Is Loneliness The Worst Part of Single Parenting?

In my life as a single parent there’s nothing I really begrudge, but admittedly the loneliness does get tough.

You’d have to be a robot not to get affected by it; as humans we are pack animals, used to travelling together, working in a partnership to hunt and gather (or, in 2016, deciding on and ordering a Deliveroo).

So I guess it’s only natural that spending night after night on my own can get a little tedious sometimes.

It’s not all bad: I’m a glass-half-full person and totally appreciate how lucky I am to be able to watch nine episodes of Grey’s Anatomy in a row (it happens) without anyone moaning about it. I also feel hashtag-blessed to be able to light a lovely scented candle in the evening, soak my feet pre-pedicure or spend an hour slathering my face with oils and potions in front of the telly… all things a blokey bloke would probably take issue with. There’s also no sharing of the delivered poppadoms – as long as the kids are in bed – and I can sit up with Netflix as late as I bloody want. Liberating, huh?

But then it does get exhausting, spending night after night alone. Having nobody to discuss my day with or cook dinner for; the absence of human contact and affection really does wear me down. I’m one of those needy people who enjoys external validation, so there’s nothing I love more than pleasing people with food; Instagram goes some way to allay my insecurities but it’s not the same as a farting, belching bloke.

I run a tight ship: routine is everything at Casa del J-T. And so, whether holiday or term time, those children need to be in bed by 7.15. Counting back, if we’re eating dinner at home that means we’ll need to be in the front door by 5pm at the latest, upstairs for bath and pyjamas by 6, and downstairs for wind-down at 6.45.

Which means that, come 5pm each and every day, unless we’re having a special treat dinner out we’ll be at home. And that is where we stay until 8am the next morning. Consequently we must always have a full compliment of supplies in: milk, tea, bread, breakfast, because there’s no room to run to the shops in this dictator’s evening routine. No emergency chocolate runs, no last-minute dashes for ice cream. Farewell, sweet evening sugar.

On the two nights a fortnight the children aren’t home I always make sure I leave the house. Even if it’s just for a jaunt out to Waitrose for a packet of biscuits or five, there’s something that feels so liberating about escaping my four walled prison post-5pm. Do you remember how incredibly free you felt when you passed your driving test as a teenger? It’s like that!

And if I want to turn the freedom vibes up a notch, I GO OUT AFTER DARK. Which basically feels as wild as that one time I lost my belt crowdsurfing at Reading Fest 2002.

What I should do is invite friends over for gossip more often, but I’m so aware of encroaching on their family time. They want to spend their evenings eating romantic dinners with their husbands, holding hands watching a film, rubbing each others feet while canoodling on the sofa. Because in my idealistic mind, that’s what marriage most definitely looks like ;)

Then there are the weekends, those grand expanses of time that require filling lest I start mooching around the house, missing the children. I used to arrange all my dates with military precision at these times, but since I started trying to meet people in the real world rather than on matchmaking websites I’ve basically become a nun. Seriously, if it wasn’t for Grey’s Anatomy I think I would have forgotten about that hot and sweaty physical activity that two people do together in bed (it’s not tennis, but there are certainly balls involved).

I used to spend this time down in London, and in honesty now the weather’s looking up I will be enjoying a craft beer or two in the big city. But my friends are the best drinkers I’ve ever met (#proud) and I have to watch my booze intake carefully, because I can’t parent on a three day hangover like I used to.

The occasional weekend loneliness is different to the weeknight loneliness, though. A true empty house is difficult, it echoes, it’s dark, it’s brooding. A house with the children upstairs is still a family home, and I relax with ears half-open to hear shouts of ‘mummy!’. If I feel lonely on a weeknight I can head right up the stairs, squeeze the babies and remember that it’s worth it. That kind of loneliness ain’t so bad.

So, is the worst part of single parenting the loneliness? I guess it could be if you let it get to you. Those long nights merging into one could take their toll, those expenses of time with no adult contact (apart from Twitter, holla!). It can get tough, there are no two ways about it: it’s difficult to not feel imprisoned in a jail of solitary motherhood.

If I ever start feeling that way I remember to treat myself to things I wouldn’t do if I lived with someone else: I put my favourite music on, grab a stack of magazines, pour a glass of wine and eat crisps for dinner. And as I read on a greetings card once, you’re never drinking alone if your kids are at home.

Amen to that.

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  1. Joanna Frangos wrote:

    Hi Alice – I have to ask you why you have stopped doing the “matchmaking sites”? Maybe the same impulse that had me give up dating “for Lent” and putting my energy into meeting someone in the course of daily life. Well, that was back in March/April and it didn’t happen. So I have put myself back on Tinder. And revisited a guy I dated at the end of last year.
    I can hear the undercurrent in your words, and I think it is shared by many single people…..
    You are definitely ripe to meet someone. I do think you might dip your toe back into the dating app world. I met someone last week, very early days but I’ve had three lovely dates and that is just fine with me. Best to expect nothing and then be open to whatever life brings.

    Posted 6.8.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Hi Joanna!
      No reason really – I’m just very much enjoying life at the moment and, though I would really like to meet someone, I’m enjoying ploughing the energies into work. I am still doing the odd search on Guardian Soulmates to see if anyone new joins ;) I think I got a bit jaded as well with the ‘lads’ on there, too…. I’ve got a holiday coming up with the children then a trip to see a friend in New York, I think once I’m back from my holidays I’ll get back on the online market. Unless I meet Prince Charming at some point between now and August.
      Great news that you’ve met someone! Even if it doesn’t go anywhere it is lovely to spend time with nice people, I really hope it goes well for you. Please check back in and let me know! x

      Posted 6.8.16 Reply
  2. Sophie H wrote:

    Spot on as always. I’ve been inside since 3.30pm and have resorted to Love Island to occupy myself.
    If you ever fancy turning one of your trips to London into a single mums meet up then count me IN!

    Posted 6.8.16 Reply
  3. Elly wrote:

    I’m ok with the loneliness at the moment…I’m only a month in and taking time to adjust, but the thing that made me cry like Niagara Falls most recently (in happiness and sadness) was my son rolling over for the first time and not having anyone to share it with.

    Sure I can tell my friends and family but how long will that interest last? I don’t want to be that beg that constantly tells people about her kid.

    I’m sure it will get easier in time and I won’t mind so much. I’ll just enjoy those moments all to myself.

    P.s just got into craft beer myself and quite like Big Wave. X

    Posted 6.8.16 Reply
  4. Pen wrote:

    Hi Alice,

    I am never sure whether I am lonely or whether I just enjoy the me time at the end of the day. There are times when I would really like someone to talk to of an evening after I have put Cygnet to bed.
    I spend most of my evenings watching crap tv, blogging or on the Internet or swiping left on bumble. I have met a couple of ppl on bumble but it won’t go anywhere. Why would men in their 30s want to get with a single mum? Anyway we’ll see how it goes. Great post as always Alice. Pen X

    Posted 6.9.16 Reply
  5. Donna wrote:

    I’ve been on my own in the house with the kids since last September – and they moan that I’m on the phone all the time. But the lack of adult contact gets to me so much that at least three nights a week I’ll arrange to catch up with my friend/sister/former colleague for a gossip. Even if it’s just an hour out of my evening, it makes me feel like I’m not so alone.
    It is a strange kind of loneliness. You’re never really on your own, but you very much feel it.

    Posted 6.9.16 Reply
  6. Clare wrote:

    Standout post, beautifully evoked. Thanks Alice x

    Posted 6.9.16 Reply
  7. Caroline wrote:

    Ditto all of the above! So hard, isn’t it! Not that I’ve even contemplated dating yet……HOW?


    Posted 6.12.16 Reply
  8. Paul wrote:

    It’s a conundrum – being single is great, you get to do exactly what you want to do. As a bloke, I can play on my PlayStation to my hearts content, and nary a word of “stop playing bloody video games”. Bliss.

    But then, my PS4 doesn’t give very good cuddles.

    Posted 6.13.16 Reply
  9. Being a single parent i think is lonely. The daytime im fine it’s evenings. When everyone else is relaxing with their partners and sharing stories from their day….my little guys in bed and i only have the cat for company. There are times when i like having time to myself snd not having to compromise about whats for tea or whats on the tv etc.

    Posted 6.15.16 Reply