The solo mother
Some women chose to be sole parents.
Some women have sole parenthood thrust upon them by circumstances - relationship breakdown, widowhood, illness, partners working away from home for extended periods of time. Without question, being a sole parent is more demanding, but it also brings its own satisfactions.
It is likely that as a sole parent you will find it very difficult to manage both parenting and paid work, at least for the first few years.
Being on the domestic purposes benefit for those years may enable you to provide more emotional security for your children than would be possible if you were holding down a paid job at the same time. Perhaps, after a separation or bereavement, the children need that extra security.
Sole parenting also creates a new set of issues for the mother to cope with - how to organise parenting arrangements, perhaps with someone you no longer like or respect; helping you children cope with parental separation; establishing a blended family. Or perhaps you are a teen parent.
Here are a few practical things that may help -
- Work hard at organising personal support - reliable childcare, people with whom you can talk over issues, have a cup of coffee with, perhaps go on some joint outings with
- Link up with mothers' groups or sole parent groups
- Make sure you are getting all the financial assistance you are entitled to from Work and Income and Inland Revenue
- If you are in paid employment, discuss with your employer your family commitments as a sole parent and how best to reconcile them with your job.
- Above all, take care of yourself so that you are there for the long haul for your children.
Making shared parenting work
When parents split up they need to make arrangements for the continued involvement of both of them in their children's lives. This can be difficult. For one thing they have often split up precisely because they find it difficult to get along and agree on arrangements. So what is best for the children? No two situations are identical but there are some basic principles that should be considered.
First and foremost, the best interests of the children should be the guiding principle in working out arrangements. Second, it is important to realize that although you and your former partner no longer get along, he is still the children's father and they almost certainly still love him - even if you don't.
So for the sake of the children do your best to work out arrangements that will ensure loving and rewarding contact for them with both parents. Sometimes this is best done with the assistance of a third party as mediator or counsellor. The Family Court can assist you with getting access to this professional assistance.
And don't forget that the separation process is a very stressful time for the children too. It is a common experience for parents to be so busy with the practical details that they overlook the emotional needs of their children.
Shared parenting arrangements can be really tested when one of the separated parents starts a new relationship. For instance, if the mother takes a new partner then the children have to cope with a new man in their mother's life. At the same time the separated father may resent the new relationship. In this situation, the father can put pressure on the children by talking to them about the new relationship, asking them questions, and so on.
If you do decide to merge or blend your family with your new partner's it will require a time of adjustment for everyone. It can be an especially difficult time for the children of the two merging families as they continue to adjust to changes in their life being made by adults. Sometimes, for example, they don't actually like the other children now entering their family or they may not like the new partner and resent the fact that he is replacing their father in family life. Your children will have feelings, positive and negative, about all these events so provide a relaxed environment and opportunities for them to talk about their feelings in their own time. Let them get things off their chest. Don't criticise or correct what they say - just listen in an accepting and uncritical way. If at times hard things are said, bite your tongue and remember that they do love you. And don't say negative things about the other parent. Don't forget to give them lots of hugs and to talk about the good times you have had together.