TLDR: single parenting / step-parenting / blended families is a fuck load of effort (I assume) so choose your sperm provider wisely.
Many months after declaring my social media addiction over I have decided acceptance is best. I am too heavily invested in the lives of strangers from the Internet. I will instead add to the time spent on my phone by ranting about them, the healthiest way to spend time.
Instagram is obviously my main thing because the influences have got me hooked. @mre.souer has 45k followers and a clothing range which isn’t Sainsbury’s sale and is therefore too cool for me. At some point she started dating someone and this triggered a stranger (who I can only assume is a genuine stalker) to message her saying she was ’embarrassing herself’ for calling herself a single mum online and then dating someone in real life.
This triggered a debate about when you stop being a single mum. Obviously every sane person agreed that shagging someone and going out for dinner is not the equivalent of your child’s biological father living with you and sharing the practical / mental / financial load.
Now there is always the odd knobhead popping up saying they consider themselves single parents even though they are married and living with the dad as he doesn’t help. Yes this is a twatty situation but unless you pay for everything and do every single thing in that household and for those children then no it isn’t the same. And if you are doing all of those things the only sensible choices are to kick him out or shut up whinging to genuine single mums (strong emphasis on the first option).
After that there seems to be a grey area of confusion. Is it when you are in an established relationship (when even is that?)? When you cohabit? When you cohabit and they help out like a biological dad would?
In my opinion it is never. Once a single parent always a single parent. Unless you are in a situation where the biological dad was never present / abandons legal responsibility and the step dad adopts, I can’t imagine that is a huge proportion.
And this isn’t driven by my desire to be a martyr or a desire to claim lifelong whinge points, but rather a healthy level of pessimism about step-parent families.
Hanging out with your ex
Assuming you cohabit with the most child-friendly, desperate to be a step-parent, person possible you still have to navigate a co-parenting relationship with the child’s biological parent.
You still probably have the logistics, negotiation and all round hassle of shared custody and missed Christmases. But you also get the awkwardness of your ex regularly seeing your current partner and/or you seeing your ex’s partner. A particular kind of small talk hell the nuclear families will never know.
Children are dickheads
Even an enthusiastic partner is still definitely not a biological parent. That step child didn’t know them from day one, they’ve seen the evil step parent fairytale, they can throw out the ‘you’re not my parent’ line on a whim.
Even if the child likes that person my guess is that no kid ever goes for a step parent when they wake from a nightmare, the step parent doesn’t take the day off work when fever hits and they probably aren’t stressing about nursery drop off hours or vitamin intake.
I also think there is something about being that child’s parent and watching them grow from a tiny baby that gives you a whole other level of patience that a new partner on the scene is not going to benefit from. Toddlers are unique twats. There is no logic, no persuasive skills on earth that can tempt them out of the worst tantrums.
Parents are somewhat blinded by love, and the sensible ones are also playing the long game. You don’t want to be a ‘naughty step’ dictator or send them to their room too hastily and give them abandonment issues in later life. You don’t want to make bribes a regular thing or you will end up with a teenager who requires a cash offer in order to get out of bed on time. The end goal is to raise a decent human being and if they push you to the point of insanity some days that’s the price we pay.
Would someone who isn’t lifelong connected to that small person, who isn’t blinded by an unconditional bond going to be quite so chill? I find staying calm during the worst times beyond testing and she is my daughter. Absolutely no criticism given to anyone who realises they are not equipped to deal with high stress situations with another person’s child.
Part of me also thinks it is the sensible / only reasonable option. As a biological parent you can be the bad guy, lay down the law with your kids and still be loved at the end of the day because you are their mum or dad. Is a new person on the scene going to be forgiven quite so easily by a grumpy child? I feel like it could easily be added to a list of resentment that won’t end well.
Here’s what happens when you date in your twenties, find a person, pool your little bit of savings until you can buy a house together, potentially get married, have a baby together. They probably earn similar before having a baby, they probably put the same into the house – even if they didn’t, the plan is to die together so who cares. Maybe one person earns less after babies and part time work but they are raising that other persons child so they balance it out so they are as well off as each other.
Here’s what happens when you date in your thirties. Most people have children: different amounts of children, children of different ages, children costing wildly different amounts of either child maintenance or direct expense. The person you date probably owns a home, they may have hugely different equity to you. As you’ve had more time for careers to progress (or be delayed by pregnancies) you’ve got more chance of big disparities in income. You’ve got more chance someone got stung in a divorce.
How do you even work out what is right or fair in that big mess? I don’t know.
The woman criticising mre.souer for calling herself a single mum when she’d started dating someone can fuck right off.
I think this riled me up so much because I do like my single mum badge. I am proud to be a single mum because it means I do most of everything. Right now other than a Sunday daytime I am responsible for all of everything (excluding childcare hours when I’m working and THANK GOD FOR CHILDCARE).
I know this long rant doesn’t fit most people’s definition of a single mum, and yes if you cohabit with someone it does make life easier. Cohabiting couples (you’d bloody hope) share out housework and running costs of the house.
However it is in no way the same easy division of work and sharing of the emotional load that comes with being in a nuclear family.
As a person who is disproportionately obsessed with the world being fair I find this hard to come to terms with. Because I had a child with the wrong person my life will, in many ways, always be harder as a result.
So to state the obvious, when you are deciding who to procreate with : don’t fuck it up.