I was up for most of the night with my son who had the stomach flu. You know what that means... yup, we're all going to go down with it in this household. My only hope is that I have been exposed to this particular bug before so will have some immunity in place. I can deal with helping my children when they are sick, but it's never good when I become incapacitated due to an illness. It is at times like this when it really hits home and I realize that in a single parent family, it doesn't take all that much to upset the balance that is required to keep everything rolling along smoothly.
There are millions of people worldwide that are single parents, in fact, I might even be so bold as to suggest that this is more the norm than the exception now. Divorce is common and the traditional idea of what a family looks like has undergone tremendous re-definition in recent decades. But this post isn't about divorce or even families, it's about how Domestic Violence impacts single moms.
I have friends who are divorced parents and even the ones that don't like each other manage to co-parent fairly well. There may be frequent disagreements but I think the reason they are able to support each other is because both parents have their kids' best interest as first priority. I'm not saying that abusers don't care about their children, I'm saying that abusers have issues around power and control and that means that they are in the place of first priority.
Maybe I'm not expressing this well, let me try again: I can't rely on my kids' father to come through in a pinch. I can't text him and ask him to pick the kids up from school or keep them an hour longer and I certainly couldn't ask him to switch his access weekend because there's a course I want to take - We don't have that kind of relationship. There isn't any give and take because that would mean compromise.
As a single parent I am the adult in the home and it is my responsibility to meet the needs of my children. I need to make sure that they have clean clothes, that they get their homework done and that our home is stable, and so on. It would be nice to be able to pick up the phone and have a civil conversation with my ex about what is going on with the kids but that doesn't happen. I definitely can't pick up the phone and ask for his help. I'm not bitter; I'm a survivor and there is a very big difference. I have learned what works and what doesn't, I have learned precautions I can take to keep the conflict at a minimum and I have learned that I can't trust him to come through for me or the children. I have modified my desires and expectations to reflect the reality that I married an abusive man. I'm not blaming him but neither am I excusing him, it's just how it is and I can't change him.
Ultimately, as a single mom who has come out of an abusive marriage, it isn't the sleepless nights spent with vomiting children that most saps my strength, rather it is the residue left by Domestic Violence - it is the living within the cycle of abuse that means that even if things are smooth today I know by experience that he will soon begin escalating and that I will have to be on extra alert for whatever may come my way. I don't have any control over his behaviour, all I can do is use the tools I have learned to keep myself safe. And hope that with time his focus will differ and eventually his need to control every aspect of our interaction will ebb, as he realizes that I am no longer in his scope of power.
Post-script: I want to be clear. 1 in Four is not anti-father and certainly not anti-men. We are anti-abuse and pro-support for women who have experienced Domestic Violence.
(For some stats on single parent families, check out this Fact Sheet on Canadian Single-Parent Families )by