There are countless meme’s devoted to the joy of reaching Friday.
The weekend is over and now the fun can start.
Or maybe not.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand.
We all go through life waiting for Friday. When we’re younger, we look forward to the end of school for another week, time to play with our toys, play with our friends and spend time with our parents. Treats and sweets.
As you get older, Friday signals the freedom to socialise without worrying about work the next day. Hangovers can be indulged and it’s our time to relax.
When you’re a stay at home parent of a baby, the days all blur into one but if you’re in a relationship with a partner that goes to work, Friday night can often mean that a lie in might be offered the next morning, parenting can become shared and family time is treasured.
As our children grow up and start school, Friday means that we get our kids back at 3.30pm. Two whole days a week to enjoy (fingers crossed!) and make the memories that we hope to fill their heads with before they fly the nest.
Often, they combine. Friday means the end of work, we get our kids back and we can socialise freely (if you can cope with the hangover + kids)!
But what does Friday and the weekend mean to a single parent?
It can mean the joyful arrival of your child for their visitation if you aren’t the parent that they live with. It can mean relief to the other parent as they get a ‘break’ but it can also be extremely upsetting. Friday can be dreaded. Not many of us had children to then be forced to spend extended time apart from them.
Also, the weekend can remind us of everything that we’ve lost.
When my son was a baby, I received a text that I will never forget. I can’t quite remember what I was arranging – I think just a get together of my NCT group of Mum’s & tots that could include the Mum’s that had returned to work.
I was suggesting a weekend day. Of course, no one has to attend anything just because the have been invited but one Mum, maybe she’d had a bad day, I don’t know, but this ‘friend’ decided to make sure I knew that there was no weekend date that I could ever suggest for a get together, that she would come to, because as she and her husband both worked, the weekend was for spending ‘precious time together as a family’.
That stung. No, it more than stung, it really hurt.
I remember crying and I remember being really, really angry. My (now ex) husband had not long left us. I was struggling physically and emotionally and was grieving for the family life I had expected and the future I had invested in and longed for.
the weekend was for ‘precious family time’
It was crystal clear that we’d not be meeting up at any point soon. In fact, other than when I dropped a present off for her child’s second birthday, I don’t think I ever saw her again.
Fine. Friendships change and having a baby in the same month does not mean that you are going to bond and be life long friends, but the joy of social media showed me that ‘precious family time’ (that sentence even now, 6 years on can be spent with other families – the other 2.4 statistics that didn’t leave anyone out. A friend for Mum and a friend for Dad. Precious family time and friend time, all rolled together and combined for a fun day out.
But it did leave someone out. Me. The single parent the couldn’t provide the friend to make it equal.
Mum might have a friend to chat with but then Dad would feel like the spare wheel or equally, the other way round. No matter what, it leads to the typical ‘two’s company but three’s a crowd’.
It’s was the same for invites for dinner. They faded into oblivion. Again. I get it. When you’re both busy parents, you don’t always have spare time to invite people over but I found that I went to the bottom of the list with most (but not all) friends.
I’ll play devils advocate. Maybe it was me. Maybe I just wasn’t their cup of tea anymore, but it isn’t just me.
Vicky, who writes at Miss Tilly and Me, says:
When I was younger and I had three kids that were all born within 3 years, I found the weekends incredibly hard. It seemed like everyone was there for you in the week to have a coffee or go to the play centre but at the weekends, the husbands/ partners were home and it felt like I couldn’t impose on the families. I actually found that going to church helped me to socialise at the weekends. It meant that the kids went into Sunday school and I got a break for an hour too. Nowadays with Tilly, I love the weekends. I don’t feel lonely because we find something to do between the two of us and there seems to be more to do at weekends to keep us busy. But when you’re a single parent, no matter what day it is, it’s lonely as soon as you close your front door. I also found Xmas hard as a single parent, it was so lonely and you’re shut in your home for days with just you and your kids if you don’t have family.
Like Vicky, I have found that as Bear has grown older, I’ve found it easier to fill the time. We can craft, have fun day’s out or snuggle up together – the best bit being that we can have proper conversations now!
But being a single parent can be really isolating. Even if you’ve made good friendships at the school gates, it can hard for them to grow into invites on the weekend (except the never-ending birthday party invites). I guess that can be true for anyone, regardless of being a single parent or not but if you’ve no one to spend the weekend with, every weekend, it can make you feel even more alone than you already are.
A lot of ‘us single parents’ understand why couples want a weekend as just the family unit – it can be what we long for or grieve the loss of.
Bek told me
I usually spend my weekends with my children and my parents. I feel like I’m intruding on family time for my friends if I meet up with them at weekends. Very few of my friends can meet up in the week, due to work commitments, so I rarely meet up with friends nowadays. I did feel very lonely a couple of years ago. Since then, I have accepted that it is just the way it is. Now, I make the most of spending time with my children and work as much as I can if I’m feeling on my own. I only know one other single parent and generally only socialise by chatting to the other parents at my children’s clubs.
I think that being a freelancer can also make you feel lonelier – none of the office banter, chats at the kettle or celebratory nights out. Add in being a single parent…….
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Mandy is a photographer, writer and blogger. She admits that life can be lonely as a single parent but that there are benefits:
I tend to work all weekend but I’m pretty much a recluse when I’m not working anyway. I’m really lucky I guess because my best friend is also single so we get to do lots of stuff together but yes, being a single parent is lonely. I just don’t think I’m lonely enough to try and swap for an alternative, every time I try that it ends badly and so I think I’m better off alone, I’m actually happier alone and more than that, when I’m not with someone I’m way more successful.
I’ve not dated, not once, since my divorce. Number one, I have been too physically unwell to find the energy or time to date but like Mandy has found, it can obviously end badly and I don’t want that knock back for me or my son. I’m just not ready to put myself out there. My situation is a bit different as ultimately, I don’t really go anywhere without my son and I’ve not bumped into anyone that wants to date a chronically unwell and at times, physically disabled, single Mum that could really do with losing a few pounds *cough* stone, but I see where she’s coming from.
It’s just a shame that by not dating, by not wanting to risk our (usually) stable lives or that because, due to whatever reason (often the cost of babysitters, online dating membership subscriptions or a taxi home) a single parent hasn’t ‘coupled up’, we tend to spend our weekends alone.
As I write this, sat watching Bear run around inside a small play centre on a rainy Saturday afternoon, there are 2 tables with two ‘Mum’s and Dad’s’ (I assume), catching up as a foursome as the children wear themselves out and 2 tables of a ‘Mum and Dad’, having a break. Even numbers of adults.
There are 4 tables with an odd number of adults. Two tables that I assume are a Dad and his children, myself on one and again I assume, one table of a Mum and her children.
I’m on my computer, the other ‘Mum’ is on her phone. One ‘Dad’ is on his phone and the other sits with his chin resting on his hand, elbow on the table, staring into space.
I’ve made eye contact with the other ‘Mum’ and one of the ‘Dad’s’. We’ve smiled at each other. I think the other lady is a single Mum. Her smile just seemed to say “you too?” A knowing smile. I should go across and say hi really. Making friends with more single parent’s would be a good way to stave off the loneliness of the weekend.
Maybe I need to start a local single parent’s group……..?