|Here, have a photo of me.|
Couldn't think of what else I could use a photo of in this post.
I have posted a fair bit lately about being a single parent. I even made a post on my blog for the local paper about single parents. And I was interviewed (briefly) on LBC last week about the stigma of being a single parent.
Guess what, I'm a single parent. The clue is in the name, people. I write about being a single parent. And sometimes, when it's in the news, and the government are making legislation that is seemingly designed to kill us off, I get ranty and cross and I pull out my soap box and blog about it.
Generally when I do this, I get:
- Supportive comments from my friends, other single mothers, or people in general who have read my blog and respect what I am doing
- Silence from people who don't give a shit either way - I respect that silence more than you realise, oh quiet ones
- Non-single parents complaining that I shouldn't make out that they have it so easy. Or that having a partner doesn't mean white picket fences and happily ever after. Or whatever else that loosely translated means: shut up, I have a hard time too and I don't want to hear about your hard time because it detracts from my pity party.
Guess which one I'll be ranting about today.
When I say that I, or people like me, have a hard time I am not saying that other people have it easy. I am not saying that my situation is any worse than anyone else's. I can't comment on your life; I have never lived it. And as Jeanette Winterson so aptly put it: we are all convinced our own situation is the worst, and I am no exception (I'm paraphrasing; I read it a long time ago, but you get my meaning).
I can't write a blog post about how hard it is to be part of a two-parent family. I can't blog about how difficult it is when your husband just doesn't appreciate everything you do around the home. I can't blog about how unfair it is that you don't get help with your nursery bill. I have no idea about that side of life. i have been a single parent since my daughter was 3 weeks old.
I can only write what I know, and that is that being a single parent is difficult, and we get a lot of stick from both government and media, who seem to assume we are all feckless ne'erdowells who have deliberately gotten ourselves pregnant so as to gain housing/benefits/get out of work/whatever else. This is what makes me angry; this is what I am passionate about; this is what I write about.
If you feel that two-parent families are not well represented in the media, do what I'm doing - set up a blog, and write your point of view on the matter.
My sister has just had a baby. The other day she looked at me and said, very matter-of-factly, with no hint of being patronising or talking down to me, "I have no idea how you do this on your own."
I have to say, I have no idea either. When you write it down on paper, it's a bit horrific. Especially if you know anything about my past, or the story of how I came to be a single parent in the first place. But I don't want admiration or gasping applause. I'd be lying if I said I didn't sometimes want a little recognition for how hard things can be from time to time, but I am also aware that for every negative to my situation, there is a glaring positive. The most notable has to be that I am no longer obliged to tolerate the horrendous relationship whose only good point was my daughter.
I am free, and I will take a million nights of being alone with a screaming, teething toddler and Baby Jake, over a single second in that position again. Although that could be interpreted as seeing a silver lining around a rather large cloud, I see it as a massive positive in my life. There are the smaller things as well: I don't have to take anyone else's opinion or ideas into account. I am free to have my daughter share my bed, breastfeed as long as we both want, wear my choice of clothes, learn my choice of values and ideas. I answer to nobody. When she cries, I don't sit on the sofa arguing with someone as to whether it would constitute spoiling her to go and pick her up; I just go and do it. I know several people who do not have these particular luxuries, and I am grateful for them. I also know people who are struggling to care for children whilst coping with an abusive relationship, and I know for damn sure I am more lucky than those people. I count my blessings every single day.
BUT it does make me angry when I write these posts, and at least one parent in a relationship pipes up that they struggle financially also, or their life is not all roses, they can't afford this or that, or single parents get more help from extended family (I can assure you, I don't).
When I was debating whether to go back to work or stay home to care for S until she was 5, I knew I was lucky to have that option: I am entitled to claim benefits until that point, if I so wish. I found it insulting though, to find couples telling me that I "should" go back to work because they had to work, because they couldn't afford for one of them to stay home and look after their child. It was fairly clear to me that what they actually meant was "if we wish to maintain our current standard of living, we both need to work. We don't want to get rid of our second car/give up our annual 2 week holiday/stop buying our clothes from Next, so we both have to work." What if, whether you worked or not, you couldn't afford even one car, you had no chance of a holiday, you couldn't afford to even peek your head around the door of Next? It's a matter of perspective, and priorities.
In a way, it's nice that not everyone has to deal with problems on such a basic level as "I think I'm going to have to call a food bank because there is nothing in the cupboard." I'm glad not everyone has this.
I'm glad not everyone lives in a block of flats whose stairs are regularly awash with piss that may or may not be human, dog shit, beer cans and other "paraphernalia."
I'm glad not everyone has had to spend an entire calendar year trying to get a roof that leaked directly into their child's bedroom repaired.
I'm glad that not everyone knows the meaning of the phrase "it's not consent if she's afraid to say no" in the way that I do.
There are some of my personal experiences that I would not wish on my worst enemy; I am glad you have no idea how this feels. I am glad your biggest problem is that your husband wasn't home in time for bed time stories this evening.
But please, for goodness' sake, when you're up there on your high horse, show some compassion and understanding for those people who would love to have your problems in exchange for their own.