Dating as a single parent is a tricky business, requiring a lot of determination and very supportive babysitters. When you’re part of a couple, going out is easy, but who exactly is supposed to have the kids for you when you haven’t got a useful partner at home? Rather a chicken and egg scenario there I fancy… So imagine dating a single Dad – how on earth do you carve out time to spend together as individuals and exactly when is it ok to introduce the children?

As a single mother of two daughters and a serial online dater I have yet to find time to regularly leave the house on my own, let alone establish a Proper Grown Up Relationship. I don’t count the elderly ladies I meet at checkouts who woo me hilarious tales of cut price cruises and mixed up prescriptions.

When I recently met a single Dad online, with kids the same age as mine I thought I might be on to a winner – here would be someone at least who understood my predicament and would be able to cut me some slack if I turned up to a date half an hour late and covered in playdoh. What I wasn’t expecting was for him to propose we each take our kids on our first date! I’m a fairly liberal parent – I have been known to buy Fruit Shoots – but this was moving too fast even by my standards.

Needless to say I politely declined, but it left all sorts of unanswered questions for me – just how to you manage the practicalities of dating as a single parent? Should you go for a single dad, or does that just complicate matters even further? And really – kids on dates? Is it a sensible solution to a simple problem of logistics or just too creepy…

Follow:

New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Write blog – check
  • Get people to read blog – hmmm…. trickier. Top tip from a friend – ‘make it interesting’. Damn. I knew there was something….

In true New Year scrooge style I went to bed last night at 11pm and turned my phone off. I have never been a huge fan of New Year, which is a good job seeing as I was stuck at home Being A Parent. I did have my first child free afternoon since December 19th though (not that I’m counting) and had a lovely time in the pub drinking gin and playing pool badly. Gin in the afternoon really is the way forward.

I staggered walked swiftly home to be back for Belle at 6pm and even managed to throw together a wholesome supper. I then set about finishing up the red wine in a bid to make myself feel thoroughly sick and hence ready to embrace an alcohol free January. I reinforced the teetotalism by emptying some Baileys into the sink at 9am this morning. Nothing like the smell of Baileys on a slightly queasy stomach to put you off drinking completely…

Follow:

Forget trying to impress your toddler with the latest from Annabel Karmel – a recent study of 4,000 mothers showed we rely on a grand total of just nine dishes to feed our families.

Nine dishes. I’m pretty impressed. I have two. Pasta with tomato sauce and pasta with cheese sauce. Or sometimes, when I am feeling particularly disenchanted with motherhood, we have shreddies for tea. Who are these women whose children will happily eat casseroles and curry? One of my daughters once refused to eat cucumber, claiming it was ‘too spicy’.

With two children and a seven year age gap, catering for everyone’s tastes, at mealtimes and otherwise, can be a struggle, and I do find myself offering up the same bland dishes again and again. It’s just laziness. I’m a busy woman and, unlike 81% of the mothers in the survey, I don’t have the time or enthusiasm to create two or three different meals every night.

But cooking is just one of the many areas of parenting I could do with improving. As a single mother, juggling two kids and three home based jobs, I admit sometimes the boundaries blur between work and family. I know weekends and evenings should be about the children, but I often find myself having to encourage ‘independent play’ while I sneak off to reply to emails.

My teenager is fine with this. A can amuse herself for days at a time with just an iPod Touch and a family size bottle of Fanta. Belle is not so easily amused. What I need to do is encourage her to take an interest in cooking – maybe I could do something Wholesome like teach her to make a nice cheese sauce…

Follow:

Wednesday already! The return-to-school light at the end of the tunnel is most definitely visible. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. Of course I do. More than life itself and all that, honestly. But good grief they can be dull. We are a mind numbing 12 days into the school holidays now and I can feel my brain shrinking, my inspiration fading. If I have to spend much more time with them I may forget completely how to actually work.

I know most parents, particularly working ones, will claim they relish the opportunity to spend Quality Time with their families over the Christmas period, but I am prepared to wager that most of them are lying. The single parents most definitely will be stretching the truth. For single parents, holidays are just like longer, more tedious versions of what you do every day anyway i.e. spend all your time doing things for the children.

Because my girls have different fathers, fathers who seem to have completely opposite working patterns, I hardly ever seem to be able to coordinate visits, meaning I get very little time to myself at all. These holidays seem to have been particularly bad. A has so far spent no time at all with her father, save for Boxing Day afternoon when I was with her too, so that really doesn’t count. B has spent two afternoons with her Dad. Which adds up to very little ME time. None in fact.

The complete lack of personal space is beginning to take its toll and I can see and hear myself behaving childishly and erratically, losing my patience and being unnecessarily snappy. Not something I am proud of, but perhaps inevitable under the circumstances. Roll on next Wednesday I say, when both children will be back at school and I can enjoy behaving erratically on my own, in the privacy of my own study, with only Radio 4 to shout at…

Follow:

Coping on your own as a single parent can be tough, and bedtimes are the toughest. It’s the end of the day, your patience is frayed to breaking point and all you want to do is sit in bed eating cheese and biscuits and watching Gavin and Stacey.

Well that’s what I wanted to do this evening at least. Unfortunately Belle had other ideas. To start with she wanted to sleep in my bed. Sleep has always been an issue for Belle – she didn’t sleep through the night until she started school – and when her Dad moved out nearly two years ago I admit she regressed a little. It has been less than a month since she has been back in her bed full time and this evening I was determined not to slip back.

I can be a fairly selfish mother when circumstances demand it, and by 10pm, when I was having to pause Gavin and Stacey for the fourth time, I felt they did. I had already been delivered a picture of a crying face, accompanied by a tearful shout of ‘that’s how I feel!’ and then a short note, written on a piece of toilet paper, asking to come into my bed. Realising she was not making progress, Belle had moved on to gently groaning with pain, occasionally crying out ‘ow!’

It was at this point that my patience finally gave way and I was forced to take action. Under the guise of a concerned parent, I went to investigate the source of her pain, and concluded that the only way to treat it was for her to take some medicine and lie completely still, arms by her sides. I rummaged in the medicine box and found some soluble paracetemol – suitably disgusting – and expressed my regret that yes, she would have to drink it all.

To her credit, she managed to force it down. “Can I read my book now,” she asked quietly.
“I wish you could,” I said, shaking my head sympathetically, “but we can’t take any chances. You must lie absolutely still until the pain has gone.” Funnily enough, the recovery didn’t take long. I had barely time to get back into bed and load up my next cracker before I heard the pages of Matilda rustling. Job done. If I had been a mother in a previous generation Belle would have definitely had gin in her bottle at bedtime…

Follow: