parent opinion

"The hardest part about being a single mum isn't the parenting. It's the constant guilt."

I’ve been a sole parent for a decade and trust me, the hardest part about it is not the solo parenting itself – because you deal with it out of necessity like everyone else – but the guilt.

You know what I mean: the pit-of-your-stomach, constant feeling of failing your kids.

Most of us accept some guilt in parenting, but when you’re a single parent, it’s escalated as part of the unique mental load we carry: am I doing enough? Will I ever be enough? What more should I be doing?

Watch: Things mums never say. ever. Post continues below. 

Video by MMC

I know this is a single parent’s biggest fear – that we will never be able to give our kids what two adults in the home may be able to.

And because we’re worried about that, we’re forever trying to make up for it. Even though we know the kids are better off in a home where one parent is happy, rather than two miserable parents, we put so much pressure on ourselves because somehow, we still feel we’re not enough.

IT. IS. EXHAUSTING. An emotional and physical load not designed to be borne by just one person; and yet the Voices in My Head never let me have a break.

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I didn’t realise how much of a problem it was until I caught myself doing this the other evening: I wanted to go to bed at 9pm, but then I thought “I should do some research”. As I grabbed my laptop, I realised I’d been running through my day in my head to work out if I’d ‘earned’ an early night.

Get up 7am, morning chores, school drop off, quick walk, work (and snack) steadily 9:30 – 3pm, school pick up, listen to 13-year-old’s day and feed him, work two more hours, pay  bills, prepare and serve dinner, speak to mum, evening chores, cajole teen into bed for 2 hours, netflix/scrolling for 3 hours, sleep.

I decided it was a productive enough day, so I let myself jump into bed by 9:30pm.

And then I thought about how ridiculous that was that I do this little checklist every day.

You see, I’ve obviously read too many “what successful people do” lists. I’m from a massively over-achieving family.

I’m a smart chick, I’ve been doing this solo gig a long time, I should be able to have a full and productive day every day.

Leigh Campbell and Tegan Natoli discuss ‘mum guilt’ during isolation on This Glorious Mess podcast. Post continues below. 

What I never give myself credit for is that I do this as a single mum. Just one adult does all this. Just little ol’ me keeps this ship afloat, this house of cards upright.

I underestimate what an incredible feat that is for one human.

So, the answer to “have I done enough to indulge myself in an early bedtime/dinner with a friend/the night off cooking?” is always, always, yes.

No matter the ‘indulgence’ – it’s been earned a 1000 times over.

Being a single parent is all-consuming because we put the kids first, and yes, ‘the years are short’. But somewhere in the midst of parenting I had to remember I’m a human, too. And I’m just human.

So tell the voices in your head to STFU, and give yourself a break – guilt-free.

Feature Image: Instagram @namawinston

Nama Winston has had a decade-long legal career (paid), and a decade-long parenting career (unpaid). You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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