SUZANNE HARRINGTON: Being a single parent rocks — till you get sick

YOU read about what a hard time single parents have, how awful our lives are, how we never leave the house, or get a weekend off, or meet anyone with the intention of forming a meaningful, hot relationship.

Oh, and how we are penniless because we are doing a two-person job on a one-person income.

You read all this in the liberal media. In the rest of the media, single parents — that is, single mothers — remain a drain on the system, fecklessly popping out more and more children, so that we can spend the child benefit on fruit machines and Lambrusco, while leaving the children home alone, looked after by the family pitbull.

You never read about the upside of being a single parent. It is assumed that single-parenting is a flawed version of the Noah’s Ark ideal — that it is lacking. Now, while I can’t talk from the children’s point of view, as a single parent I disagree.

Apart from the lack of a second income, it rocks. It totally kicks ass. You answer to no-one. There are no impotent rages, as the other parent fails to do something you both previously agreed upon, or doesn’t turn up, or turns up with a hideous new girlfriend, or takes the vegetarian children to McDonalds, or sends them home sleep-deprived, unwashed, with missing socks, or ‘forgets’ to pay the childcare again, or remarries without telling you. When you are a single parent, there is none of that.

No, you have autonomy. Your children never see you fighting, arguing, sulking, manipulating, or having a meltdown — at least, not with their other parent. There are no holiday tussles, no Christmas dismembering — one half in the morning, the other half in the afternoon — nor huge ideological rows about the appropriate age for an Xbox. You are spared all of that.

There are no mixed messages, no ambiguities, no compromises on anything from chocolate bars in school lunches to the right age to bring the first boyfriend home. When the children grow up to be model citizens, the credit is all yours (equally, when they start coming home in police cars, aged 12, the credit is equally all yours, but if you parent them properly, they won’t).

No, there is only one thing that genuinely, truly sucks if you are a single parent. You cannot get ill, especially not in the week before Christmas, and especially not if you are self-employed. It is not an option. So when you are collapsing under a tsunami of snot and phlegm, all feverish and floppy, and wondering who will walk the dogs, do the Christmas shopping, attend the school play, make dinner and write this — before ever going to that Christmas party — you have to grab yourself by the inflamed throat and tell yourself to man up. You are a single parent, after all.


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