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The realities of being a single parent?

(43 Posts)
justanewmummy Sat 05-Dec-15 13:13:23

I just can't bear to be in this relationship anymore. I've tried to make it work for so long but I need out now.

This is the situation;
We have 2 children, 22mo and 11 weeks.
Neither are in childcare but DD1 due to start nursery in February for 3 half days per week.
I juggle looking after the children with running my own business which in reality means I work late at night as no time during the day.
I can afford to get a cleaner or part time nanny but not sure if I want to.
Soon to be ex doesn't work but will have to get a job when we split.
He will want to see the children as much as possible. I'm still BF DD2 so how would it work? Would he have to see them both in my house?
I don't drive but ex does.
How do I find time to shower etc?
How do bedtimes with 2 of them work?

I'm sure there's lots of things I haven't even thought of yet. Please tell me the realities so that it isn't too much of a shock to the system.

I have to do this for my own sanity.

Junoandthepeacock Sat 05-Dec-15 13:18:54

Not sure about the breastfeeding.

But I can tell you that it can be tough, unless you have additional friends and family who are supportive.

The things I hated were:

A: never having anyone to discuss concerns with
B: never having anyone to share the joys with
C: watching other dads care for their partner/carry child/carry shopping while holding door open for Mum, while I struggled to open doors with baby and shopping in hand.
D: feeling utterly responsible for everything. (however, you are in a different scenario, where there will possibly be conflicts over responsibilities which will pose equal challenges.)

DeoGratias Sat 05-Dec-15 13:19:27

Every case is different. As you are still breastfeeding he is probably not the primary carer so probably the chidlren would stay with you even though he doesn't work and you do but do not assume that is what will happen (and take advice from a solicitor even just for one hour of advice if you can possibly afford it).

I managed working full time 5 children whilst paying the ex on the divorce so it is possible but everyone's situation differs.

It is very unlikely there would be any over nights with the father when your baby is 11 weeks and breastfeeding but are you sure not having the father around to help is really something you can manage without? I waited until our youngest were nearly 5 in part because the sheer hard work of lots of small children is a lot less with two of you around.

I suspect you could take the children say to his parents' house if they are near or his place or meet in a park during the breastfeeding phase or he could have the older one half the weekend or week and you could split child benefit etc between you.

I presume you are not married. Do you own a property together or just rent?

Footle Sat 05-Dec-15 13:22:20

The things that Juno ( pp ) misses, only apply if you were in a decent relationship in the first place.

Temporaryanonymity Sat 05-Dec-15 13:27:26

You will cope.

I began life as a single parent when my DCs were 5 and 2. I worked full-time so relied on wrap around care. Luckily for me the nursery was attached to the school and provided the wrap around care so I'd drop them off at breakfast club. I worked from home quite a bit so I picked them when I could, sometimes at 5.30 but usually earlier.

School hols were bit of a nightmare financially of course.

They are now school aged and it's easier but school hols are still pretty stressful for me.

Practicalities:

Online shopping, delivered to the door in the evening so time to put away. Amazon prime for next day delivery of costumes, presents for parties etc. Buy small to fit through the door!

I have to be super organised because it's a pain leaving the house with two DCs in tow for a pint of milk.

Learn to drive if you can, it will help enormously.

My ex lives far away and for a while he saw them here, but I know plenty of people who share 50 50 so on reality get a lot of time to themselves. You might want to see a lawyer about this.

It's hard. Bedtimes are still bit of a nightmare and I usually spend half an hour or so alone with each child before bed but this was tough when they were younger, so often I'd bundle them up together for a story, settle one and then sort out the other. Bath times were always together.

I use the slow cooker a lot!

My boys are fine, they are independent, self reliant (they've had to be) but are pretty happy and confident. I constantly rearrange things to fit in with school w events to make sure they don't lose out by having just me nearby.

You will cope, I promise.

Junoandthepeacock Sat 05-Dec-15 13:28:45

But Footle - you can look enviously on at other functional couples and feel like shite. These were just the hardest things for me as a completely single parent from the get-go.

OP - better to try to look at the positives of being away from him. Because you can dwell too much and become a little bit down. If you're like me (which you don't sound to be!).

TheWeeBabySeamus1 Sat 05-Dec-15 13:42:21

There's no doubt that being a single parent is hard work, but IMO its much easier than staying in a miserable relationship.

WRT visitation as your youngest is so small and EBF then visits will have to be with you present, and then as she gets older he can maybe take the DCs out for a couple of hours in between feeds to give you a break ( I FF so no idea how long it takes for EBF babies to get into a predictable routine ).

Showering and looking after yourself is important, I just used to do it whenever the baby was asleep, so rather than in the morning or before bed I would have one at 2pm/teatime/middle of the night - wherever was practical. Or put the baby in a bouncy seat and have a shower with your toddler. You'll find a way that works for you.

I've been on my own since DS was born ( me and Ex never lived together and split when DS was 4mths ) and we're both still alive grin. Try and think of the positives. You can plan your own daily routine without having to factor in another adult, do things in your own time and get loads of one on one time with your 2 gorgeous babies. And as they grow things will get easier in terms of time managment.

The most important thing to remember is you CAN do this. Good luck smile

Preminstreltension Sat 05-Dec-15 13:43:03

Single parent since day 1 here. Work ft and have 2 DCs. It's doable of course but at the expense of your life for a few years. I work and do kid stuff and that's it. No time for anything else - TV, hobbies, gym. Kids are not out of my hair till 9pm and then I go to bed. Weekends are constant chores and homework.

But honestly its a lot better than an awful relationship. I am constantly exhausted but I'm not constantly unhappy. I used to shower at 6am before they got up or with the baby in a car seat in the bathroom.

I'd echo online shopping and learning to drive. Bedtime routine just is what it is ! It takes forever but now I just go with it rather than trying to cut it short.

So long story short. Yes of course you can do this and be happier for it.

brittanyfairies Sat 05-Dec-15 14:14:23

When my DCs were very young my H at the time, had this great idea that we would start a new fantastic life in France, and that he would commute to be with me and the DCs on a weekend. The reality was, he didn't show up every weekend and when he did he didn't do a thing to help. So at that point in time I was living as a single parent, in a foreign country. I didn't have/couldn't afford any childcare and youngest child was only 12 months old.

I set up my own business and like you I pretty much ended working into the night most days, I did this for years, as the DCs got older, I could leave them to play together for an hour but it's only in the last couple of years that they've been happy to ignore me as I work and they're 11 and 13 now. I got used to surviving on very little sleep.

They both went to bed at the same time, they still do. You can read in bed but once in there you stay there. When they were little 6.30 was bedtime so I cold have the evening ahead of me to work. Even now, they go up between 8.00 and 8.30.

You do need to find time to shower and look after yourself - I think I let this go, maybe because I was depressed, maybe because I didn't have time to blow dry my hair. I would always shower - baby's nap times, or they went into the play pen for 10 mins. I never had time to do my hair though, I looked a mess. That got me down. I do make a point of trying to be well-groomed these days, if I feel myself slipping, I just have to remember what I was like and the straightners and make up come out.

I never had a night out - I don't think I've had a night out since DS1 was born. I don't really have time for hobbies, TV etc, but it is getting easier as I get older. I definitely watch more TV these days.

I had no support around me, I was in a strange country, no family and no friends and a non-supportive H.

No money, because my H needed it all in the UK (to spend on gadgets and the OW, but I didn't know this at the time).

I was deeply, seriously unhappy and he wouldn't separate.

Four years ago we finally separated and divorced, from that day forward my life started getting better. I could cut him out of the equation so when I made decisions I only considered me and the DCs. Straightaway life got easier.

The DCs do quite a long day at school, but they're understanding now about mum having to work. They also went into childcare in the holidays which was an absolute godsend.

Looking back on my life, it was really, really difficult. I can't believe how I survived. But I did, and it's only in retrospect that I realise how difficult it was, at the time, I just put my head down and got on with what I had to do to survive. I think all single parents do this, you just crack on and deal with it.

Even though it was hard, the feeling of complete and utter relief I had when I found out my XH had another woman was amazing. I've never, looked back as a single mum. Also, the sense of achievement, I am the mother of two amazing, intelligent, polite young men. I did that, me, all by myself. I am so proud of them but also of what I've done. We're a great team these days.

IfNotNowThenWhenever Sat 05-Dec-15 14:21:46

It's hard with babies but it it gets easier and easier.
Firstly, If you can afford, do get a cleaner. Make sure you have back up childcare. Cultivate relationships with other parents of young children. Be friendly, don't ask for favours as such but offer to do swaps/ playdates etc.
This will pay off in that you will build up a network (if you don't have one now)
I never had a car when I had a baby, but you have 2 babies, so if you can learn to drive before you become single then do try.
I don't know about access/ contact as I didn't have that issue, I would seek legal advice though.

Viviennemary Sat 05-Dec-15 14:25:50

I think it depens on every individual's situation. I knew somebody with three quite small children all under six who coped better when she split up with her DH as he was so needy and hopeless. (Her words.) So you just have to be organised. Which I'm not so I don't think I'd have coped very well. But he will just have to have one child for visits till the other one stops being bf. That's how it usually worked AFAIK.

Handywoman Sat 05-Dec-15 14:27:42

Firstly, you can't sort 'everything' in one go, you will just have to find your way through, and things will continue to change as the needs of the dc change etc.

Arrangements for the dc need to be centred around their needs primarily, so, the bf 11week old needs to have contact with dad but no overnighters yet.

And I disagree with Footie it's quite possible to miss the contribution of a functional decent mane even if like me, you never had it yourself.

IfNotNowThenWhenever Sat 05-Dec-15 14:27:52

Also, be strict about bedtimes from the off. You have to be firmer as a lone parent. Be a hardass when necessary. There's only one boss, and that has to be you.
I have one child, not two, but I always worked, and I certainly have time to watch tv! I also go out a bit, and go to the gym sometimes. (See above for building a network).
If you have any family nearby that are willing to babysit sometimes that's invaluable. I actually moved to be near mine, as I decided it would be worth it to be able to have some kind of life.
I am not exhausted, and have become a lot more organised than I used to be.

Handywoman Sat 05-Dec-15 14:29:22

male not male hahahahahaha!!!!!!

megletthesecond Sat 05-Dec-15 14:35:56

It's better than a miserable relationship. But it's harder now they're at school (more demands on my time and school holidays to juggle). If you have family support its not too bad.

If you have money for a cleaner it will help. I had one for a few months and it was bliss.

Take vitamins and eat as clean as you can. Lots of hand washing so you don't get ill.

IfNotNowThenWhenever Sat 05-Dec-15 14:54:11

meglet I was really perplexed at first as to why washing by hand would prevent illness...! Doh.grin

changeoflife Sat 05-Dec-15 15:38:45

I've done it in my own since the dc were 5&2. It's been 3 years now. I get one day to myself eow when exh has the children. Sometimes it's overnight, mostly just for the day. I did an ou course in the first/second year to increase my chances of getting a job doing school hours which I achieved, and then went on to get a job albeit rubbish money so I now work full time. Was a sahm mum before that for 6 years.

Here's my tips :

Online shopping is your friend. Embrace it and love it. It's a lifesaver. Everything from groceries to all presents, clothes etc.

Shower after the children are in bed.

Be rigid about bedtime while you can, they soon want to stay up later which eats into your alone time.

If you can afford help, get it. I use a gardener once every couple of weeks. It costs me about £20 but it's worth every penny to have a tidy garden and one less job to worry about.

Ditch ironing if you do it. Only iron out of necessity rather than another chore!!

Treat yourself even if it's just a bar of chocolate for when the children go to bed.

Arrange a reliable babysitter. You need to be able to get out with friends, even if it's just occasionally.

I won't lie. I do find life hard and I definitely struggle to juggle everything but it's not worth putting up & staying in an unhappy relationship. I'd rather be happy single than in a miserable marriage.

LobsterQuadrille Sat 05-Dec-15 16:15:25

Another single parent from the offset. However, I only have one child and, because I have always been a single parent, have no comparisons/don't miss having someone else's input. I went back to work F/T when DD was six weeks old, was overseas without any family but fantastic childcare set up 52 weeks of the year, 8am to 6pm so it was relatively easy because it's what everyone else did anyway.

DD has always been hugely protective of me, which has worried me a bit in the past but has become better now she's older and is apparently very typical in single parent families - for either the only child or the eldest child to take on the role of "partner". DD and I share the housework - she loves ironing and vacuuming and I hate both - she's not keen on cooking so I do that. I bulk cook and freeze batches as there's never time to cook much during the week.

Everything is definitely much easier as she's got older - 18 now and her last year at home - it'll be another adjustment phase when she goes off to university and I hope she won't worry about me too much (I know, it should be the other way round, but I trust her judgement implicitly).

I can't say that I have never looked at couples (mainly at sports day, prizegiving and parents' evenings) and felt a little envious, but on the other hand I've never had to wonder where DD will be at Christmas/over holidays or chase/complain about maintenance because I never received any. So, although I had all the work to do with bringing up DD, I have had all the benefits as well.

Marilynsbigsister Sat 05-Dec-15 16:39:11

It really depends on the state of your relationship OP . If he is a helpful and committed father and your relationship has broken down because of drifting apart but you do not dislike each other, then I would stick with it for another year or so. Whilst all the wonderful stories above are excellent tales of overcoming adversity, it is without doubt much much harder doing it all as one rather than two. If however he is a lazy, disrespectful waste of space who adds nothing to family life except the need for you to 'look after' yet another child, then your life will be enhanced by going it alone. My only one word of warning is to wait until the new year. 11 weeks post partum is really not long at all, plus bf, hormones may be having a detrimental affect on your mood.

Whythehellnot Sat 05-Dec-15 17:15:21

I have found it difficult and exhausting and not very rewarding but my dc are very needy and exh very awkward ie not much contact.

In a way it is more difficult as the dc get older. When they were little they were in bed at 7 and I had an evening to myself. Now they stay up later, they have more after-school activities and I have far less time to myself. Friends and family have stopped inviting me places because I can never go or I am always the first to rush off.

I have found it logistically difficult eg you can't just nip out to the post box or pop to the shop for milk. Forget the hairdressers or health appointments for yourself and the gym or keeping fit is out of the question because I am either at work or looking after the dc.

If you have a lot of family support it is easier. Also if you live in the middle of civilisation. I am out in the sticks and we all have to get in the car to do anything.

It also helps if you have decent childcare. I did for a while but people move on and it was all a
juggling act with dc at diffferent schools.

Having said all that, I could not have lived with ex any longer. So it depends how bad your relationship is. I sometimes wonder if we should have stuck it out and maybe things would have improved.

Like a pp said as your little one is so young, maybe hang on in there a bit longer and see how you feel in a few months.

WallyBantersJunkBox Sat 05-Dec-15 19:20:29

Agree with the Internet shopping smile

For me, I am a single parent now in a foreign country working full time with struggling language skills.

Experience of situations brings more understanding, but yes it can be hard at times.

Always have a plan B....

For childcare
For visitation if it gets awkward and stbex lets you down
For sickness
Don't be afraid to ask friends for help, or family if you have it. A few of mine have disclosed that they live in awe of how I get through the week, and are more than happy to help
But...
Never take it for granted...reward the help tenfold. For example my ex let my son down with an hour to meet him when u was stuck in work meetings. M neighbour rallied round. In turn I took her boy for a sleepover and her and her DH enjoyed an evening and lie in together.

Improvise with your time:

Lunchtimes are for supermarket, post office etc I get up at 6am to shower, Sunday evening I put all my clothes together for the week. Before bed I set the breakfast table and get out DS clothes and make lunches for us.

Sunday mornings if I am alone I batch cook for the freezer. Saturday's on my free weekends I blitz the house and fill the freezer with milk and bread. In between I survive on surface cleaning and disinfectant wipes grin

Cleaning Standards have Slipped but I sit happily in my home safe in my mental stability and peace...

Some weeks are a blur...we get through. I block book my holiday and clubs etc. I plan a lot. I keep my manager informed in a professional way if things go wrong, with a plan to make things right.

If it goes wrong I cry like a baby, then pick myself up, get an early night with some shit on Netflix and tell myself that I need to be kind to me, I'm doing the best that I can.

IfNotNowThenWhenever Sat 05-Dec-15 20:16:58

Oh God yes, I don't iron. And if the house is a bit grubby for a few days, well, ds doesn't care, and there is no one else to complain! My life is quite simple really. I won't be a martyr to lone parenthood. Been doing it for 9 years and for me it just gets easier and easier. In fact I have lots of alone time now as ds got sports club, and has friends on the road who he visits etc.
And he is very stoic about having to pop to the shop, or come with me to the supermarket. He can do laundry and vacuum and he knows I expect help in the house. I am hoping he will become a man who doesn't think some fairy comes while he is asleep and does the housework, and I think that's a good thing.

piperchapman44 Sat 05-Dec-15 20:29:58

I've been a LP for a year now, not with a baby though. It is exhausting but I can honestly say the exhaustion is like hard work exhaustion , not the total mental exhaustion you get with a bad relationship. And it's very empowering, working out how to do everything yourself.

You tube videos on everything are also your friend!!

Goodbetterbest Sat 05-Dec-15 20:41:54

What Piper said. It is hard work (I have 4 - older but started out as a LP and PT job).

I have a cleaner.
A mobile hairdresser.
Online shopping. Groceries and everything else.

Make sure you use any free childcare available.
Entitledto.com to check your benefit entitlements. You'll at least be due a reduced council tax.

Make sure you have everything in place.
Do a budget now.
Start getting things in place now.

Decide how you want it to work wrt when and where he sees the DCs (XH sees mine at my house and I HATE it. He also moved around the corner - also hate it.you think it'll help but it doesn't).

I am so happy now. Exhausted but happy.

Goodbetterbest Sat 05-Dec-15 20:44:40

It never occurred to me to be jealous of other couples. You get into a groove with your little family and there are moments of pure bliss.

I love locking up. Once everyone is in, the day is over, knowing it's just us. God I love it.

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