There’s been some chatter recently regarding the #soloparenting hashtag. As far as I can see, it’s remained fairly civil with only a few sarcastic jibes thrown in but, as someone who is married but who parents alone a lot, I thought it might be interesting to look at the reason why it commanded so much attention.
First up, I can’t help but think that defining the semantics would help. To distinguish between #singleparenting and #soloparenting would be a good start and it feels less like we’re stepping on someone else’s toes. When my husband is away for weeks at a time, I’d never think to call myself a single parent. That would be a dick move and, although I don’t always succeed, I generally try to avoid being a dick. But, there’s no doubt that I am parenting ‘solo’ during those times, and relative to me and my situation, I definitely find those times hard for a number of reasons. Some of those reasons will be ones I share with single parents, some won’t be.
Those of us who have partners but parent alone regularly, don’t for a second assume that our situation is the same as someone who’s bringing up kids on their own. Or at least, I don't. Whether they’re there or not, I have the luxury of having a partner - albeit via the phone or the internet for half the year. If I lose my shit, I can call them. As well as that, when he’s away it’s for work so he’s earning money, money that we need, that the family relies on. He’s supporting the team, supporting us - I have support. That all makes the dynamics of solo parenting vs single parenting very different. I get that completely - while I’m physically alone a lot, I’m rarely emotionally alone. I have a person. That’s a big deal.
I’ve never been a single parent but as a solo parent I know this to be true: once my husband has gone, it’s actually ok. We find our rhythm and our stride. We get into a routine. Things sometimes feel easier because I don’t have to check everything with another adult. It’s my way all the way. I don’t have to work around another adult’s schedule. The kids don’t play us off against each other because, well, there isn’t an ‘other’. My bond with the kids is stronger - there’s a sense of us being in it together - and that’s something very special that solo parenting has given me.
But, when you’re married to a musician, the reality is that they dip in and out of family life when they’re touring. While it’s amazing to have a partner that you can call and rely on and vent to, even if it’s over the phone or FaceTime, the constant transitions between having him there and #soloparenting are really tricky to manage. So tricky, in fact, that our marriage at times has almost not made it. It’s disruptive for the kids and hard on me because when daddy’s home, I’m shunned. I don’t take it personally - they’ve missed their daddy - but when Bo screams at me to leave the room because she only wants Daddy, it’s tough to not feel resentful. And a bit hurt.
While solo parenting has it’s perks, it’s also true that the novelty of being able to watch what I want on the TV and starfish in the bed, wears off fairly quickly. The loneliness can be a killer and, as someone with anxiety and depression, I have to make sure I don’t slip into bad habits such as retreating, going off radar and becoming insular. I can only imagine that the loneliness as a single parent is a huge issue too. Again, my loneliness as a solo parent is only ever temporary - that makes it easier to handle, but still it’s real and it’s hard.
My situation isn’t the same as a single parent’s; other people #soloparenting aren’t in the same situation as me. None of our ‘hards’ are the same - what I struggle with, someone else finds easy and vice versa. There’s room for us all to talk about our experiences and with that can come compassion and understanding. We’re all good people just trying to figure out our own small spaces in the world, so whether you’re a single parent, a solo parent, a tour widow, a co-parent or any kinds of parent, it’s ok to say it’s hard, whatever your hashtag.