Single Parenting (Part 1): New Chapter. What Will You Do With It?

 When Emma Fulton became a single parent, she wrestled against the idea that it wasn't how her life was 'meant' to be. Here's how she began her journey of acceptance and triumph

My Family Care asks Emma: Not all families are better together, but becoming a single parent is a huge commitment. Whether you take care of your children full time or make sure you spend as much time as possible with them, what have you found the challenges and rewards of single parenting to be?

As a single parent...

Do you find yourself drowning in all there is to do? Wondering how you will get life back on track? How you will maintain your career and balance it with time with your children? Concerned that your children will be adversely affected by the break-up of their family or the absence of their other parent?

You are not alone

A quarter of all families in the UK are now single parent families. I've been raising my gorgeous six year old alone since his first birthday and, while I love my life as a single parent now, I haven't always felt this way and even now there are challenges.

This wasn't meant to happen

"We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to live the life that is waiting for us." Joseph Campbell

I was 32, successful, ambitious and a single parent. This was definitely not the plan, so there was emotional fallout to deal with.

Shame and fear

The two emotions that most engulfed me were shame and fear. I was ashamed that life was not working out the way it was 'meant' to. And now that it wasn't, I was terrified about what to do next:

  • How would I maintain my career and spend time with my child?
  • How would my child be affected by being raised by one parent?
  • Did I really have to maintain a relationship with his father?
  • How could I have a social life?
  • Was I destined to a life of loneliness and singledom?
  • What would I do with my life?

Gradually I let go of how I thought my life was 'meant' to be. Instead, I used the change in circumstances as an opportunity and it was liberating. I threw my life wide open and made choices based only on what I wanted for my child and I.

I couldn't do it all alone

So I enlisted the help of a coach, a therapist and friends. I created a vision for my life, I worked out what I needed to do to get there (from childcare, to moving house, changing job and everything in between) and then I did it.

It took two years and the last piece of the puzzle was leaving my job and starting my life coaching business.

If I can do it, you can too. Whether you wanted to be a single parent or not, you have a new chapter. How will you make the most of it?

Getting over a relationship whilst in a relationship

The end of my relationship with my son's father was in one way like other break ups; filled with grief, hurt and emotional swings. But, it was unlike other break ups in every other way.

The most striking difference was that I still had to see, talk to and cooperate with the ex. I couldn't turn my back and march off into the sunset. All the things that had led to the end of our relationship were still there and they had to be dealt with. Every. Last. One.

At the same time, I knew that how I dealt with this relationship would make the biggest difference to my child's life. However I felt about my ex-partner, was not relevant to my son's needs. So I set to work repairing and repurposing our relationship.

There were three main lessons that I learnt:

  • Being 'right' is completely unimportant. It changes nothing and can make things significantly worse
  • You always have a choice. No matter what the circumstances and what the other person has done. Your actions are your choice and responsibility
  • My child has a right to a relationship with his father, free from the baggage of my relationship with him. It was not always easy to honour, but it allows me to look at my son knowing that I am doing the right thing.

I'm not a machine

Fitting it all in is the biggest challenge these days. Taking care of the house, the school run, the homework, work, quality time - it goes on and on. There's only one of me.

Just be

Somewhere amongst it all most of us are lucky to find a couple hours a week for ourselves - just to be. And yet, you must. The most important thing I have learnt along the way is that scrimping on taking care of myself is a false economy.

Let things go undone if necessary

It is much more important that you keep yourself physically and emotionally topped up then almost all the other things you 'have to' do. Your children need a parent that is 'well' so whatever it takes (sleeping, exercising, seeing friends), do it. It is a selfless act.

Have a solid support team

I am sparing in when I ask for help, but it is great to know that help is available when I am in a physical or emotional pinch.

It's a journey

There's no doubt that raising a child alone is a journey and sometimes a challenging one. But it is a journey I would choose over and over for what it has taught me. Because, as they say, sometimes the things we can't change end up changing us.

Wherever you are in your journey as a single parent, I wish you a lot of fun on the adventure.

Emma Fulton, Mum, Founder of 385 Smiles

Emma is happy to answer any questions you may have about being a single parent, so please get in touch.