positively single

Parenting alone is challenging, so make sure you surround yourself with supportive people.
By Helena Kingwill

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The fear of having to raise children alone is probably as ancient as marriage itself. Throughout history, a woman who is widowed or divorced has faced the risk of discrimination, isolation and poverty. Today, being a single parent is not unusual, but the historical stigma still hovers like a dark cloud.
 
Even with modern conveniences, it’s tough to parent alone. But, as with other challenges, the outcome of your situation is determined by your mental attitude. If you behave like a victim, you will not only become a victim of your circumstances, but so will your children. It is essential that you maintain a positive attitude and get the help you need.
 
flying solo
This may be why Donna Smith, a single mother from Cape Town, moved away from a group of other single moms she met in a corridor when she realised that they were caught up in complaining about their lives. Celebrated author Eckhart Tolle names this phenomenon “the pain-body” in his book A New Earth – Awakening to your Life’s Purpose. The pain-body is your emotionally-charged energy field that is activated when something has hurt or upset you.
 
When two or more people with a pronounced pain-body get together, this energy field becomes more powerful. The huddle of single moms Donna encountered seemed intriguing until she sensed that towering above them was the spectre of their collective pain-body. Donna knew that her equilibrium would have been disturbed had she joined the conversation, and she didn’t want to go there. Toll’s advice is to observe these things, and be aware of your reaction to them, so as not to be too drawn in emotionally.
 
Thelma Price, a mother of two from Cape Town, has married twice and is again single after experiencing both divorce and the death of her spouse. She says the worst part is feeling unacknowledged for the enormous amount of work you have to do as a single parent. Then there is the struggle with your own emotional burdens of grief and disappointment and, in the case of divorce, the awful feeling of having been rejected as a person.
 
Thelma joined a women’s support group to find guidance, but soon left. “The women were fuelling each other’s anger at their ex-husbands. It seems to be an easy trap to fall into.” Ronnel Rothschild of Cape Town, who has raised her son alone for the most part of seven years, says,
 
“Although support groups provide a safe space, separate from society, where the common issue is being a single parent, these dynamics make it easy for them to turn into whinge clubs, unless they are well facilitated. Therapy is ideal, if you can afford it.” She advises single parents to enjoy their free time doing something positive, rather than spending it complaining about the difficulty of their situation.
 
a societal norm
According to Statistics SA, only one-third of South African children live with both parents. Although a third of these are left with grandparents, the rest usually end up with their mothers. Despite the fact that it is such a common modern phenomenon, single mothers are still not given much social or physical support by the system. Loneliness can be one of the greatest stumbling blocks for a single mother trying to maintain a positive attitude.
 
“You have to do everything on your own, as there is one less set of hands,” says Marana Bosazza, a mother of four who single-handedly runs an organic vegetable farm and food gardens at schools in the Ciskei. She has been a single mother for seven years. “Single dads go through the same thing. It’s a problem caused by the modern nuclear family.”
 
Traditional African tribal society is probably the most forgiving environment to be a single parent in, as childcare is shared communally. Marana suggests sharing households with another single parent. “If you both have children, you can help each other and it’s a great way of finding support, short of staying with family.” She admits that single parenting can be relentless.
 
“Burnout is a common problem.” She advises other single parents to get enough sleep and go for regular massages. “Stressed people need to be touched. The stressed single parent doesn’t necessarily get physical touch except from their children. Then they take out their stress on their children. So, you must have a physical outlet.” In spite of all this, Marana has no regrets. “Getting divorced was the best thing I have ever done. I am a whole person now. Seven years ago, I hardly knew who I was. Now I am completely transformed. I even look different.”
 
When you start looking, there are plenty of upsides to being a single mom. Ronnel says she is relieved to not have to split her time and energy between her child and her partner. She also doesn’t have to consult someone about decisions. “Being married doesn’t necessarily mean one has more help. Many fathers are absent,” she points out. “I am so grateful to have my son in my life that I never feel hard done by.”
 

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