The realities of being a lone parent

 |  Parenting, Personal

When I split up with Karl in May I joked to friends about the relief of no longer having to buy 5 packs of bourbon biscuits every week, not needing shares in a dairy company to buy the sheer amount of cheese he got through, etc etc. Har har, very funny. The realities of being a “lone parent” (single is clearly the wrong word in my case) extend further than that.

I’ve had to rapidly extend every frugal habit I’ve ever practised to every avenue of my life, which includes living off 4 slices of toast and a spoonful of peanut butter some nights just to make the food stretch further (and because I’m lazy).

I’ve had to actually talk to utility companies, which Karl used to do ‘for us’, and deal with the annoying levels of security each one in place. Severn Trent Water, for example, had absolutely no security in place and I was able to create and log in to an online account and change all the necessary details without any double checking on their part. PlusNet on the other hand wouldn’t speak to me or make any changes to the account, despite the username being “jemandkarl”, the payments for the Internet coming out in my name etc.

In fact, even now my Internet is still registered under Karl’s name, because when we finally managed to get through to the department we needed to speak to (after hours on hold and being passed back and forth) we were told that I couldn’t just switch the account to me without cancelling and recreating it, which would leave me without Internet for a week or more: not a workable solution for someone who requires the Internet to earn a second income.

And then there’s the monotony of the daily routine: school runs, tiredness tantrums, feeding and bathing two under 5s on my own. The constant stream of washing, cooking, tidying, reading bedtime stories and all the other mumsy shit that I have no choice but to get on with, because I can’t say “you do it tonight dear”.

No longer can I just nip out for a run because I need to clear my head, I have to schedule it around “daddy time”. No longer can I nip to the shop for evening snacks to comfort eat because I feel like crap. No longer can I go and grab some fish ‘n’ chips because I can’t be arsed to cook after a long working week.

And that reminds me? Working as a single parent. Ha. I don’t know why I bother. The second I get paid, my bank account is raided for childcare, mortgage and bills. There’s nothing like living off a single income and a series of mini life disasters to get you acquanted with your overdraft, that’s for sure. The only thing keeping me afloat at the minute is the fragments of self-employment income I bring in working a couple of evenings a week.

Of course it’s been just over 4 months now, and while that doesn’t sound like a lot written down it feels like a lifetime in terms of the scope of the changes that have happened to our lives. This lone parenting lark is bloody hard work… physically and emotionally.

Still. No regrets.

Jem Turner +44(0)7521056376

7 comments so far

  1. Audrey said:

    It’s interesting to me that you mention the bills thing. When you were with Karl, you comment about how you did not desire or need to be married in order to be in a committed relationship. I can definitely understand and respect that. I place little value on the certification myself. However companies, like utilities as you described, treat you so differently when you call and say “I am so-and-so’s wife (or husband).” All of this wouldn’t help now, but the fact Karl just handled those tasks solo is an explanation of how it worked, which had been lacking for me as a casual reader.

    The most important line is the most important. A bit over four years ago I did something similar — broke off a dysfunctional relationship and quickly moved on. I am now a much, much happier person. I felt like me again and a sense of contentment in that almost instantly, which I will never let loose again!

    In time it will all get easier. For starters, the kids will eventually become more independent. (:

    • Jem said:

      Well, most companies allow you to add another person to the account so you can update/manage things, the problem is Karl just never bothered :/

  2. Amelie said:

    I have to say that the 3 months or so of lone parenting that I did was really not an experience I ever want to repeat. I didn’t have daddy time or even grandparent time to help out, so everything I did – the never ending washing up, laundry and eventually packing – had to fit around meals, naps, nursery and whatever else… God forbid you mess something up and end up with tantrums at bedtime :(

    Still not sure how I did it, and full of admiration for those, like you, who do it every day.

  3. Tess said:

    I’m a full-time nanny for a single mother’s daughter, and everything in this post relates to her — much less to most (if not all!) single mothers.

    I’ve known the mother my whole life (our parents met before she was born and I was 6months), and it’s so hard to see her struggle the way she does, when we both grew up in two-parent homes. Bills, food, chores, it takes on a whole new meaning when you’re doing it by yourself. Something as simple as going out to eat is an entire chore in itself: pack up the bag, make sure they’re dressed, are the diapers in the bag, no wait make sure there’s diaper creme, stop taking off your left shoe, did I forget a second outfit just in case, I FORGOT MY PHONE; rinse, repeat.

    But like the last line, there’s no regrets. As I always tell my own Mother (who I live with), I’d rather be struggling right along with her than to be financially comfortable in a situation that makes me so unhappy. You’re doing fantastic, even if your back account bitches otherwise. <3