Daniel Betts is a single parent from Basingstoke UK. He runs the website The Breaking Dad and the Instagram account @the_breaking_dad, documenting his journey through single parenthood.
Single parents all over the UK and the rest of the world do incredible things every day. They selflessly struggle, continually doing everything they can to do what’s right for their family. The life of a single parent can be a difficult one, often contending with emotional challenges, financial struggles and the burden of a stigma attached to them that they just don’t deserve.
Today is a day to throw all of that to one side and show a little appreciation. Single Parent Day is the perfect time to recognise how great the single parents of this world really are.
Fairy tales are old fashioned
I’ve been a single parent since March, 2019. Just days after my 30th birthday my ex-partner told me she was leaving me and, the next day, she’d moved out. As I watched her take my daughter with her, I realised that family life as I knew it was over.
My world came crashing down around me.
I worried about what my relationship would be like with my little girl. I panicked about what people would think of me as a single parent. I wondered how my life would ever be able to move on.
The next few months were incredibly difficult. I found myself bursting into uncontrollable tears at random times and constantly putting on a brave face.
I remember my brother coming to visit my daughter one day when she was over and having to keep leaving the room to cry inconsolably for five minutes, recompose myself and go back downstairs.
We later went to a family gathering during as if all was normal and my brother later texted me to say how amazed he was that he had seen me at my lowest and then as if nothing had happened.
That’s because as a single parent, you don’t have the chance to give up. Your life isn’t about you any more, it’s about your child and that means being strong. Stronger than you have probably ever had to be before.
That fairytale happily ever after just doesn’t happen very often any more. Do you know what? That’s OK.
Tip #1: Don’t ever believe any of these negative thoughts:
- I’m a failure because our relationship didn’t last
- My ex is a bad person for what they’ve done
- I can’t be a good parent if I don’t live with my child
- I’m worthless
For a short while, I believed all of them. Then with time, I realised that absolutely none of them were true.
My ex is a fantastic Mummy to my daughter. She has a kind heart and she means well. We haven’t exactly seen eye-to-eye since we separated. We’ve argued, not spoken and been through just about everything you can imagine a separating couple would go through.
I don’t hold any bad feelings though. The fact of the matter is we brought a perfect little soul into this world. How could I feel bitterness towards somebody I’m so grateful came into my life and gave me my daughter? Bitterness is for lemons.
Putting your feelings to one side is easier said than done for a lot of people and it can cause friction. Ordinarily when you separate with somebody, you’d sever the ties and move on. As a single parent, you’re bound to the person you no longer want to be with.
It’s understandably emotional. Always remember that you can be a good parent, whether you live with your child or not.
You’re stronger than you think
The transition from a dual-parent family to a single one can be a difficult one to accept.
Like the other approximately 1.8 million single parents in the UK who make up a quarter of families with dependent children, you can do it. You had the strength to bring a little human into this world; you’ve got the strength to deal with this too.
Most single parents didn’t intend to be single parents when they started. It usually comes about as a result of unfortunate and stressful events.
Bringing up children is tough at the best of times. Doing it alone is a constant balancing act: If we aren’t balancing our time, we’re probably balancing our finances.
Take a moment to applaud those people who are having to fly solo.
Tip #2: Follow these rules:
- Set boundaries
I know from experience that setting clear boundaries and rules feels more difficult when you’re separated. It’s natural to want to win your child’s love, but be careful not to kill them with kindness. You’re number one role is to raise a good person, right? Don’t sacrifice that in favour of being a good friend.
- Show your love
Praise your child often. Unconditional love and support, along with good quality time and attention, will go further than you know.
- Be positive
There are days when your patience will be truly tested. As your child develops, they’ll start testing you – it’s completely normal. You haven’t raised a bad child and you’re not a bad parent. Stay positive and you’ll get through it.
- Take care of yourself
Children require 100% of your attention, 100% of the time. It can sometimes feel impossible to look after yourself the way you need to, but remember… if you don’t take time to recharge your batteries, you’ll burn out.
- Seek support
There will be times that you just want to bang your head against the wall. It’ll seem like nothing you do is working. Again, it’s normal. Sometimes asking for help is the most important thing you can do to put everything in perspective.
- Be consistent
You may follow some of these rules some of the time, but being inconsistent in the way you treat your child will be incredibly stressful. If you’re patient and caring one day but short and sharp another, they won’t know what to expect from you.
Being a single parent is an amazing opportunity if you make the most of it. You have absolutely priceless one-on-one time with your child, and I look forward to it every day.
You can follow Daniel on Instagram at @the_breaking_dad and thebreakingdad.co.uk.