At the tender age of nineteen I gave birth to my first child, a son whom I love dearly. I was engaged to be married at eighteen and thought that this was it for me, I was set up for life and I truly thought that things were perfect. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as I had hoped they would, and so my son’s dad and I parted ways. I was a single parent for a few years, it was a struggle but we survived and I am stronger for it.
When my son was five I unexpectedly fell in love.
The relationship progressed and when he was was nine I had another son with my new partner.
It was at this point that parenting changed for me, I was now parenting two children, under the same roof and they both had different fathers. Right from the beginning things were different, I breastfed my second son whereas I never even considered it for my first son.
My children are now fifteen, five, three and one and there is a lot of love in our family unit. However, I have since come to realise that there is a difference in how I parent my older son and how I parent his younger siblings.
I call it ‘Parallel Parenting’ because I am raising my children side by side, yet differently, and I have become more aware of it lately. With my eldest I feel that I must take full responsibility for his well-being, whereas for my other children, half of the responsibility of their day to day lives is shared with my husband (their father).
I have always been confident in my parenting ability with my eldest. I have always made any decisions about his well-being from my gut instinct, funny then, that even though that has been successful with him that I have not carried this type of parenting through to my younger three. The difference now is that I am not the only one making the decisions.
Every aspect of parenting is different when parallel parenting. When my eldest was five and asked me something like “Mum can I play a video game? Mum can I get a puppy? Mum can I go to the circus?” I would make a decision straight away. Whereas with my now five year old it is more “Let’s wait and see what daddy has to say when he gets home, shall we.” Although this teaches my son that sometimes he must be patient if he wants to achieve something, I have found that he does get more frustrated by my reaction, whereas when I stood confident in my decision as a single mum my son moved on from not being allowed something more quickly and still does.
He has recently signed up to start an Industry Links program for Year 11, it was not a hard decision making process for him , I encouraged him to follow his heart because I believe that by doing so he will give his best to his chosen occupation. I don’t think that the decision will be made as easily when my next child is ready to make their choice because he will have both of us parents with his best interest at heart.
I very rarely have a difference of opinion with myself when it comes to parenting my eldest. He has grown up to be a wonderful young man who is never reluctant to help out and who genuinely cares about the well-being of his younger siblings. I must be doing something right. Right? But it takes a little explaining to a three year old when they ask “Mummy why does Dylan not have the same name as us?”. I take time to explain our family circumstances in a way that they can rationalise it all in their little minds and all is then fine, until the next question of course.
What works for me is that I share an equal amount of love between all of my children. Love is the special ingredient that makes everything in life grow. For me, everything else seems to fall into place from there.
Karen’s first novel The Visitor – a magical understanding of uncertainty was released last year. She writes regularly for adoptamum.com and Universal Mind magazine.
Do you parent your own children individually? Did your parents treat you and your siblings the same way?