It may seem strange to hear me say that I am happy being a single parent, but I genuinely am. OK, maybe not all the time, but mostly.
Recently, I recorded a short video about the best and worst things about being a single parent. For me, making all the decisions is the best thing about it but it can also be the worst as there is no one to discuss them with if you are unsure whether you are heading down the correct path.
The Best Things
My friend, divorce coach Claire Black, resonated with the above, but she felt that the best thing was being able to do what you want when you want and being the mum (in her case) that you want to be. Her point was symbolised by a pile of teenagers’ trainers on the floor! She is happy to let her kids have all their friends around, hear them laughing and not worry about the mess. To her, the mess is freedom from a time where that wasn’t acceptable.
I absolutely agree! The word “decisions” for me covers a lot; allowing my kids to turn my house into the local community centre, them knowing that if a friend got kicked out and had nowhere to stay that we would take them in to keep them safe, decorating rooms as I like them, getting two kittens, going on a holiday decided by us all. As Claire says, it’s having the freedom to live the life that I want to live and be the parent that I want to be.
If being a single parent is new to you, think about the home that you would like your children to grow up in. I don’t mean the physical building and surroundings, but the boundaries that you want to set. I pick the fights that I think are worth having because they are concerning things that are non-negotiables with me. There are things that I let me kids “get away with” because they are not important enough for me to want to fight over. It is important to me to have as calm an environment as possible, but that doesn’t mean quiet and without people. I love the sound of lots of people in the house and I am happy to feed the five thousand at teatime!
The Worst Things…and How to Navigate Them
However, making all the decisions can also be hard. When your teenager wants to push the boundaries; for example, when my son was aged 15, he asked whether he could go with friends to see a gig in Manchester. There was no one here to discuss the decision with. My mind was whirring with what ifs; what if I let him go and he got into some sort of trouble, got lost or something happened to him? I didn’t know what my ex would have thought I should do.
You have options in this position. If you have a reasonable coparenting relationship with your ex, discuss this with them. Your children are usually the most important things in the world to you both. If your relationship has completely broken down and so you are unable to coparent co-operatively at the moment, you could speak to a friend who has children the same age and find out what they are allowing their children to do.
I would also say trust your gut instinct. You are aware what your own children can handle and how far they can be given their own independence. It is important that we loosen the reins on our children, albeit slowly, so that they can foster their own independence before adulthood.
Playing You Off Against Each Other
You will know this game that children like to play, even in a household with two parents, but when they live in different houses, it suddenly becomes easier. I was lucky that when my kids tried this, my ex called me and asked whether what they were saying was right. Of course, it was the case that they had been playing us off against each other. As a result of my ex checking with me, it was nipped in the bud, and I’m pleased to say that it didn’t happen again.
You may not be in the position where coparenting is possible. Keep an eye out for this kind of behaviour and try to stop it before it starts. If you are on the receiving end, a short business-like text to the other parent, should be sufficient. If this is not possible, and you catch the behaviour, talking to your child or young person about what they are doing and why, might also help.
Just a final note to say that I am writing as a mum who has experienced divorce, rather than an expert in child behaviour. If you need to work with someone who has that experience, please drop me an email and I can introduce someone to you.
My area of expertise is in helping you to understand your finances, any offers that are made or proposed by your legal team and giving you clarity regarding your future finances. If that sounds like a service that you need during your divorce or civil partnership dissolution, please book an initial Zoom chat using the link https://calendly.com/tamsin-caine/15min.