Things Fall Apart: Why, as a single parent, it can be a joy to have house guests

When Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves


We had house guests. It might not seem like much, but it shows how far we’ve come. Grief can shut a house down.

You’re barely keeping things on the road. Opening your house up to anyone beyond the people closest to you is exhausting. It took me nine months to have a dinner party.

Nine months of first contemplating it, then talking about it (endlessly), then finally doing it. And even then it was my oldest friends, the easiest people; who basically came in and helped me host a dinner party for them.

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Raw and open

Years ago my ex and I stepped into his cousin's house late one night to take over because the parents had rushed to hospital; their second baby on the way. We were minding the first.

I remember looking in their hot press for towels, and thinking how neat it all was, and that I’d hate the innards of our house to be suddenly, unexpectedly exposed to guests (we were not the tidiest of twenty-somethings). That’s how it is when you’re grieving.

So much of you feels raw and open. You close your house down as a form of shelter.

Later you open things back up. Have people in. And mostly it’s lovely. Although it takes getting used to; that you’re always hosting. That no other adult lives in your house.

You would think, given those circumstances, that having house guests would be a bit exhausting. In fact, it was the opposite.

Nice to have adults around

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They are college friends. We had all basically lived with each other at some point during those four years, in a house in Portobello which was the fulcrum of our gang. If you didn’t officially live there, you were dating someone who did. Or good friends with someone who did, and you slept on the pull-out couch.

So even though it’s been almost two decades, we slipped easily into the domestic dance again. Squeezing past each other in the kitchen, combining efforts to put together a fry, set up the table, answer children’s demands. And the children. One of them brought her daughter. And so hers and mine played upstairs while we adults sat around the breakfast table for hours each morning.

Waking up at the weekend as a single parent can occasionally feel like that moment in the few weeks after you bring a new baby home. Those first few seconds upon waking, where you forget you have a baby and your body starts to slow down and relax into Saturday morning. And then you remember that you’re a parent now and there’s no such thing as slowing down at the weekend.

I’m not suggesting that two parents under one roof somehow means lie-ins all round. But in a two-person unit, mother and child, there’s less division of labour. So first thing, you’re up and at it and just occasionally you can feel yourself fall into a lull of exhaustion.

It was nice waking to others in the house. Hearing them stir as we woke. Distracting from the tiredness. Spreading the work of getting the show on the road.

Photo: Katarzyna Grabowska on Unsplash


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