Sure, it’s harder in many ways to be a single mum. But there can also a load of perks to be taken advantage of too – if you know where to look!
My son Maxwell, 8 was one when his father and I separated. It wasn’t until he was almost 5 that I met my now partner, Josh E. Pooh Bear (who also has a son, Daniel, the same age as Maxwell!).
I was a single mum for four years. Yep, there were many hard times juggling a full-time job with school pick-ups, doing dinner/bath/bedtime by a reasonable time and, of course you get stuck paying 100% of every bill that comes in. But there’s a whole load of pros to being single too!
Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happily loved up now and expecting my second child at age 42 – but for some reason my news feed is being bombarded with depressing single mum stories all of a sudden.
Of course it is hard for many single mums – and dads – particularly for those whose relationships have ended badly and there’s little support network. Or worse, if one or both parents use the children as pawn pieces against one another like a game. I don’t deny that for one minute.
I was one of the lucky ones – fortunate enough to experience a ‘conscious uncoupling’, as Gwyneth Paltrow likes to call it! Still, the first year of singledom for me was a big frazzled blur and I felt like I was treading water for a long time. It was only after we all dealt with the big life changes, emotions, fiances and Maxwell’s care arrangements, and I found ‘me’ again, that life became a whole lot sweeter!
Here’s some of my favourite single mum perks …
Part-time Responsibilities: Having half the week off
Maxwell spends three nights with his dad and four nights with me each week, and it’s a win-win for everyone. Maxwell gets to spend half his time with his dad, step-mum and his 15 month-old twin siblings, brother, Ezra and sister, Alba, and now his 10-day-old sister, Cara! Then he gets to hang out with myself, J.P.Bear and his step-brother, Daniel, 8 (who has a similar share care routine). Cool, huh?!
For me, this means I have three nights without parenting responsibilities! I can catch up with friends for dinner, spend one-on-one time with Josh, work, fold washing (this is what usually happens!), whatever… Although all of this will change when baby number two arrives this August. Better start making the most of that free time!
Tip: If you’re a mum with majority childcare and responsibilities, it’s a good idea to try to meet other mums in similar circumstances. Organise a play date once a week to give you, and another mum, a parenting break. Having someone to talk to (who isn’t totally loved-up and clueless about what you’re going through) is hugely beneficial, too. Just make sure your single mum friends are relatively positive or solutions-focused. If your two hour catch-ups are constantly filled with man-hating anger, whinging and whining, it will only bring you down.
Travel Bug: Jet setting to wherever the heck you like
Wanna spend the day picking strawberries and hiking in The Dandenongs? Fancy a long weekend on the Gold Coast? Or maybe two weeks hitting the roller coasters at Disneyland?
As a single mum, you’re in charge of making your bucket list dreams come true. Go wherever the heck you want to (as long as it’s safe!).
As the former editor of Cosmopolitan Bride, Pregnancy, Health and Hair & Beauty, then as a freelancer, I’ve been in the very fortunate position to travel extensively as a part of my job. I’ve written about everything from luxury honeymoon destinations and family holidays to health retreats – internationally and locally. I love it and am so grateful that I’ve been able to take Maxwell with me on many occasions. We’ve travelled through northern Italy together, to Fiji, Thailand, Scotland, Fraser Island, Cairns, Daydream Island, Melbourne, the Blue Mountains and more.
Of course it helps if, like my situation, both parents are supportive of the children seeing the world, and flexible with childcare arrangements! I used to plan my solo adventures (read: health retreats and then when I met Josh, romantic trips away) when Maxwell would be on holidays with his dad. Then the following school holidays I’d take Maxwell somewhere with me. Now Maxwell, Josh, Daniel and I go away together.
Tip: You don’t have to go overseas or do expensive trips to milk this perk. One of my best friends has a camper trailer and takes her boys camping on the river every other weekend. Day trips are great too. There’s always a LEGO exhibition, light festival or something happening, and the museums, parks and botanical gardens are always a hit. Choose your own adventures were never so much fun!
New Bestie: You get to rediscover you
Sometimes we lose a bit of our independence and self in a relationship – we go from being a unique individual to being ‘50% of a couple’. Finding you again can be difficult, but the benefits of doing so are exponential.
For me, it was a conscious decision to stop thinking about external things and factors that were beyond my control, and to start focusing on me. What did I have control over? Who was I again? What things did I like doing – on my own? How could I become comfortable in my own company, with no one in the house to talk too?
It was a long and slow journey but I rediscovered a lot of things about myself and new things too. I even ended up being kind to myself – I actually like ‘me’ now!
I wrote down a big list of my strengths and talents and focused on positive things. I set goals, made plans for the future (hello holiday!) and ensured I had things to look forward to, strive towards and filled my life with things that made me happy. It feels good. You should try it!
Happy Factor: You get 100% control over your emotions
No one wins in an unhappy relationship – you are both affected by each other’s emotions. And it’s usually in everyone’s best interest to move on and allow each other to find happiness elsewhere. Don’t we all want our children to go to their respective parent’s house feeling confident that it’s a happy environment? I do!
When you are a single mum, you come home to a space that’s free of negative emotions. You can dictate the mood. You can fill it with love for your child, make it a fun house, a creative space or whatever it is you like. It’s now an argument-free zone. There’s no one at home to affect your emotions – other than YOU!
Tip: Next time you approach your front door, make a conscious decision to fill your home with positive energy the second you step into it and see what happens.
Teacher Values: Parenting your way in your space is easier
There’s a whole load of reasons why couples split up. They fall out of love, they don’t have similar values, they argue all the time … everyone has their own unique story. But when you’re single, it doesn’t matter if you have different values or parenting styles (well, within reason – and assuming you both have the child’s best interest at heart). You get to parent your way in your space!
You can teach your child the values and morals that are important to you, create beautiful ‘mummy and child’ rituals together, let the kids stay up late on weekends and spend rainy days watching The Clone Wars on the couch together – guilt-free. You make the rules when your child is with you. It’s awesome!
Beauty Sloth: Taking a chill pill is so much easier
There’s a lot to be said for lazy Sundays, unshowered with messy hair and eating cheesy toast for lunch )and dinner!). Sometimes we just need to switch off. No makeup. No dinner to prepare. No vacuuming. No weekly grocery shop. No hair care.
I’m the type of person who is go-go-go 24/7. I never stop. But sometimes I just have to make myself take a chill pill and relax. There’s something very therapeutic about slathering on a clay face mask and not worrying about anyone else. There’s no one to answer to or be switched on for. The kids are safe with their dad (or asleep!). You can look like crap and sloth about and feel great about it! Lap it up, sister.
I don’t take for granted for one minute that I’m very lucky to have avoided all the ugliness that can go along with family breakups. It’s tough for many women and men. But there can be positives to even sad breakups.
One of my friends spent 12 years in an emotionally abusive relationship. Her husband controlled the finances and her, and the families’ whole life. When he left her for another woman, my friend was devastated. She had no income, hadn’t worked for over 10 years because she was a stay-at-home mum and had zero confidence. It took her a long time to find her feet again. But now, I see the woman I knew 15 years ago. She smiles. She is happy. She is regaining her confidence. She’s completed further study and found a job. She has an income – that she is in control of. And despite what her ex-husband put her through, she has always encouraged and nurtured his rights and access to see their children. And she has never said a bad work about him to their daughters.
Sometimes leaving an unhappy relationship is the best thing you can do. I know I’d rather be happily single than unhappily hitched.
Isn’t it time we acknowledged some of the perks to being a single mum instead of focusing on all the negatives? Isn’t it time ‘single mum’ stopped being a synonym for ‘tragic.’
Let’s liven up the conversation and focus on some of those perks! Highlighting the positives might be just what ‘newly single’ mums need to hear. There’s loads! You get to ‘date’ again like a teenager. Spend way too much money on high heels without having to hide them under the bed. Watch chick flicks ’til 2am. Where granny knickers – or sexy undies if you prefer! Hit the dance floor on yur night off! Drive a girly car! Take 5,000 photos of your food/coffee/flowers and upload them to Instagram whenever you like! Travel! Oh the places you’ll go …
Main image: Franki & Maxwell. Photography by Cloud Nine Photography.