16 July 2014

The Truth About Being a Single Parent.


Following on from The Truth About Being an Older Mum it occurred to me recently to do the same about being a single one.

Lots of people find, by choice, they become a single parent, some have it forced on them.  Either way, there's so much you can predict - the practicalities are doubled, your guilt as a parent never leaves you and how the children cope is dependent on how well you can, or not.

There are deeply painful conversations to be had - you all wish things had turned out differently, your children need constant reassurance and protection from you, their suffering is your suffering and, most of the time, you get along just fine, because anything other arrangement is better than one that involves conflict.

But every now and then something unpredictable comes along, something you can't explain to the children sufficiently, something that adds to their already quite normal embarrassment about our circumstances being different to most of their friends' and out of somewhere deep, you have to draw out yet another solution, one that's tougher than the rest, re-inforcing how hard it is to be going it alone.  And it's not always possible:

The Five Year Old was arguing with me.  He was absolutely adamant about something perfectly reasonable, but I wouldn't give in.  I will never give in.

I will never let him go into the Gents' public loos alone.

He and the Nine Year Old come into the Ladies loos with me.  And that's final.

But they need to understand.

Who can blame them?

What does one say to two such young children who want to do what their mates do?  But their mates go in with their Dads, they're told.  They're protected from predators, they're not told.

Until now.  At some point, as excruciating as this conversation is, it's got to be held.  By me.  Like all the difficult ones are.  And I don't mind, it's my job, my privilege to protect my children, to teach them, educate them about matters, but ones like these are super trying.

Those about mums and dads splitting up, living apart, and, in our situation, complicated 'Contact' stuff are all second nature now and although they're far from easy, there's no choice in the matter or those circumstances.  We have to deal with them as best as we can, re-visit them as ages and perspectives change and we get used to having them.

This one conjured up a whole different scenario, having to skirt around the issues, but be as clear as possible without intruding upon their innocence.  It was tough and it's unlikely the matter is closed.  The eldest is a little more accepting because he has the experience of a man (known to the Police it later transpired) secretly beckoning to him in the local library when I once (very briefly, fortunately) popped off to fetch a glass of water before breastfeeding his baby brother, and, as fate would have it, he remembers a girl about his age coming into the Gents loos with her Dad on one of the infrequent times he was actually in one (escorted obvs).

So what do we do?  Aside from checking they're empty first then standing guard, which can only sensibly occur in smaller venues, there really is no option.  What upsets the older one most though, is the dirty looks he gets from the women using the Ladies.  I understand everyone's points of view, but they're my children and, surely, I'm not bringing them in with me for fun?  I tell him that a little awkwardness is a small price to pay for his safety.  He's still relatively small and vulnerable.  Perhaps those who disapprove could re-think their glares and share a sympathetic smile instead?

I tell him that the people who should be locked up for ever aren't and a lot of them live along the south coast, so it's us who end up feeling imprisoned.  But that's way over the head of the Five Year Old.

In fact, it's kind of a relief when the little one returns to being inconsolable over the heartbreaking whole household issue of us all 'really, really, really' wanting a dog, yet, purely for financial reasons, rather than social ones this time, he's not winning that argument either!

What kind of unpredictable or trying conversations do you have with your children?

36 comments:

  1. I have often taken my older boy into the ladies with me, even with a partner it is still often me and the kids out and about on our own while he is at work. He is ten now and I do now let him go to the gents on his own, I couldnt keep him with me forever and I trust that the bad stuff is very unlikely. It took a few goes to not worry about it though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I worry because the known offenders are re-housed all along the south coast :(

      Delete
  2. Having a girl avoids some of these problems. I also don't need to worry about us needing to share one guest or hotel room however old she is. I see some of the stuff that comes up with my single friends with boys. It's definitely harder.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh goodness I hadn't got that far about hotel rooms! X

      Delete
  3. I have this fight with my 5yo all the blooming time when we are out. I think it is one of those where as Sonya says, it is unlikely because we most expect the worst there, when in actual fact it is when our guard is down and bad stuff is unexpected that it actually does happen. Or so i tell myself when G has run into a male toilet on his own and I am hovering at the door. But I am with you, I see no problem with a child of your eldest's age in a female toilet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Penny - that made me weep with relief that you understand. I know someone who had a problem with her son when she let him go in alone at 15, so I just can't back down. X

      Delete
  4. I only have daughters, but as my husband was the one at home with both of them when they were small, this situation was reversed & it was him needing to head into the gents with our girls. It was agonising for him & he got some very funny looks!
    It's never easy is it? But someday soon, your sons will have to go alone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel his pain and it's never easy, you're right. The practicalities are one thing, but the conversations about whys and wherefores are another! Thanks Izzie X

      Delete
  5. As you know, I feel your pain. Dexter is now 10 and we've had chats like the one you've had - it's just a necessary evil and, like you said, a burden we shoulder, like all the others. It's sad we even have to have these conversations but you're doing a great job in raising lovely boys x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course. I think it's the unpredictability of this sort of stuff that tips me over sometimes and thank you. As are you with Dexter xx

      Delete
  6. I still take my boys in with me (not the 17 year old mind), and guess if my oldest is with me then I can trust him to take the younger ones in. My husband is often at work when we go somewhere to warrant public toilets so can relate to your dilemma. As you know I had bad things happen at a really young age and didn't know they were bad so have always educated my kids as young as the possibly can understand things. You are doing an amazing job. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know it's the same for mums of boys because we spend more time out and about with them generally speaking. Thinking about it more - and perhaps I wasn't clear enough in my own mind as I was writing - it's how difficult the conversation is around the matter and having to find the ways and strength required to deal with yet another thing alone. But, never mind, it's amazing what we can do when we have to. Thank you for your support Joy xx

      Delete
  7. I well remember those days and equally how tough it was for Badger if he had the kids on his own - he had to take Bernard into the gents with him and she hated it! We often cheated and used the disabled loo so we could stand guard outside and they had the privacy they felt they needed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always feel a bit guilty about that Mary - but I think from now on it's going to be a confident plan, thank you :)

      Delete
  8. Goodness, this must be hard. As you know I have a daughter and on the occasions she's out with Dad and I'm not there, he has sent her into the ladies on her own, which I went mad at! Odd really a there's unlikely to be a sinister female in the loos but you never know. She's getting to the age now though where I don't really want her going into the men's and seeing other men at the urinal so i'm not really sure what the answer is. Wish we didn't have these problems in the world :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad I'm not alone but at least they're #firstworldproblems eh?! :

      Delete
  9. Heartbreaking when kids have to live in a broken home. Although I am still married my husband lives far away most of the year. Its our way to survive to give our kids what we think they deserve, to give my girls more time with at least one of the parents...
    I am lucky I have girls and i don't have to face the look of those ladies...and you are right they should smile instead of look like they don't understand...
    Big hugs and always thinking of you x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think your situation is as heartbreaking Otilia because being married, you still have expectations! I'm free from those :) Thank you for your support, understanding and hugs x

      Delete
  10. That really is scary. I wouldn't have any problem whatsoever with a mum bringing her boy into the ladies room and I would be doing exactly what you are doing. There's hardly anything to see with everyone in their cubicle, is there? And I'd rather annoy an intolerant woman than put my child at risk. I think I'd even go as far as going in the men's room with them, if they insist they want to go in there - but I've got quite a thick skin with these things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Carolin and I might just have to bite the bullet and do that one day! x

      Delete
  11. Hi Anya! I read all your posts but haven't replied in so long. This one really got me though. I can't understand why women would be bothered about a boy in the ladies. Everyone is behind closed doors when anything personal is going on. With girls in the gents, it's very different, as Liz B said above. Everything is on show, or at least uncovered. I have a 6 year old boy and I will not let him go into the daddy toilets, as he calls them, he must go in the ladies, and I couldn't care less what anyone in the ladies thinks of that. I'm not compromising his safety to appease their sense of propriety. I'm with Carolin - thick skin. He has asked why he's not allowed, but I haven't told him, beyond there might be people in there we don't know (of course there are! What a weak answer, but it's all I have at the moment). Knowing you are the one that must have all these important conversations must be draining. I admire your strength and sense of what is the right thing to do. Not everyone, in a relationship or not, has those qualities. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Polly - lovely to see you! I appreciate your solidarity and kind words. Looks like my skin might just have to be thicker! Hope all is well your end XX

      Delete
  12. I struggle with this. Mostly in pool changing rooms though, where girls and boys are undressing together. I'm not at that point yet, but when my son reaches the age of 8 and has to change in the boys changing room, I will let him, because I've seen boys staring at my daughter when she's changing, and I don't like it. Public toilets are different though, and especially in the ladies there is complete privacy, so it wouldn't bother me. It's not just a single parent thing really, it's any parent out alone with a child of the opposite sex. I'm not comfortable when my husband takes my daughter out and she needs the loo - which should he take her to? Should he leave her alone in the ladies, or drag her into the gents? Parenting is just too complicated!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The conversations are a single parent thing Helen - I'm glad to see we all have similar struggles and I'm not being considered paranoid, tbh, not that it would change what I / we do. Thank you though x

      Delete
  13. I often have this discussion with my two boys as they don't want to come into the ladies with me. I only allow them now if they go together (they are 8 and 10) and I still stand guard outside. It is so hard sometimes trying to balance the good and the bad stuff you have to tell them and talk about with them. I think thought that kids are a lot more open minded these days and being honest with them is the best thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so tricky Nikki - and I know it's going to get harder to strike that balance. I have been as honest as I dared to be, but will remain so, thanks to your advice :)

      Delete
  14. As you know my boy goes in the gents on his own when he is with me but I'm always close and we have had conversations about strangers and what to do. I think my faith helps me a lot as I choose to trust that the risk is low and he will be OK. But like in everything each parent is different and we all have to do what feels right to us and to our children. I can believe being a single parent has lots of challenges I can not even imagine. Mich x

    ReplyDelete
  15. In most public places there are mother&child toilets usually meant for changing babies, but having a grown-up toilet too. So I don't get it: why don't you go to that one instead of either the ladies' or the men's since that is exactly what it is for after all: mother and child(ren).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We do use these places if they are available but most changing places do not have loos in them too. Also, they do not eradicate the need for this conversation.

      Delete
  16. I let Z use the mens by himself for the first time a few weeks ago, it was in our quiet local sports centre and I was right there waiting, but it felt like an excruciatingly long time he was there. It's so hard to know what to do for the best. xxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our location bears a lot of weight on how strongly I feel Emma xxx

      Delete
  17. Gosh - that's a situation I'd never thought of but I can imagine it causing upset all round - yours and theirs. I suppose you only have a few more years until No. 1 son can take No. 2 son in with him? x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess it will work itself out eventually! x

      Delete
  18. I don't know where anon shops. Yes there are places like that but they are not incredibly common. I did once use a disabled toilet for this reason with Aaron but got a good telling off from the Leisure Staff, so didn't ever do that again. The ladies giving dirty looks are just simply ridiculous. You do such a sterling job of raising two wonderful boys who will make amazing husbands one day.

    This post gives such an accurate insight into the difficulties and struggles of a single parent, that you so gracefully traverse every day. Your boys are lucky to have you. Sorry about these difficult conversations.

    Very enlightening post. So glad that your eldest understands, but not good he's come face to face with horrid people already xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for such kind words Liska xx

      Delete
  19. Having two girls I obviously always took them with me without giving it a second thought. I do see Mums with their boys from time to time and totally understand why, it would never occur to me to give them a dirty look. *sigh* xx

    ReplyDelete