Single parenting by Laura Farnell
Growing up, I never imagined being a single parent would be part of my path into parenthood, despite it being the 21st century it’s still expected for people to be married or at least in a stable relationship before having children. So when I found myself separating from my partner after having my little boy- William, I was a little shocked and lost. In today’s modern age most things go in terms of family, I still felt a little apprehensive telling people I was a single parent for fear they would judge, I soon got over this though as I concentrated on raising my little boy as best I could and realised that most people actually don’t care about my marital status.
The challenge of coping with a baby alone was no mean feat, no one to share the night feeds with, the endless 4am wake up calls, someone to cry with, laugh with, to exclaim ‘holy shit how have we kept this little human being alive?!’. I am very lucky to have a supportive family network and amazing friends, they bore the brunt of my stupid questions ‘the baby licked my shoe- will he develop a life threatening infection and die?!’ There was also no one to share many of the ‘firsts’ with, the squeal of delight when they take their first steps or the happy dance when they sleep through the night for the first time, my Mum loved to hear about all these firsts (but like most grandparents some heavy baby breathing down the phone delighted her) so it wasn’t quite the same as sharing with your partner. But we soon fell into a routine & Will became my little friend, enjoying new things together and best of all I didn’t have to share him much.
One of the hardest parts of being a single parent is deciding upon access for the non-resident parent, I wanted my boy to have a well rounded relationship with his father, however I will just say how hard it is to have to share your child on all the special days that most families take for granted- Christmas, New Year, Birthdays, Easter… It can be very difficult, rightly or wrongly, it got my shackles up a little that whilst I parent for over 300 days a year I was expected to give up or share such special occasions that I viewed almost as a reward for all my hard work.
My next hurdle was returning to work, as a nurse I work long 12.5 hour shifts, not exactly family friendly, and doing a mixture of dayshifts and nightshifts I had to call on all of my long suffering family and friends to take a share of babysitting for me, its safe to say Will spent a large portion of that time being carted around in the car in his pjs, with his backpack like the littlest hobo. I eventually moved back home with my parents to help with this, as I could do the bedtime routine, pop off to do a nighshift and return in the morning with a lot more ease, without Will realising a thing. I know some single parents have no option but to give up work as childcare is often too costly and unavailable to them, for me I worked hard to become a nurse and it is a part of me that I would have been very sad to give up, plus it allowed me time to just be me and I have to say I love it.
Whilst I was quite happy concentrating on Will and work I reached a point where I felt ready to date again, a minefield in itself, dating with a child in tow is even more tricky. Firstly, I preferred dates around 7.30/8pm so I could do the bedtime routine & then my parents just had to listen out for Will if he woke until I got home. Secondly was actually picking the dates, as I entered the world of internet dating I made sure I briefly mentioned I had a child so the guy had the chance decide if he wanted to date me. I was quite a task picking a potential boyfriend whilst in the back of mind also wondering if they would be a good Dad (I obviously didn’t mention this to them for fear of coming across very psycho) Dates fell into two categories, they either didn’t mention my child at all, which I found weird, or else they tried to speak about my child too much, which was even weirder. Just about right were those who mentioned him, asked a question or two and moved on. My other big fear was my post baby body, would my less firm boobs be off putting, would guys still find my body attractive and did my vagina still work after pushing out a baby (sorry if you’re reading this Dad!). It’s a big responsibility to find someone who you trust wholly to be such an influence in your child’s life, its very easy for your mind to wander and there is always the irrational fear of bring a murderer or pedophile into your family.
I’m pleased to say I found my partner around Will’s second birthday, he is also a William- I know can you believe it?! It almost put me off a date with him, but I’m glad I went for it and now have a Big Will and a Little Will in my life, much to the amusement of most of our family and friends. He is just what I need in a partner and a father for Will, and together we have experienced our own firsts… first day at school, first nativity, first aeroplane holiday (although we were a bit jezza kyle at the airport as we all have different surnames) and we hope to have many more firsts to come.