Becoming a single parent is a very simple progression: you get married, have kids and then one spouse goes out of the picture, either through death or divorce.
With death, you stay awake all night, lonely and terrified, crying as you try to figure out how you will do it ALL on your own.
With divorce, things become a little more difficult because in addition to the above misery and fear,
- You resent your ex-spouse and the fact that they continue to exist;
- You STILL have to deal with each other. There’s no option of forgetting and moving on.
- ‘Society’ will Just. Not. Shut. Up. about you “failing at marriage”, and you constantly worry about how this will affect your kids.
I can only speak from my perspective. My husband and I are separated and we don’t live in the same country. He has his life and I have mine. BUT we share a child, so our differences take a backseat to her needs. She’s a happy, healthy five-year-old which means that we haven’t messed up too badly so far. And here’s what we do:
Since she lives with me, most of what she knows of her father is what I tell her. And I tell her about the person I married before it all went belly-up. He’s kind, intelligent, funny and very handsome. He’s the guy Superman wishes he could be!
I don’t do this because I’m a lovely person with a heart of gold. I do it because my dad was MY superhero, and I want the same for my daughter.
Since he lives abroad, it’s easy to avoid unnecessary communication. Thankfully, we’ve gone past fighting and moved to indifference; so if she’s there when he calls, great! If not, I simply decline the call and text him the time when she’s likely to be around. We have nothing to say to each other, so no point wasting time and energy on that.
I admittedly harbour grudges toward my in-laws (don’t we all?!) so I avoid contact with them, but if a grandparent calls, I swallow my resentment and put the little one on the phone. They’re her family and she has every right to know them.
Chacha (blameless party) in Pakistan visits his niece occasionally, and Tayi Ammi (another blameless party) asks for updates so that her kids know who their cousin is and vice versa even though they live abroad.
He asks me what toys she likes so he can plan his gift list. I send pictures, videos, health and school updates. This way, when they do meet, she feels like he knows her and they’re not complete strangers.
Take charge of responsibilities
She lives with me so I do most of the heavy-lifting of childcare. He sends money for her school fees. It’s more or less the same as in ‘traditional families’ so that’s something she has in common with the other kids.
This is how we’re muddling along and so far it seems to be working. We know bigger issues will come up in the future – decisions that will require both parents to actively talk to each other. She will see her friends’ ‘together-families’ and will question why we’re not like that. One of us might remarry and this would change the dynamics further: mo’ new siblings, mo’ new problems.
Hopefully, we’ll figure it out in due time. All we know at this point is that just because two people suck at being married to each other, their kids shouldn’t be the ones to suffer.
What are some of your survival tactics as a single parent? Tell us in comments below.