Things Fall Apart: I’ve cracked the code to weekends as a single parent

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...


Getting the balance at weekends when you’re separated can be tricky. All those boxes to tick. Child time. Me time. Seeing friends, doing a food shop, exercise. All this to the background noise of exhaustion after the week.

Without the given infrastructure of the week to hold you up (the scaffolding of getting to school/work, dinner/bath/bed to keep you going), you can realise your own exhaustion.

The answer?

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Pre-planned, tried and tested outings you know work. When you’re depleted, in the moment it can be hard to come up with something. And people close enough that their company does not feel like having guests.

Early into life after separation, Saturday nights had the potential to make things feel particularly... separated.

To feel that every other family was tucked up together on their couch, or alternatively out having the time of their lives.

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I came across an article by journalist Sali Hughes in which she described how, after her separation, she instigated a tradition of Saturday night movies nights; in bed early with pizzas, popcorn and a movie with her two boys each Saturday night. Now, years later, she wouldn’t dream of going out on a Saturday night. I did it, and it changed things entirely, making Saturday nights something to look forward to, rather than a watching of the clock until bedtime.

There are also movie nights for adults; less salacious than that might sound. Either the Work Wife or the brother and sister-in-law come over. People who require no effort, in the nicest possible way. For when you’re too tired to officially DO anything, but you want to have 'done something' more than being on your own.

Easy days out

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Conversely, the big day out is a weekend winner for us, even more so if exhausted. This one makes you forget your tiredness, where a day at home serves to just emphasise it.

Our favourite format is DART into town, Milano for pizza, then one of the art galleries for the children’s workshops. We finish up with a trip to Merrion Square’s playground where I routinely make an idiot of myself screaming and climbing up after her when she disappears into the tower and I convince myself she’s about to come a cropper. I am that parent. On occasion.

Obviously, one should never be smug. The parenting gods are always listening, ready to strike you down. One delighted admission they slept through the night, and they won’t do so again for months.

But apart from the occasionally particularly exhausting weekend, I feel like we’ve cracked weekends.

A weekend on the town

Occasionally we go big. Recently, we threw a trip to The Nutcracker ballet with the grandparents into the 'big day out'. We talked about it for weeks. We planned our (Her) ballet inspired outfit (shorts over leggings, a pineapple t-shirt and fairy wings), we talked about what we would eat, what treats we (she) would have.

Boarding the DART at Clontarf, Herself suddenly began screaming. “There’s a rock in my eye.” By the time we reach Pearse Street, this has escalated to “I can’t see.” We struggled down to street level, me now carrying Herself, as well as the bag, the scooter, the helmet. Both wearing huge puffa coats, it was like trying to carry a weighted, slippery sleeping bag.

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I had decided that a particularly swish optician near Grafton street was the answer.

No taxi would stop, and there was no way I would be able to carry her. And then a Garda car pulled in on some other business; oblivious to the adjacent screaming child and near screaming-point mother. F**k it, I think. If I’m going to be a single mother whose child lost their sight, then at the very least I’m getting full value for my taxes.

Going for it

"Guard", I bleat, "she’s losing her sight. Please, help us."

Herself, of course, chooses this moment to turn to the biscuit (the size of her head) I have managed to procure in an effort to distract. She momentarily looks less like a person in the grip of extreme pain and more like someone fixated on the Skittle embedded in the cookie. The guard looks dubious, but relents. His kindness almost undoes me.

What happens next I can only attribute to some sort of panic, induced by finding myself in the back of a squad car. “Anyone watch the Morris McCabe documentary last night?” I enquire.

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They humour me, smiling. “Yes. We all did.” To which I reply, “Five kids. Amazing. How do they do it?” In a ridiculous effort to save things.

Thankfully that conversational cul-de-sac ends as we arrive at our destination. In a final act of kindness, they turn on the siren for Herself, and I want to hug them with gratitude – but thankfully decide against it.

“This is the worst day ever,” Herself grumbles after the optician has confirmed that there is now nothing, rock or otherwise, in her eye. It’s become a joke between us now. When we’re having particular fun she will grin and say with a wicked glint, “this is the worst day ever.”

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

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