Today, 21st March, is National Single Parents Day. A day to celebrate and give space to all sorts of single parent set-ups. Whether you co-parent, solo parent, parallel parent, are on the cusp of becoming a single parent, or are a single parent in a new relationship, with or without a bonus family to boot, you are all doing a great job. From the age of 6 I lived in a solo parent household, and am now a single parent myself, so this is something very close to my heart.
When I was dating a few years ago, one potential date waved a very large red flag when I explained that I was separated with two children, & he used those awful words I thought had left our society ‘your children are from a broken home’. Absolutely not. There is nothing broken about my home. My children are happy, healthy and loved. They have two wonderful homes and two loving parents. They also now have two wonderful bonus families, enriching their lives (and creating chaos). My ex and I get on better than we did when we were together, and have a friendship that allows us to support one another’s parenting. I realise that I am very lucky in this set up but it isn’t always plain sailing, and the years on my own were particularly hard going.
I also think about my own childhood, and the likelihood of me being completely broken if my mum had stayed with my dad, an alcoholic who was so broken himself that we could no longer plaster over the cracks. There is no doubt in my mind that my mum walked away in order to fix, not break, our home. As a child I heard the phrase ‘you come from a broken home’ many times. This really hurt, but I didn’t know how to voice that. I thought it meant I too was broken, and society seemed to tell me that this was true – that I would amount to nothing because I was the product of divorce, & a house with only one parent meant only bad outcomes were possible. Sure, life wasn’t easy financially or emotionally, but I was blessed with a parent who loved me and did her best to protect me, even when she sometimes got it wrong (as every parent will at some point). It wasn’t until I was doing it on my own that I fully realised how hard the choices she made were, or the sacrifices, or how lonely her life must often have been because she put us first.
Single parenting is tough, there’s no two ways about it. It can be lonely, exhausting and emotionally draining. But it can also be wonderful and beautiful and full of joy. Making the decision to leave a difficult relationship can feel freeing. We don’t always need pity. Sure, we might need a babysitter, or a friendly ear, but perhaps we also need you to see our courage, our bravery and our independent choices that allow us to defiantly break down negative stereotypes of what a family should look like. If only we had more narratives of differing family set-ups introduced through education, stories and media, then perhaps we could become more visible in a positive way too, breaking down the stigma we often face.
Single parents, you rock. Keep doing what you do. You deserve to be noticed and celebrated. For those of you that aren’t single parents, perhaps today you can reach out to someone you know who is, and let them know you see them and you are there for them. All 1.8 million of us need a little help and love from time to time.