Not only am I a single parent; I parent solo. This means there is another parent but they contribute no parenting. Let me explain…
I feel (you are welcome to suggest otherwise) there is an assumption that if both parents are involved in a child’s life, regardless if they live together or not, it is shared parenting. In my opinion I disagree, not just because I am a solo parent but as an educator and a friend.
Let’s go back…
I was brought up by my mum after my parent’s separation when I was 11 years old. They both parented to a certain degree but I definitely remember playing them against each other! I was good at sneakily phoning my dad by the land line in her bedroom when I didn’t get my own way – opps (I do not need to wonder where my boy gets it from!). That said, I do remember their solidarity over certain aspects; you know, the more important ones. Whether they both agreed or if it was an act, I cannot be sure but I did stop smoking at 12 when she told my dad! (Very thankful to this today…)
I am a solo parent. I split with my son’s dad 10 years ago but he is present in my boy’s life. I use ‘present’ as a very black and white term. He does pay his child maintenance contributions, he does collect his son on the allocated weekend and if I am lucky, or ask very nicely, he does have him for an extra night if I go away. But does this justify as parenting?
Yes he is a parent, yes he is involved but he hampers all my progress with my sons development, he refuses to work with me if he doesn’t agree, he doesn’t attend school parent evenings, he belittles me at every opportunity and if I say no, he will always say yes. There is no parenting here!!
I am not writing this blog as an attack on dads/mums, or single/divorced/widowed parents, I only write from my own experience whilst trying to stay clear of any theory or conflict (but I do welcome your views in the comments).
Let’s step away from me…
I’ve seen many parents come and go through the years in a nursery. Sometimes the shared parenting shines through, typically by an air of respect of the other parent, the joke about the clothes the mum find their child in once they collect in the evening after dad dropped off in the morning. Or it’s the opposite… I see the frown and eyebrow raise when we tell them of an incident in the day and they blame the other parent (together parents, not just the solo ones!).
The RESPECT factor is the biggest factor in the relationship of parenting.
I have married friends who will openly say “when he’s at work we… [Do what he tells us not too], or “she’s too strict with them, I let them get away with it”, or even “I don’t like how they do it but I let them do it anyway”. Lots and lots of conflicting messages, which coincidently we are teaching our children!
Don’t get me wrong, there are occasions when my frown escapes or the negative word may leap out of my mouth (about the ex) before I can stop it… I are not a saint, I am human and I do recognise the affect this has on my boy.
A few weekends ago I had the pleasure to go and visit an old Uni friend, staying in her new home with two beautiful girls under 3 and her partner. This one visit changed my perspective on families and I was in awe. Contrary to all my experiences, personal and with friends or colleagues, this house was a ‘home’. It was a home because of the co-parenting and unconditional respect between the two parents. They led by example, each parent making suggestions and offering to help, working as a team with no blaming, judging or any negativity and it was ‘Beautiful’. Is it sad that I have not witnessed this before? No, I do not think so but I do think it is sad that none of my other friends have this relationship, which in turn is sad for the children who do not grow up witnessing mutually respectful co-parenting by parents.
Typically we are all good parents, we get by as best we can with what we have and some will be great parents, our love, nurture and compassion for our children is instinctual and natural, but is it the same for adults? There are plenty of parenting books and magazines which will tell us how to ‘parent’, how to safeguard, discipline, ween, feed etc. but how many cover the basic needs of compassionate respect and modelling these fundamental manners and actions as role-models to our children?
So today, I will remain respectful about the teacher, the neighbour, the boss. I will try and remain respectful about family members (haha – so hard) or at least, do so in front of my boy. Whilst I know I cannot change the actions of how the ex treats me, I cannot make him respect me and model the respect in front of my son.