sometimes staying in a relationship is more detrimental than leaving. I know plenty of people who have grown up in one and two parent households – and I have friends from both sides who come from equally happy or dysfunctional families.
Don’t bad-mouth your ex. This is something I have always stuck to myself. Your feelings are not your children’s, and they should not feel ashamed about loving to wanting to spend time with their mother/father. If the other parent is truly as horrible or as useless as you perceive them to be, well your children will make up their own minds for themselves as they grow up.
Be honest to your children. If your children are old enough to understand, then explain to them why their parents are splitting up. Can you imagine not being able to understand why your Dad has moved out? Why Mum won’t go and get him? Why Dad lives in a new house? The confusion and pain, and sometimes self-blame (and this is something I remember from my own childhood) can follow you right into adulthood.
Build a castle
Transitioning from a two parent family to one is hard. Its hard financially, emotionally, mentally, and physically in some ways. Find your friends, family, support systems, and build yourself a castle. Not a crumbly sandcastle, but a strong stone castle. Make sure that it’s foundations are strong and stable. This will take some time, but it will happen.
A lot of people do not have the choice of when their relationship is going to break down, and are not lucky enough to have the time to prepare – or an ex willing to work through it all. So if you have that, your castle will be easier to build.
No-one can be burdened with the emotional pain that you will go through during this time, but they can be a shoulder to lean on, or an ear to listen. Having support of any kind will make the process easier to handle, at least until you get back to a place where you feel like you are happy and successful once again on your journey through life.