Hear the words, ‘single parent’ and what does it conjure up for you? Struggles with money, a frantic woman failing to cope with feral children, or the loss of a fairy tale future? Such negative views of single motherhood can play their part in keeping us stuck in relationships that aren’t working. The conscious or unconscious belief that it’s too sad, too desperate and too hard to go it alone. But thankfully in Get Divorced Be Happy, Helen Thorn offers us another, balanced and more pleasing, perspective.
Helen, in case you’ve never heard of her, is one half of the comedy duo Scummy Mummies. And a newly single parent herself. She’s also a massive advocate of single parenting and feels that it doesn’t get the praise it deserves. Lone parenting, she writes, doesn’t have to be lonely, drudgery back breaking work. It can be about freedom, fun and only having to suit yourself and your children.
After all, being with the wrong person is often so much harder than being single and parenting your children as you please.
Why the sadness around single parenting?
Casting my mind back, I wondered if I have ever heard single parenting talked of in a positive way. And I remembered only one instance. An interview with Helena Bonham-Carter, where she told the Guardian journalist, Hadley Freeman, “The cruelty of divorce is extraordinary. But then you get to a point where you’re like, Oh, I get this week off! Some parts are very much to be recommended.”
But in Get Divorced Be Happy, Helen Thorn makes the argument for enjoying every aspect of single motherhood. There’s no one else to answer to, no one to consider aside from the kids and suddenly plenty of free time again. Time to reconnect with old friends, meet new ones, and consider your own needs.
So if single parenthood is really so good, why the radio silence? Shouldn’t we all be shouting it from the rooftops? The poet, Holly McNish who loves her life as a single mother, think it’s because mum’s feel guilty gushing about how good they find their child free time to be. In Get Divorced Be Happy she says,
“To say these two days are a joy is not an exaggeration; I love them. I can have anyone over or sit and stuff myself with chips and cheese all night; I can have last minute sleep overs at friends house; I can masturbate for three hours. I can read a book or chat on the phone or stare at a wall. Perhaps best of all, there is nobody observing me doing any of these thing; no judgements; no points deducted or scored.”
Helpful resources on separation and single parenthood
So if you’re considering going it alone, please don’t feel isolated. The resounding opinion is, it’s not as bad as you think. In fact single parenting can be really lovely sometimes – and there are mums all over the world acing it. But if you’re struggling, or feeling unsure, then there are plenty of books, advice and guidance available.
I can recommend, as a one stop shop, Gingerbread. This organisation not only explains your rights, but advocates for single parents and also provides a forum to connect with others.
Citizens Advice is also a great place to start if you’re thinking of splitting and wondering how to start the whole process. They’ll be able to tell you your rights, and put you in touch with low cost lawyers in your area.
And lastly, although there are many books available on the subject, I am particularly keen on The Family Lawyer’s Guide to Separation and Divorce by Laura Naser. Laura is, as the title suggests, a specialist in family law. And this book provides you with a great grounding on what’s what when you’re considering divorce or separation. She’s also very active on Instagram @thefamilylawyer.