People tell you to ‘get back in the game’ – but no one tells you how hard that can be when you’ve got your little buddies along.
Sure there’s the obvious things about being a single parent that you can anticipate: not as much freedom, financial worries, dealing with an ex and all that, but there’s some distinct realities of socialising as a single parent that no one mentions and here they are….
1. There’s no designated driver – you’re it.
This becomes particularly obvious over the Christmas holidays. You may have plenty of invites to parties and bbqs, with kids invited, but you’ll soon realise that it’s one drink for you whilst married couples happily take it in turns with one the ‘designated’ driver, rewarded at the next event where they can sip a few wines and let themselves go. Cabs aren’t an option either, not least because of the baby seat but really you just can’t drink because you’re responsible, just you and when you get home you still have to be in charge – and control.
2. You have to swim.
Your friends have a pool, there’s a pool in the complex, you’re all meeting at the beach? You can bet that you’ll have to go in. You see Dad’s go in with the kids – not mums. Mums don’t want to get their hair wet, re-do their make-up, they have timeout drinking those wines as the Dad’s occupy the kids in the water. Except for the single mum, she’s in the pool too. If your kid loves swimming then you may spend the whole party there.
3. When your child says ‘Dadda’ it’s really uncomfortable.
There’s nothing like a ‘Dadda’ from a baby of separated parents when he’s not around to really halt a conversation. Other people feel self conscious, ‘sorry’ for your child and so then you tend to feel the same. They may have a perfectly good relationship with their father and the child may have had a lovely thought about him but it just hangs in the air for everyone to see (and notably ignore). Just as uncomfortable is the other Dads that attempt to father your child, as if your baby has a deficiency that must be filled.
4. No longer do you have anything to say when couples complain about couple things.
Left alone for long enough and women complain about their partners: he doesn’t do enough, isn’t around, never cleans up. You find yourself sitting in silence. If it’s an all out couple whinge, there will be some comments about not enough sex, little retorts and jibes about quirky things that have become irritations. Silenco – you have no one to whinge about anymore – not such a bad thing. You also have a new perspective on what’s worth complaining about.
5. Family holidays aren’t the escape they used to be.
Once you’re a single parent, holidays away are harder. They’re expensive and the reality is it’s not really a break if it’s just you and the kids. Yes, you could take someone to help, but is that really a holiday for them or can you afford to pay someone to join you? When do you actually get a break? Many families tend to do their own thing anyway, go to resorts, hire houses, have family time.
Having said all this, it’s not all bad and single parents work out ways to navigate through all these things and of course there’s the ultimate upside, that single parents span two groups – the parents and the singles – and if you’re clever enough them maybe you can have the best of both.
Mavis is a Sydney-based writer that unexpectedly found herself raising her daughter as a solo parent. She has a professional career and is living the adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.