Is it just my newsfeed or everyone’s that is jammed with ‘honest’ accounts of parenting? Apparently we all need to share the dark, warts and all side of raising our children, ironically on a format we upload only our edited, picture book moments. I’ve not heard so much from the single parents on this though…. I wonder where they all are…. Oh, that’s right, we’re the ones who aren’t really allowed to complain.
Do not for one minute get me wrong. I love my children to the point of being a tad clingy. It mildly, no actually it quite largely, miffed me when they decided they are big enough to entertain each other and don’t need me to play their games. Yep, I would even consider myself lucky that I get to do things my way and if the girls want to make a camp in the front room I don’t have to tidy it all up at the end of the day like I did in a past life. There’s not so much passive aggression these days as there was when there was another grown up to please but talking of please, please don’t say we have it easy.
There’s something very real we lone parents have to deal with and for once I’m not talking about the financials or the dating. Something else. Something frustrating and yet freeing once you accept it. It’s the concept that i/we will always, always seem to be doing a bit shitter at adulting than the co-habiters.
Being a round the clock MAD (Mum and Dad) means being the fun parent and the stickler for rules, sometimes at the same time, which gives your children a head start on how to recognise a personality disorder. It means sometimes dinner is a tad chargrilled while you help to finish off a craft or that you have an extra ‘picnic tea’ that week because you can’t take the kids out on their bikes AND cook.
We’ve all heard the stories of single mums who have amazing weekend benders but I’ve seen The Waltons and I’m guessing that’s not a true account of a two parent set up? Rather than find myself cavorting in a Weathersppons with pitchers of cocktails this weekend I instead decided to decorate. It meant I had a couple of cardboard boxes lying spare which I offered to the girls so they could make a fort after school. This In turn led to the following series of events while walking home:
Child 1: Can we build a castle?
Child 2: Yeah can we build a castle?
Me: We’re not even in the house yet.
Child 1: Can I open the door?
(I fumble for keys in my pockets while laden down with lunchboxes, bags, coats, wellies and all the other ‘just in case’ clothing you need to take for British Summer Time)
Child 1 attempts to open the door several times while the expletive huffings under my breath grow louder until I take charge and open the door
Me: SHOES OFF! Yes, you can have sticky tape, yes you can have scissors, no, don’t hold… DON’T hold scissors like that…. Right, give me the scissors…..
Girls scamper off leaving me to sort away the armfuls of stuff, while simultaneously attempting to open and read the post, clear the breakfast bowls from the table, flick the kettle on as I head into the garden to feed the rabbits.
Child 2: MUMMY! She’s not letting me cut! And I’m hungry….
Me heading back inside and finding them both a snack
Child 1: Mummy, can you help us?
I start explaining to the girls how to make the sturdiest design with the cardboard they have…
Stranger: “Do you have a white rabbit?”
Stranger: Oh, It’s out in the road running between the cars.
Cue me, a large bald woman, running out the front of the house shouting, “Dove!” at what is obviously a rabbit and leaping into the bushes attempting to catch her. Yes, that’s right, looked perfectly normal.
With rabbit back in her hutch I retreated to the kitchen, finished making my cup of tea and gave in to getting fish and chips on a Monday night when my phone rang about a full-time, proper, seriously grown up job back where we used to live. This led to lots of squinty eyed type thinking about salary versus childcare costs and arrangements for holidays all while responding to “mummy, where’s my balloon?” “I’m still hungry!”, “can we stay up?” interspersed with inaudible arguing and singing. I also got a phone call about a college course I’m thinking of taking- you see, we single parents are often caught between not knowing whether to work and be bled for childcare and either deal with the juggling act of school holidays or have the conversation about reliability and commitment which invariably comes when you have to take time off in the holidays, or whether to go back to college or university and learn a new skill while our children are growing. Cue more squinty eye thinking and a decision to let the chips fail and for fate to take charge. All this squinting is giving me a headache.
So, now I find myself in the kitchen, pretending all the cleaning and tidying isn’t there. Today I’m neither fun mummy nor strict mummy. I’m shattered mummy who’s actually for once quite pleased to be the only grown up but only because there’s no one to question me when I binge on snacks and trash tv. It’s less ‘Netflix and chill’ round here and more ‘Netflix-eat-a-multipack-of-Wotsits-and-pretend-we-have-mice-when-the-kids-ask’.Although if you find us on Facebook, we’re the smiley, craft making, giggly bakers we pretend to be, ok?