Friday, 27 December 2013

Ten Great Things About Being a Single Mum

Google 'Single Mum'.  Go on.  Actually, don't bother, because I can tell you exactly what results you'll get:

- First off, sponsored results: Dating sites specifically for single mums.  Cynical implication: we can't survive on our own.

- Second, a ream of financial advice sites.  Cynical implication: we're all broke, and can't manage our own budgets (which by the way, is blown to pieces in this ridiculous piece which implies that we're all on £70k a year.  We're not. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/8049211/The-benefit-of-being-a-single-mother.html)

- Third, a couple of single mum blog sites (I like this one:http://www.oldersinglemum.com/)

- And a whole stack of articles on JK Rowling, our poster girl and saviour, and proof that, even when you fall in this most heinous section of society, you can pull yourself up by the fingernails and become phenomenally rich.  And have your hair done properly.

This woman - yes you, Katie from Wiltshire - compelled me to write this piece.  She sums up the whole Daily Mail ethos of single mums.  In case you lose the will to live before reading the entire piece, the nuts and bolts of it is this; single mum on benefits, ensnared by the pressure of The Christmas Cosmos, felt like she had to spend money she didn't have on her children.  Took out 8 'payday loans' and now can't pay back the money.

She's been a bit of an eejit.

Katie overspent beyond her means - as many of us do, particularly at Christmas.  I bet she is a good mum, but is under the misguided impression that she needs to give her children things to make them happy, rather than telling them the cold hard truth that, actually, she doesn't have the money to buy them a huge amount and they'll have to make do with a bat, a ball, an orange and a £10 iTunes voucher this Christmas.  As well as some boxes and a whole heap of wrapping paper to play with.

I bet they'd have as good a time.

But I'm getting off the point a bit.  My point being that, according to the Daily Mail, 'Single Mum' = stupid and poor.  'Single Mum' also = pitiable.  And finally, 'Single Mum' = lowest echelon of society.

Which is a pile of poo and one of the reasons why I don't write for The Daily Mail.  (Not that I've ever been asked.  Which might be the main reason.  Harrumph.)

Anyway, I feel compelled to write a list of ten points on why us Single Mums should not be pitied, thought of as stupid, seen as benefits scroungers, or banned from couples-only dinner parties.  Here goes.

1. As a single parent, I've seen the bond with my children strengthen.  To be honest, when I was married, I felt like I wasn't a very good parent.  I thought that my unhappiness was because of my parental shortcomings; in fact, it was because of an unhappy marriage.  I'm not saying that now I'm a single parent, I'm the best mum in the world, but my parenting is more relaxed and - um - holistic.  I feel responsible and sometimes this weighs heavy - yet I roll with the good times too, and bask in the reflective glory of my kids.  Every time they make me laugh, are polite, try their hardest, are kind, say sorry, are clever, are brave...or sometimes just look lovely -  I am proud. Because I helped to shape that.

2. Being a single parent means that you are forced to develop a 'have-a-go' attitude.  Or at least, find help if the problem defeats you.  In other words; that drain isn't going to be unblocked by the man of the house - it's down to you to don the rubber gloves and get stuck in.  The Internet has become my best friend; YouTube tutorials exist about practically everything in the universe.  And as a back-up plan, I suggest making friends with a plumber.

3. Having a job as a single parent is a good thing.  Admittedly, it squeezes you - 99.6% of your time is either work or kids related - but your job gives you a welcome valve for letting off steam about your home life (and vice versa, of course).

I get very tired.  But I feel that I am supporting my family.  No one else.  Just. Me.

4. Money.  The first article which burbles on about a single mum earning £75k, and implying that most of this is through benefits - is complete hogwash.  I earn a pittance at work, compared to my salary pre-kids, so I do get some Child Tax Credit, equivalent to £400 per month - and very grateful I am for it.  I also get child benefit (£113 per month) and some child maintenance from my ex.  I am NOT swanning about buying Ted Baker dresses; I do have a summer holiday, but it is camping in Wales and staying at my mum's.  Christmas was mostly courtesy of The Pound Shop (and quite marvellous it was too).  I get my kids' clothes in the sales - and mine too, come to that.  I rely on birthdays to get vouchers to replace any white goods.

I am certainly not complaining though.  Having less money is not an issue, because now I am in control of precisely what I spend.  I can switch broadband providers if I am unhappy.  I choose my own car insurance.  I do not have to go cap in hand to my husband if my phone has broken and I want another one.  I just save up, and sort it out myself.

It doesn't sound exciting, but being in control of your own finances fills you with a sense of power.  You just need to be sensible and a bit boring - unlike Katie from Devizes, who has sadly learned her lesson the hard way.

5. It's peaceful at home.  I am under less stress.  I don't feel like I have to hide from my husband, and that actually, it's ok to spend time with my kids playing board games or the xBox or watching The Big Bang Theory - but it's also ok to say 'no thanks boys, I'm tired, so I'm just having a rest in my room for a bit'.  They get it.  My husband didn't.

6. Raising kids alone gives you a massive sense of fulfilment, and achievement.  They will pretty much always follow their own path but your advice and mentoring will have constant effects on the decisions they make.  Of course, it's not just you that they look up to - they are surrounded by all sorts of adults in their daily lives - but you are their rock solid foundation.  And it feels like that.  And that is good.

7. I am happier as a single parent.  The boys pick up on it.  I can honestly say that they are happier too.  Don't believe people when they say that splitting up a marriage is harmful to the children; if you are loving and honest with them, and act like a grown-up, they will be fine.

8. I don't have to see any in-laws any more.  I know. I am a bad person.

9. Holidays.  I admit it - I was scared of going on holiday at first, with the kids in tow.  The sense of responsibility was all-engulfing; so many things could go wrong, and I imagined them all.  And we were only going to Wales.

But we had a fantastic time.  Yes, it was tiring - physically and mentally - but my mindset was that, if they were happy, then I was happy.  So we just did what they wanted to do, which was pretty much constant body-boarding.  And making fires.  And playing hide and seek.  And reading.  And digging holes.

It works because you love everyone that you're with.  There's no tension because you agree to do what they want during the day - as long as they help you with the evening meal and the washing up.  That's the deal and everyone knows it.  Add to this the odd hot chocolate and marshmallows round the camp fire, and you've got the perfect holiday.

10. A sense of personal success.   Of course, it doesn't go as smoothly as I've suggested in all of the points above.  There are arguments, sticking points, sad times and illness.  But overcoming these, finding solutions yourself and generally muddling through, is ultimately hugely satisfying.  If there were a single mum's badge, it would say "I've had a go and mostly succeeded.  My kids are everything to me.  I work hard, am shattered, but am proud.  And I don't have to see my in-laws any more."

Obviously it would have to be a big badge.


14 comments:

  1. Fab post honey! You rule. You have really taken a long hard look at where life is at and decided to appreciate all the good bits and I can see how hard that must be sometimes. I think the one thing that I think about when times are rough in my relationship is the money if we were to split up. I fear falling into poverty and it makes me feel trapped. My boys are so young though. I'm constantly swinging between feeling like things are OK to being so angry and upset by my husband that my entire being screams for a divorce! I definitely don't worry about any kind of stigma for being a single parent though. X

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    1. I worried about the finances too. But I banked on two things; 1. That things were so bad in my marriage that I would prefer to be as poor as a church mouse, but happier, and 2. That the welfare system is there precisely to support people like you and me. People who work hard but whose circumstances mean they need a little help in getting back onto their feet. Thanks for your lovely comments - always! xxx

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    2. Great post as always, I love the no-nonsense-taking-no-shit way you write! It's a massive help to people who are teetering on the brink themselves I am sure *whistles nonchalantly*. Also - and this might sound weird - the fact that you tell it like it is, and that it's not all bad by any means, means that I've stopped worrying about whether I'd be able to cope, because your blog makes me I think that I would actually. And the very act of stopping worrying has given me a bit more energy and space to concentrate on the here and now, and that in itself is paying dividends. Keep on writing! x

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    3. Thank you for writing such a lovely comment! It's definitely not all bad; in fact, most of it is better. Hope Christmas was good for you - it was always tricky for me when I was married. Always here if you want to chat! xxx

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  2. Great post. I'm not a single mum but my mum in effect was as she was widowed when we were young kids. It really wound her up that people would categorise her as a 'single parent' as she would say she was a lone parent as that didn't have the negative connotations, which have now got even more stereotypical.
    Glad it's working out for you - it seems to for so many people. For us who're sensible with what money they have at Christmas, I guess we'll still be sparing in years to come for those who don't understand standing up to pressure from kids and expectations that they must overspend in order to have a good christmas.

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    1. Absolutely Emma. Guess what I did yesterday? I booked an appointment with a Financial Advisor, hoping he'll tell me what I can do with the minute settlement I got. Am hoping to turn a bean into a beanstalk! We'll see. Thanks so much for your comments. xx

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  3. Great post! I was a single parent to my eldest for a few years post divorce and definitely recognise a lot of your points, (Esp the in-laws one!) Now I am in a 'blended' family. But I think the mail hates those too...good, I like being hated by The mail!

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  4. Haha! Me too Sonya. How is it now, being part of a blended family? [runs off to read your blog] xxx

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  5. What a great post! I relate to all your points, especially 5. I was a single mum for 6 yrs before meeting my husband. I have to say I have found it hard going from being single and relatively carefree to including and extra person. We are a lot less spontaneous now which my eldest has struggled with, understandably.
    Sounds like you're doing great tho so long may it continue xx

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    1. Hi Kat, thanks so much for your comments. Your words have made me think. I am constantly looking for someone to share my life with but, at this moment in time, do I need someone? Dunno - food for thought in 2014. Thank you. xxx

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  6. Great post. I'm not a single mum but I can imagine how the image portrayed by the media of single mums as sad, hopeless and poor must really, really get on your nerves. Hoorah for someone finally championing the single parent.

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  7. This is enlightening. Sadly, only a few see single mothers in this light. Most people went along with the stereotyped notion that single mothers are to be pitied. They don’t realize how big a badge single parenthood is with its sense of personal success. After all, some people are better off when they do things all by their own. – Carlos @ The Bridge Across

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  8. Stereotyping is an awful thing and I really dislike it. Well done you for standing up and being proud to be who you are. Thanks for linking up #GoldenOldies via www.mummy2monkeys.co.uk

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  9. I honestly googled 'being a single mum' just to see how I was doing in comparison to others, and I needn't have bothered. You are totally right, that's pretty much all I found - bla bla bla you can't do anything without a man, bla bla bla it's so hard. But honestly I've gone from raising a child alone with a useless husband in the house who ALSO needed picked up after and didn't do anything, made a mess, got in the way, messed everything up, parented all wrong.. to raising a child in an environment that WE create together, free of said useless husband. I love it. Holistic parenting is a great way to describe it. It's nice to see that so many people have ended up at this link and realised that yes, it's ok to be proud of being a single parent. We kick ass!

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