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'Mum wore every hat in existence': The unique positives of being the child of a single parent.

The role of a sole parent is undoubtedly often one far more complex, exhausting, stressful and difficult than that of most families where two parents (or more) are active in raising a child.

My perspective when saying this is not from being one myself but from that of an only child, who grew up with a sole parent, my mother.

I grew up never knowing my father. For me, my mum was my everything. She provided for the both of us in every way a parent can: financially, physically and emotionally.

Perhaps one of the best mother-daughter duos in the history of TV, Kath and Kim share their words of wisdom:

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She put on every parent hat that was in existence. She was the breadwinner, the good cop, the bad cop, the disciplinarian, the friend, the one who washed my clothes and cooked my dinner.

The one who helped me with my homework, the one who read me stories, who played Wonder Boy on the Sega Mega Drive and the board game Nightmare (because you couldn’t play it alone).

She picked up the yellow plastic bat and played totem tennis in the backyard with me despite being the furthest from sporty you could ever possibly be.

We moved into my family home, the first house my mum had ever owned or would ever own, when I was five-years-old. It wasn’t an idyllic family home in a street with a leafy canopy of trees. It was a small red brick house, identical to ten others along the same avenue in a housing commission area in regional Victoria.

My mother is a well-educated woman, the first in our family to attend university and to be awarded a degree. She was a full-time secondary school teacher for over twenty years at our local government high school. She was passionate about education and was brilliant at it.

But every cent of the money she earned went in to providing the best opportunities for me. She sacrificed so many other things to provide me that because she wanted to own a house. She wanted it to be an asset for us, for me in the future, so she made the decision to buy in an area that wasn’t considered desirable. The decision to do this was hard for her but making these tough decisions is part and parcel with being a sole parent.

We drove around in a falling apart Datsun. The side mirror was literally being held on by some sort of string so my mum could still use it. We couldn’t afford another car because our money went toward the mortgage, offering me opportunities to travel overseas through school trips, to participate in activities and for everyday expenses.

Although my mum never let on when I was growing up that doing all of this would have been so incredibly difficult and strenuous in every possible way, I can see as an adult and now as a parent myself how challenging it must have been for her.

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I asked my mum whether she had wished it had been different, whether she wished she didn’t have to sacrifice so much. She told me, “I just wanted you. I just wanted you to be happy and for that I wouldn’t change a thing. Plus, look at us now.”

single mum benefits
My mum with me on my wedding day. Image: Supplied.

It was true. Like many other sole parents and their children, my mother and I are incredibly close. In fact, she now lives with my family on our property. We see and speak every day. We are intrinsically linked with each other’s lives (in a good way) more than most other parents and children I know.

There are a whole collection of positives that come along with being a sole parent, or being raised by a sole parent.

As well as the closeness of our relationship, I grew up not having the idea of what men did and what women did. In our household we were women and we could so it all. From bins, mowing the laws, doing the dishes and paying the bills.

One woman earned the money and parented and together we did the housework or odd jobs. There were no limits to what we could do. If you worked hard you could do anything.

Quite young I was given a lot of responsibility, independence and was entrusted with making many of my own decisions, organising my own time and helping where I was needed. After school I would come home, I would feed our cats, do my homework and then together we would eat dinner. I wasn’t asked to do this, it was just what I did.

There is a sense of maturity and responsibility that forms in children of sole parents and although this can sometimes be difficult it undoubtedly prepares you for the real world much earlier than many others.

So to all the sole parents who wonder whether they are doing enough, whether they are doing a good job, whether their child is missing out. I can say, without any hesitation, as a child of a sole parent, you are doing more than enough, you are doing an amazing job and your child is not missing out at all, in fact they are gaining so very much.

Shona Hendley is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education. She is an animal lover and advocate, with a morbid fascination for true crime and horror movies. Shona is usually busy writing and raising her children: two goats, two cats and two humans. You can follow her on Instagram

Tags: children , features , kids , motherhood , parenting-2
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