Browsing Tag

single parent

Have you ever wondered what it’s like for moms whose children have half-siblings?

October 13, 2017
half-siblings

My daughter has a half-sister and a half-brother. Writing about it isn’t easy for me. In all likelihood, I’ll be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Yet, I’m writing this post because this subject is very important to me, although painful.

Some time ago, I talked to a friend whose ex-husband had married his neighbor and had a child with her. She was fine with it. The neighbor was never hers and his life is his business. But, their daughter still hasn’t agreed to meet her half-brother.

Another friend has a half-brother whom she has never met because their father’s ex-wife didn’t allow it.

It took yet another friend two years to accept the fact that her daughters now have a half-sister.

There are many such stories. Thankfully, there are just as many examples of the children who get on perfectly well with their half-siblings.

They say that the children should meet their siblings, spend time with them and learn to love them. They may depend on each other in life, regardless of their parents’ fates and relationships.

Psychologists and social workers insist that children should establish and maintain close relationships with their half-siblings.

That is all fine and doubtlessly true. But maybe it would be a good idea to reflect on the following for once:

What is it like for moms whose kids have half-siblings?

This is what it’s like for me.

Hard.

Like I said, my daughter has a half-sister and a half-brother. They are good, loving and happy children. All three get on well and love to spend time with each other. And that is all right.

But, whenever I see them, I can’t help thinking how my child lives with only one parent and how many times she wanted to be with her dad and I couldn’t make it happen. I often think about what she’s missing in life and about the cheap, unbearable wisdom I’ve heard so many times: “That’s the hand of cards she’s been dealt in life”.

I also sometimes remember an American sitcom in which the last in the line of wives accepts and helps her husband’s children from his two former marriages. Furthermore, neither of her husband’s ex-wives has any problem spending time at her home and all works well for the merry bunch.

I wish my life was more like that sitcom. But it isn’t. Maybe, at some time in the future, we will all sit around the same table and chat cheerfully while we drink coffee and nibble on our biscuits. And I will be sincerely happy because my daughter is not the only child and she’ll be able to rely on her siblings later in life.
Until then, although these “other” children certainly had nothing to do with their parents’ bad relationships, and more than deserve to be treated with kindness and warmth, every thought about them fills me with sadness.

Maybe this confession reveals what a dreadful person I am. My experiences have taught me to not to hide my emotions and to always describe situations as I see them. If things seem ideal, they’re probably fake. Our lives are not perfect, our daily routines are stressful and our feelings are prone to changes. In a single day, my mood may vary from incredible joy to unspeakable sorrow, and I never know what challenges the next day will bring. I’d love to be able to feel differently, to open my arms and embrace those little people, those innocent kids who have become a part of our lives. So, if anyone could explain to me how it can be done, how I could free myself from bondage and start looking at things from another angle, I would deeply appreciate the advice.

About Mary, the Supermom

September 10, 2017
supermom

This is a story about a friend of mine who happens to be a single mother, a supermom. In truth, it’s not only about her: it’s about many women who bravely take on their daily challenges and raise their kids alone, just like her.

I won’t reveal her real name. The fact is that we, single mothers, often feel embarrassed about taking care of our children without a husband or a partner. Most of us have to deal with social isolation, and the lack of understanding or support from our family, institutions or other people… In short, there are lots of reasons why many single mothers prefer to keep to themselves and avoid discussing openly their family situation or difficulties they face.

Let’s call her Mary.

Mary got married young, “at the right age” as they say, and soon got a daughter, and then a son. Like many other married women in my country, she was employed, took care of the children, did the housework, etc.  

Her marriage fell apart when her kids were 14 and 8, respectively.
Luckily for her, her family lived in a house she had inherited from her parents. Her husband moved out and she remained, with two adolescent children.
I guess many of you have a good idea what it’s like. The boy missed a father figure. The girl used to cry all night.
And what about the father? Well, he blamed her for more or less everything that had gone wrong in their marriage and badmouthed her in front of the kids and their friends whenever he got the chance.
During the ten years since the divorce, Mary has been true to herself: she has never criticized her ex-husband in the presence of their children.

It’s been hard, occasionally even humiliating. Friends take sides. Some have stopped calling her and pretend they don’t know her when they see her in the street.

She had to go to the court to get the miserable alimony from her ex.

Ten years have passed. Meanwhile, Mary has worked hard, lost her job a couple of times, then found another and started over. Her daughter has completed her university studies, and her son is still at school.
Single mothers surely know how difficult it is to raise two children and put them through school with one modest source of income.

We met a few days ago, which was one of the rare opportunities for me to get out without my daughter.
My daughter is six and she has never lived with her dad, so my story is somewhat different from hers. However, I value greatly her advice and any experience she chooses to share with me.

Who could even imagine that Mary, with her neat hairdo and makeup, struggles to pay off her loans and rarely has any cash in her wallet?
Only her swollen, tearful eyes would occasionally reveal her emotional struggles. But whenever I asked her about what was going on, she would only say: “Oh, it doesn’t really matter. It will pass. I just need some space.”

That’s what supermoms are like: from the moment they come to terms with the reality, they simply decide to stand firmly on their feet and never to give in. Whether it is pride or spite that gives them strength is irrelevant. When you have no alternative and can only rely on your own inner resources, you are infused with new energy and willpower.

If your income is comparatively low, splitting a single salary between three adults can’t be easy. Besides, alimonies are usually so small and the institutional assistance so negligible that a single mother can’t normally rely on either. Some help may come from parents, relatives and good friends, in case they fully understand your situation and are prepared to offer more than just empathy.

Despite all the challenges, Mary somehow manages to make ends meet and face all the problems with a smile on her face. I admire her, just like I admire any other single mother who refuses to complain and tries to present to the world a relaxed and strong version of herself.

I also deeply admire all the supermoms whose children have been raised to become educated, hard-working and modest individuals, having overcome all the temptations and dangers lurking by in the 21st century’s urban environment, including the social networks which may offer plenty of opportunities for manipulation and abuse.

Truth about single mothers

August 28, 2017
truth

Let me start from the beginning.

I’m a single mother. But I’ve always disliked this designation, so one day I simply decided to become a Supermom. Because single moms are moms with many arms who somehow manage to do everything on their own.

And because it sounds better and more powerful than the ordinary “single mother”.

I became a Supermom by chance. If I’d had a choice six years ago, I’m not sure I would have preferred to raise my daughter with a partner.

No, it’s not sour grapes. For six years now I have been acting like Shiva (Hindu deity with eight arms), and the fact is that I have already grown accustomed to that kind of parenting. I make all the decisions alone and I am the only one responsible. I don’t have to ask for anyone’s permission or help. And although I do need help, by all means, I can’t always count on it. This is why I always make plans like I can only rely on myself, which is true most of the time.

Has it been easy? Not in the least. I’ve felt abandoned and helpless. I’ve been hurt.

Anyone would feel hurt after coming to terms with the fact that the truth is a bit different from what one used to believe in.

Fear.

Sadness.

Loneliness.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been through these.

But I always pretended I was fine. I used to hide my fear, helplessness and loneliness from others. I used to hide behind being constantly busy; I walked with my head high, and tried to act like everything was under control.

I used to cry at night, when my child was asleep and couldn’t hear me.

Nobody was allowed to see me with puffy eyes, so I hid behind the makeup and the image of a “powerful, independent woman”.

I analyzed my life, my actions, my mistakes a million times.

I started doubting my sanity and my own value.

There was a time when I asked myself if I’d made the right choice and if my life could have been different, better, more fulfilled.

All of us have been in that dark place surely. Our value was assessed by others and we acted the way we thought we had to in order to be accepted.
The fact is that single mothers are not always accepted and fully appreciated everywhere. Our society always expects a woman with a child to be accompanied by her husband or the child’s father. Faced with these expectations, many single mothers spend years criticizing themselves and trying to block the thoughts that make them uneasy.

I was like that.

But the truth is:

There are no guarantees that everything would be easy, pleasant or even normal.

Things might turn out crazy, sad, unbelievable, dull, fabulous.

Our life is in our hands and we make the decisions. Nobody has the right to judge our lives, mistakes, happiness or misfortune.

We are worth what we believe we’re worth.

And we will live the way we see fit. With our head down or chin up.

Each one of us is an exquisite person.

What we think really matters because we raise little persons and guide them through life.

And we deserve all the best, the kind of respect and attention nobody has the right to deny us.

What life has taught me in recent years

June 29, 2017
life

Live and learn, as they say. Life is a miracle. You think these are just meaningless phrases? They are not. I am the living proof of that.

At the age when women normally think about family and children, I wasn’t much interested in either. I believed that I would have both, that I could have both, one day, when the time comes. Whenever I wished. And when I finally did, it didn’t happen.

I had a child when I’d already stopped hoping. She and I make my family now.

You may think that everything is upside-down. But maybe it’s not. Maybe everything is exactly the way it’s supposed to be.

Unexpected situations are known to bring out the best in us.

That is how I’ve learnt a lot about myself and others. Circumstances forced me to find new strength and make the best out of my own resources and abilities.

It’s never too late to learn new things

I’ve learnt not to judge others:

We are all different and we all have our own lifestyle. We are all entitled to our beliefs, habits, mistakes.

I’ve learnt this the hard way, by having been judged. When you hear so many comments about what you do, you start to realize that most people don’t have a clue, but this doesn’t make them less inclined to judging and criticizing others. I’ve heard that I myself “was to blame“ because I surely knew “what I was getting into“. A “well-intentioned” single (and childless) friend even explained to me that my daughter would turn her back on me sooner or later and that I should therefore look for a nice guy instead of being so fully dedicated to my child who will certainly prove to be ungrateful.

This is how it is: I don’t judge anyone, so I expect people not to judge me. Our differences make us special. I like the fact that we are not the same. I enjoy spending time with friends who have different beliefs, level of education and economic power. I’m not judgmental. I like being around all of them and I’ve never tried to change them or explain to them what’s wrong about their lives. I know I can count on them as they can count on me.

I’ve learnt to distinguish friends from acquaintances:

A friend will always try to listen and understand me, any time of day or night, even if we don’t see each other often. Friends don’t criticize, they don’t ask awkward questions.

I’ve come to realize that I’m stronger than I thought I was:

I’ve learnt that the road ahead is long and tortuous. I’ve learnt to believe in myself and my ability to cope, to overcome any obstacle. I’ve learnt that life is hard, but it may also surprise you with beautiful gifts when you least expect them. I’ve always known that I could do plenty, but only now do I realize that my strength is unlimited.

I’ve learnt to love.

 

Some situations only single mothers can fully understand

June 23, 2017
situations

It was a beautiful Saturday at the beginning of June. The day was sunny, warm, but not hot. Everybody was in a great mood, and we had reason to be. The pre-school end-of-year play was about to begin, all our kids were on the stage, happy and excited because they were about to perform for their moms, dads and relatives, having rehearsed their lines for months. Their proud parents were waving, taking pictures and clapping as the sweetest creatures in the world showed up on stage before their loving audience: little ballerinas wearing tutus and hair bows; the angry, glaring pirates; Snow White and the seven dwarfs in a contemporary version of the tale…

All the people who mattered to the performers were in the audience: their teachers, parents, friends, relatives.

After the play, the ecstatic kids ran into the arms of their delighted parents. All dads were there except one. My daughter’s father had better things to do. My daughter came running to me and asked me how come her dad wasn’t there to watch her perform. I had no idea how to respond and make it sound ok. I couldn’t tell her that her dad’s interest in anything, including her, lasts only for as long as the object of his interest is standing right in front of him. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that to her dad, what comes first is himself, and then… himself, and then… well, again himself. In fact when I asked him to attend the play, he said I was bullying him and trying to make him feel guilty because he had other joys in life.

This introduction, however, is not the central theme of this post. Things are as they are, our lives are as they are and they are unlikely to change. I don’t want to spread gloom and write sad stories. I know some people live harder than us and I’ve learnt to be content with the fact that both my daughter and I are alive and well and cope as we know best.

A couple of days ago I told a friend about what happened at the play. It was the way she reacted that made me realize how hard it must be for the people who live in traditional families to understand what us single mothers and our children go through.

She told me that her husband, with whom she has two children, also occasionally indulges in the activities that do not include his family.

This grossly inadequate comparison left me speechless. This is what I wanted to tell her:

It’s not the same:

It’s not the same at all when the child has a father who always comes home.

It’s not the same when a child asks: “When will I see my dad” (and gets the answer: “When he calls; you know how busy he is”) and when that question is never asked at all that because dad lives in the same house and is around every day.

The fact is that there are no ideal fathers (my sincere apologies to those who are; in my defence, I don’t personally know any, so…). It’s also a fact that children who spend time with their dads only from time to time usually suffer. Those who live with their dads (even if dads are not ideal) normally don’t suffer as much even if their dads are not one hundred percent there for them all the time.

Do you really think that my child and your child are in the same position?

I remembered another friend who often complained about her husband: all he does in the evenings is look at his mobile phone, and he only lifts his head when she tells him that dinner is ready. I do understand her plight. Her kids, however, are probably not bothered by his behaviour and they never ask her what my daughter asks me: “Why does dad never come to our house in the evenings to play with me?”

Again, I’m not complaining. I just wish to pinpoint that it makes no sense to compare what it’s like for the kids in traditional families and those who grow up with single moms.

 

Truth about single parents’ lifestyle

May 3, 2017
single parent

I will never lie to you. Especially not here, after you’ve already made an effort and given me your trust, using your precious time to read one of my posts. What is it like to be a single parent? Most of you probably know that only too well. But for those of you who are still wondering, let me tell you, it’s hard. Extremely hard.

You’re exhausted all the time. You keep checking your watch and running somewhere, like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. And the time keeps slipping away, tic, toc.

You get up at the crack of dawn, already tired because you haven’t slept enough. It goes for both business days and weekends. At least, it makes no difference in my case because my daughter wakes up at weekends even earlier than during the week.

You always wash something, or iron, or cook.

You clean up with your left hand while you type texts on your cell with the right.

There were days when I couldn’t take a bath because I was alone with a small child, so I didn’t dare go to the bathroom. I used to wait for her to fall asleep, but I’d be so knackered by then that the only thing I was capable of was to brush my teeth.

On some days, I even took her to the toilet with me, just in case.

I used to meet my friends for a coffee with the baby in the pram lying next to us. I took her to the doctor’s with me. To the hairdresser’s… In fact, I didn’t go there for a while.

I could go on forever, recounting all the strange and difficult moments I had to go through on my own. But the point is quite clear: it was hard.

Is it easier now that my daughter is a bit older? Yes and no. She understands plenty, but that can also be a problem. I now have to be very careful about what I say. Each telephone call is carefully analyzed. Each communication with her father must be well-thought in advance.

To sum up, it is very hard and exhausting to be a single parent. However, I do know many couples who haven’t had it any easier than me. It was simply my life’s path. It was partly of my own choosing, and partly the result of circumstances.

My advice to all of you who have taken time – which I know is scarce – to read one of my posts is to try to be around the people who love you and whom you love, too. It is better to be single than to be stuck in a bad relationship or marriage. It is often better to do everything on your own than to live in an illusion that you are not alone. It is better for your children to be raised by a fully committed single parent than by a formal family where they would be exposed to quarrels and intolerance.

It is hard, but for you and your children it is much better than any other unpleasant option.

All the effort you are making to ensure they enjoy their childhood to the fullest will surely bring you joy and happiness in return. I believe that with all my heart.

The ways life changes when you become a single mother

December 13, 2016
single mother life

My child is 5 and only now can I say that I’ve managed to fully understand the serious business I’ve undertook – single parenthood. My life has changed dramatically and I’d had no idea it would be that different. In fact, to be honest, I had no idea what it actually meant to be a parent, let alone a single parent. Which isn’t all that bad…

Partying until late at night

Before: I’ve never really been that much into staying out late, but I liked partying with friends. And I used to go to bed quite late.

Now: I go to bed at midnight sometimes, but only because I’d decided to iron piles of clothes or to tidy my daughter’s room.

High heels

Before: Yes, a woman looks better on high heels. They may not always be very comfortable to wear, most often they aren’t, but they are the most lethal female weapon, right?

Now: My shoes with high heels are safely stored in the closet. I wear them once a month, when I remember they exist. Flat soles rule when you’re forced to run after a toddler, carry grocery bags and hold the child’s hand.

Cooking

Before: in my previous life, I enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen from time to time. I’d find some interesting recipes and let my imagination go wild. Of course, I didn’t cook every day, but only when inspired.

Now: I normally cook every day. Sophisticated culinary experiments are no longer appropriate or welcome, as my daughter likes simple stuff: soups, meat, veggies. Chinese dishes are “yuck”. Pancakes are on the menu at least twice a week.

Eating out

Before: Yes, yes, yes.

Now: We avoid fast food restaurants. We occasionally go to a place where people know us and wouldn’t mind us playing cartoons on the tablet and throwing napkins on the floor.

Relaxed weekends

Before: I remember lying around until noon, going to brunches, watching films in the afternoons… Long weekends…

Now: It would make more sense to say that I’m more relaxed during the working week than at weekends. My daughter wakes up at 7 am and I shall say no more. The first thing she says is: “I’m hungry”, followed by a phrase containing the word “cartoon”.

Going to hairdresser’s, beauty parlors and the like

Before: Enthusiastically and regularly

Now: I see my beautician twice a year, with an apologetic expression on my face. Going to the hairdresser’s is an operation prepared carefully and well in advance.