It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted; it’s been Easter and I’ve been on full-time daddy duties for a fortnight. We’ve been out on adventures, enjoyed days indoors watching movies and had fun as a little five-strong family.
I actually almost missed the fact that 9 April 2018 marked my year anniversary of the day I asked my ex-wife to leave the family home; without the wonder of a Facebook “on this day” reminder, I’d never have remembered. I asked her to leave after finding out she was still sneaking off to see the boy that she’d had an affair with. I’d tried reconciling, but it needs both sides to want to do that and I reached breaking point, so took the somewhat unusual step of being a man asking the woman to move out.
Since then it’s all been “interesting”, but through it all I’ve somehow managed to keep all four of my kids alive and happy. They’ve been healthier than they ever have been (I know I’m tempting fate here, but they’ve hardly ever been ill), they’re thriving in school and adapting to our new life brilliantly. They still have issues with their mother, primarily around her ongoing relationship with the aforementioned boy (yes, I’m calling the 21-year-old a boy), and my eldest daughter rarely stays with her mum, but the rhythm and routine is there.
It might sound a little big headed and arrogant, but I don’t think I ever really worried about them. I’d always been a hands-on dad anyway, a situation which had only become more pronounced after my ex got a full-time job and I rearranged my working life to be an almost full-time dad. I took on all of the school runs, most of the dinners and most of the household chores, so when I became the sole adult I only had to do an extra couple of tasks to maintain a normal life for them.
No matter how dark things got for me personally, I made sure that my kids came first. I want to be clear that I’m not at all saying I’m perfect, nor am I doing anything that any person in my position wouldn’t have done, but I made an active decision to hide them from my own daemons while I battled them.
Few people choose to be single parents. It’s bloody hard work. You don’t have any time off while they’re around, and generally speaking no-one does any of the jobs around the house other than you. I can’t even believe myself how excited I was when one of my kids changed a toilet roll themselves. You are responsible for feeding them, getting their uniforms ready and making sure they wash their hair. You need to think of ways not only to amuse them at weekends but educate them if you can. No-one else will. It’s all you.
And do you know what? I wouldn’t swap it for (almost) anything. I’d swap it for a life where I didn’t need to be a single parent, of course, but failing some weird alternate universe stuff I am so happy with my kids. Even when they misbehave, I’m still proud of them and loving seeing them grow before my eyes. They’re funny and sarcastic and challenging and amazing, just like everyone else’s kids I’m sure.
Except these ones are mine. I’ve spent the last year learning how to manage things myself and how to remember the incredible mental load that being a parent brings. I still sometimes forget to keep cash in the house for school clubs, or to remind the kids to take their PE kits in, but on the whole things run smoothly.
So on Monday I raised a little glass of cognac to celebrate my first year and a larger glass to celebrate all the other single parents out there. You’re all doing incredibly, even if all you’re doing is making it through the day. It gets easier, at the same time as it gets harder. I might also work full-time, but being a dad is the favourite job I’ve ever had, and one I hope to graduate from one day.
Keep on keeping on, fellow single parents. You’ve got this.