Tonight is parents evening at school and as usual I will wear my office clothes and make sure my nails are done in an attempt to feel like the “grown up” it sometimes feels like I’m pretending to be (not helped by the teachers making you sit on those tiny little kids seats). I have always worried about being perceived as a responsible parent, but even more so since becoming a single parent.
Before my divorce I am ashamed to say I may have held preconceptions about “single parents” and their offspring, I’m not proud but yes I thought they were not as well brought up, less educated and less responsible than Mr & Mrs Happily Married Couple and their kids. Awful I know, but it’s a sad fact that before being on my own with the kids I probably only had one friend who was a single parent, now of course I have loads, we tend to gravitate together as a support system, for helping out with childcare or just for proffering a glass of Merlot when it all gets too much.
I have loads of happily and possibly a few unhappily married friends too and at last I have realised that we are all the same, all just trying to do the best we can for our children.
So why do I remain ever so slightly embarrassed about the fact that I am not with the kids dad? I work, I put food on the table, my children are healthy, well cared for and hopefully polite and well behaved (we’ll find out tonight), they are brought up in two loving households with even more people to care for them now, they have a great relationship with Mr B and yet I worry that being from a split family will give other people preconceived ideas like the one’s I used to hold about them.
Perhaps that’s partly why after my divorce like many women I kept my married name and still use the title Mrs. There are other reasons though, I didn’t want the hassle of changing my name on bank accounts and bills but mostly it is because I feel it is a connection between myself and the children I don’t want to break, it also makes it easier for schools and other clubs to identify me as their parent, but if I’m honest, in my mind if I have to contact the school and say hello it’s Mrs C phoning about my child Miss S it immediately shouts SPLIT FAMILY!
I know this sits uneasily with some people, I noticed the other day that my partner has me logged in his phone contacts under my maiden name even though it is a name I have never used while with him, when I questioned him he couldn’t explain why but I’m guessing he doesn’t like the fact that I am still in someway linked to my ex, maybe he thinks I want to keep some kind of connection to him (but I can say hand on heart it’s not that), although obviously we will always be connected because of the children.
Why do I still feel in this day and age it’s such a stigma? I don’t know but I do know that when my son told me his teacher had asked them to draw a picture of their family and he had asked whether he should draw his dad as he didn’t live in the same house, I was upset for my son having to ask the question and felt responsible for putting him in that situation.
At the start of another term my daughter was asked to fill in a form letting the teacher know a bit more about them, I’m not sure which upset me more the fact that she again had to highlight the fact that she didn’t live with her dad or the fact she claimed McDonalds was her favourite meal, we hardly ever have McDonalds. Great I thought now the teacher has labelled me single parent who feeds her children a diet of junk food!
I know the teachers aren’t judging and hopefully other parents (unlike I did) aren’t either, the school needs to know a bit about the kids background so they can deal with any uprising situations in their personal lives and I’m sure they’ve seen it all before. So why do I get so het up about it? Maybe it’s because I feel I have let the kids down by not being able to give them the family unit other children have, but then who’s to say kids in 2 parent families are necessarily better off? (If you ask my daughter she’d definitely say she has the better deal especially when it comes to 2 lots of birthday and Christmas presents.)
So I will try harder to be proud of who and what I am and set a good example to my kids by showing them they have nothing to feel embarrassed about, and when Mr B joins me at parents evening like he did last year (work commitments make it difficult for dad to attend) I won’t just let the teachers assume he is the other parent, well maybe 🙂