Being a single parent is hard work, there’s no getting away from it.
It can feel relentless, both in a practical ‘seriously, I have to make dinner AGAIN? But I already did it 27,928 times?’ kind of way and emotionally too. Having to be responsible for all of the family decision making, without someone to compare notes with, can feel like a huge amount of pressure, and let’s not even start on the fact that you always have to be the one to take out the bins.
Like most situations in life though, being a single parent is essentially what you make it. Yes it can be lonely sometimes, and a bit sad when you get home and literally no one, apart from the cats*, cares about how your day went, but if you pack all that away at the back of your head, there are actually quite a lot of benefits to being the sole parent.
I’ve thought back over my actual years and years as a single parent and pulled out some of the best bits about being a single parent to give lone mums and dads with younger children some encouragement. What’s great is that a lot of these get even better as your kids get older – they generally don’t want to get in your bed as much, you can go out and leave them in the house alone and they get their own bowls of cereal.
(*The cats only care if you do voices for them, which may or may not be okay.)
So, what are the best bits about being a single parent? Here are eight to get you started, but I’m sure you can think up more, so do leave a comment.
1. You don’t have to argue over who does the housework
Because it’s always you! This might sound like a bit of a raw deal, but actually there is something quite nice about knowing that it’s your mess and your responsibility, and not seething with resentment every time you see a wet towel abandoned on the bedroom floor. Plus when you’re the only grown-up you can can just employ a cleaner or pay a child to do it and not have to feel bad about not pulling your weight.
2. You can choose which cop to be
Good cop? Bad cop? It’s totally up to you! You get to say exactly how your children are parented and no one can complain if one week that means all devices switched off by 6pm for wholesome family game nights and the next week you all slob about on Instagram until bedtime. I mean sure, consistency is better in the long term, but you get to come to that conclusion for yourself.
3. You get the whole bed to yourself
Ha! Who are you kidding? You know that children can sniff out space in a bed from a mile away don’t you? Still, at least there is one less full-sized adult in it, which means even if you do find yourself with visitors in the middle of the night you’ll still get a decent share of the duvet, plus when they turn into teenagers they really are less keen, I promise.
This is one of the best bits about being a single parent for me because I really don’t like having a huge whole other person in my bed, they really get in the way don’t they?
4. You can eat cereals for tea
And no one raises their eyebrows and says ‘seriously, what are we actually having for dinner?’ because children think cereals are a TREAT.
5. You spend less on food shopping
See the point above about cereals. Actually you spend less on pretty much everything, except perhaps wine, but everyone knows wine is an investment purchase. (Yes, okay, more of an investment if you don’t drink it, but come on, baby steps.)
6. You have full control over the finances
This one is a bit like the housework – if you spend the week’s food budget on a particularly friendly looking houseplant then it’s okay because you only have yourself to blame and nobody to say unhelpful things like ‘but you know the children need school shoes don’t you?’ It’s true that finances might be harder to manage on one income, but it can often feel easier to stay in control when you don’t have conflicting spending habits to worry about.
7. You have more time for friends
You might not get to go out as much, but you can have friends over in the evening, or to stay for weekends, and get drunk on cheap white wine without anyone complaining that you’re being noisy, or telling you that a 42 year old woman doing drunk videos for Instagram stories is pathetic. (It is NOT pathetic. It’s cool. Everyone knows that.)
8. You get to choose which TV shows you watch
Every night! It’s bliss. You don’t have to pretend to be interested in sport or history or current affairs or boring things like that, you can just watch back to back ‘Married at First Sight Australia’ if you want to and no one will judge.
NB: Make the most of this when the kids are young as it won’t be long before they will ruin your evenings by turning into teenagers and insisting on hanging out with you and watching vampire-based box sets until you give in and go to bed first.
But… no one brings you a cup of tea in bed in the morning
Never ever! If you want tea you have to actually get out of bed and make it, which totally ruins the fun. Going BACK to bed with a cup of tea is not the same at all.
This may seem like a little thing, but honestly, isn’t tea in bed the best thing about being in a relationship? Yes there’s the added perks of a dual income and share parental responsibility and all that jazz, but you just can’t beat a cup of tea in bed, ideally with a side order of Jaffa Cakes.
Fortunately this one is easily overcome with a stash of Jaffa Cakes in your bedside table and a strategically placed thermos, so perhaps being a single parent isn’t so bad after all?