Diary of a full-time single dad
Sometimes a break in parenting is essential for your sanity as well as that of your kids.
It’s the final few days before Maddi’s mom returns from a month abroad and I’m in two minds about my experience of being a full-time single dad. On the one hand I am counting the days to her return (as I’m sure Maddison is as well), while on the other hand I have to admit to rather enjoying the experience. I don’t rightly know whether or not we are entitled, as such, to a break from parenting, but because that comes with the territory of single-parenting, or rather shared single-parenting, I’ve come to enjoy my “off weekends” and “off days”. This month has been a revelation in many ways. The first of which is that there is no escape and no option for surrender whatsoever.
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is not to take myself too seriously about the whole thing. My views on parenting are on record, but I think if we took this very important responsibility as seriously as it is required all of the time, we would certainly go a little potty eventually.
There’s a constant underlying stress of wondering where the kids are, what they’re doing, are they eating properly, who they’re associating with, are they having dramas at school, what’s really going on between them and their siblings, how are they interpreting what they see on TV and via social media etc. The awareness of these challenges are naturally shared when two parents are involved and I guess if the two parents are on the same page (whether together or not) the stress can be shared and every once in a while one of the partners gets to take a break.
The upside of the experience is watching your direct influence take shape during discussions on everyday occurrences. Seeing issues of discipline and routine being manifest without having to remind it 50 million times has been very rewarding. Being tested and having my boundaries challenged at every turn has been interesting to say the least. There have been moments when I’ve just stared at her in disbelief, pretty much every morning on the school run. She’s not a morning person, so mornings have been a particular test of my sanity, especially since I am the exact opposite.
There’s this weird reaction that wells up in me when my reprimands and increasingly desperate behaviour is met with stubborn refusal combined with smart-ass comments or my particular favourite, being ignored like the village idiot. My initial knee-jerk reaction is to do something draconian, like fling her off the Eiffel Tower, you know, just to see if she can fly, or to see how long Miss Smartypants can actually hold her breath underwater. These thoughts flash through the brain very quickly, but I think all good parents have a safety mechanism that clicks in and makes us see the funny side, because very often immediately afterwards I have to hide my face to contain my laughter.
Some of my friends think I’m an “ou toppie” because I go to bed at 20:30 now… Well so be it, I read her a bedtime story at about 20:20 and, yes you guessed it, we both pretty much fall asleep around the same time and I am truly exhausted.
I am grateful though that I get to share my responsibilities with someone equally responsible, cos when all is said and done, I think married or single, a break in parenting is essential for your sanity as well as that of your kids.
Read more by Marlon Abrahams
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