♫ ♫ It takes two baby, it takes two baby….♫ ♫
As the song says, it takes two but as we are all too aware, that is not always the case when it comes to rearing children. The number of single parent households is increasing rapidly and many parents face the responsibility of rearing children on their own. Parenting and running a household is difficult enough with two people so when you have to go it alone, the challenge can often feel overwhelming. In this article, we look at the challenges for a single parent in terms of finance, parenting, household chores and socialising.
Let’s look at finances first. When one person is running a house, the responsibility for ensuring an income for the family falls solely on them. There is no other income to combine with yours so you have to be able to secure an income and most importantly, manage it very well. If you are working then obviously your salary will be your income. However, if you are not working, then you may be relying on social welfare or maintenance payments to keep you going. Whatever the source of the income, careful management is crucial. The household bills have to be paid, food has to be bought, school expenses, childminding, medical bills and everything else also has to be paid. It is important that you write down your expenses and your income and balance these to ensure that you can meet your financial commitments. If finances are tight, look at what you can cut back on and how you can manage your money more effectively. If you are really struggling, talk to your local citizen’s advice office and see if you are entitled to any further help from social services. Watch your credit card! It is so easy to spend using plastic but interest rates are huge so try to ensure that you can pay your credit card bill off every month.
With regards to parenting, there are advantages and disadvantages for a single parent. The disadvantages are obvious really – you have to take care of all of the parenting issues yourself. It is difficult if you are worried about a particular issue with your child to have to make the decision and handle the issue without having the other parent to work with you and support you. For this reason, you need to be strong and very clear as to what your rules are for the children and how you will deal with the rules being broken. You also have to build that strong connection with your children so that they are encouraged and nurtured in a positive environment and parent/child relationship. It is a huge responsibility, normally shared by two people, but it has to be done. By implementing clear rules and routines you can organise your household to run as smoothly as possible. Try to build some ‘quality time’ into these routines so that you get time with your child/children each day to enjoy being a parent and talk with your child. This time is very special and enjoyable for both the child and parent so make time for it as often as possible. If you can, go to a parenting course. You will learn valuable parenting skills and gain plenty of confidence as a parent. On the positive note, single parenting allows you to implement your rules and parenting style in a way that you believe to be best. You can avoid conflict with the other parent in issues relating to the children and trying to compromise on different parenting styles.
On now to household chores – those everyday jobs that have to be done no matter how much we hate them! Clearly, you have to organise how everything will be done, whether you do it yourself or someone else does it. The first golden rule is to remember that you are NOT superman/superwoman. You cannot do everything and if the house or garden does not always look fantastic, so what? You have so many responsibilities and so standards may have to slip. Better that they slip on the side of an untidy house or garden than on parenting or managing to pay your bills! Look at ways that you can reduce the amount of work for yourself. Make a list of the household chores. If you can afford to, get someone in to help with these. You could get a cleaner in once a week to do cleaning and ironing – if you can afford it, go for it. With regards to the garden, perhaps you could organise someone to keep the grass cut and garden tidy for a small fee. Contact your local garden centre for names and numbers of local services or check notice boards etc in local shops. If paying someone 25euro a month to keep this chore off your list is possible then do it – it is one less chore for you to worry about. Similarly with the weekly grocery shopping – check out doing this online. Most supermarkets offer this service now and it is very easy to use. You could ‘do’ your shopping in 20 minutes on your computer and have it delivered to your door. That would take a chore of approximately 1 hour per week off your list. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help! If someone offers to mind the children for an hour, say thank you and get out and enjoy some time to yourself.
On now to other issues such as socialising, holidays, Christmas and so on. Socialising can be difficult as you will always have to arrange a babysitter when you go out – there is no other parent to take care of the children. Try to ensure that you get out at least once a month. If a friend or relative offers to babysit, then accept their offer and go out. While babysitting is one issue to be taken care of, often it is where to go or who to go with that presents the biggest challenge. If you were previously in a ‘couple’ relationship, you may find it difficult to go out on your own. There is no way around this other than to do it and the more you do it, the easier it will be. Many people find that the friends they shared when they were a couple are not the same when they are no longer a couple. If you don’t already have a social circle of friends that you can go out with then work at building one. Try to create a new social life for yourself with other single friends or by joining a club or taking a class where you will meet new people. Use every opportunity you have to get out there, enjoy yourself and take a little bit of time off!
Holidays can be a real challenge. Firstly, you have to find somewhere to go that will be suitable for you and your children. Make sure that the destination provides plenty of activities for you and the children to enjoy. Does it have restaurants nearby? Are there children’s clubs to give you a little time to relax by the pool? If you can organise a friend to go with you on holidays then do that. This will provide you with some adult company and also means that you will have someone to enjoy a meal or a nice bottle of wine with. Holiday companies are also a pain for a single parent. Many of them base prices on two adults travelling with children and you may find that the cost of your holiday is the same although it is just one adult travelling. Check out companies that cater for single parent bookings. There are also the other occasions such as birthdays, Christmas, Easter and so on where it can be difficult when you are single parenting. Again, ask friends and relatives for help. Perhaps one of them could invite you and the children for Christmas dinner? Maybe you could invite them? Also look for parent and child groups. There are many groups available and they organise days out which you could go along to. Again, check what is available and suitable for you and the age group of your children.
So are there any advantages? Of course – every cloud has a silver lining so ever the optimist, I have uncovered some of these:
- Remote control – You always get to hold it!
- Wardrobe Space – You get the whole wardrobe to yourself
- TV channels – You decide!
- Sleeping – You get the whole bed to yourself and don’t have to put up with snoring, tossing and turner and other annoying habits!
- Friends – You can invite them over anytime – if you like them then that’s all that matters.
- Autonomy – You have full autonomy in every decision for your household
On a final note, remember to look after yourself and make that a priority. If you are not okay, then how can you make sure that your children are okay? Get plenty of rest, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and ask for help when you need it.
The following are some sites that may be of use to you:
- www.Onefamily.ie – for one parent families
- www.StickyFingerstravel.com – for one parent holidays
- www.citizensinformation.ie – for information on your rights and support agencies to help you.