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...
"Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for single parents," someone says to me. And I immediately think, "No, not for me".
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as a single parent
I love Christmas. The cosiness of it, the winding down. The need to see everyone you know for a drink in the next two weeks. So much celebration. I even love Love Actually.
But I get it, of course. I get why it would be hard, as a single parent. All that family bliss. Togetherness. When the rest of the world seems near to hysteria with joy, and you’re not; then the contrast seems that bit more painful. Nothing like Christmas to really hammer home the reminder that your family is, in some eyes, broken.
Any loneliness, isolation, that you might feel as a single parent will only be emphasised by this time of year.
Except, I don’t feel lonely or isolated. Or that anything is broken.
I'm a single parent
It took me a long time to use the phrase 'single parent' about myself.
Partly, it was because it seemed somewhat funny to call oneself a single parent when you are co-parenting. Inaccurate.
Partly, it was because of my own prejudices. Pre-separation – in frustrated parenting moments – I did that thing of saying, "How do single parents manage it?" with a sort of baffled horror. Before I became one myself. Don’t we all? A crossing of the Rubicon not to be contemplated.
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when things get too much
But then you realise if the Daily Mail is getting hysterical about your kind, it essentially behoves you to embrace whatever it is they’re trying to stigmatise. And then you think who cares what label people apply to you? What does it matter? There’s no actual effect on your day-to-day life.
Mostly though, it was because I didn’t feel like a single parent, at all; with all the burden, isolation and on-your-ownness the terms suggests. The I-don’t-know-how-she-does-it-ness that it implies. The run raggedness. The being on the other side of some sort of fence from families, and couples.
And that is purely down to my family and my best friend. Because of them, I have never felt lonely, or isolated, or as if I’m carrying some huge burden on my own. Because they have been there, for everything. For both the big occasions and the bits that are the height of mundanity.
Every Lidl visit I asked someone to accompany me on. Every minor house repair; bath time; bedtime; weekend breakfast; made-up minor celebration; last-minute request to do the school run; Sunday walk in the park; Saturday shopping outing in town; weekend days out; movie nights in; trip to the swimming pool; weekends away without Herself; summer sun holidays with Herself.
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For form-filling; doctor's trips; child minding whilst I do laundry; doing the dishes while I make dinner. For last-minute minding of Herself on an occasional afternoon when exhaustion overtook. For endless phone conversations.
For seeing through all the firsts; anniversaries, seeing people, birthdays.
The absolute minutiae of life. The relentless of the everyday. There has never been no one there. I haven’t even had to extend a hand. They have just been there, so it hasn’t felt relentless.
I do not believe in positive thinking for the sake of it. If things are shit, they’re shit. Denying it in some forced glass-half-full effort isn’t always actually helpful.
And I have tried gratitude lists before, and while I know they work wonders for some, they didn’t do it for me.
But positivity isn’t that hard when you are being held up by others. And neither is gratitude.
And I am so grateful.