1. Things you should know before dating a single mother:
Really? If you can't figure out that I need notice to organise a babysitter you're probably not smart enough for me to forgo a night in my camo pyjama bottoms watching Trainwreck for the umpteenth time.
Seriously. Half the world is a single parent. Most of the time we date other single parents (in my case, in my fantasy, alternate reality world, but you get my point) and even if they're not a parent most single people with IQs higher than a kitchen sponge can grasp a few basic concepts like needing notice and not expecting sex on living room rug. It's probably covered in art projects anyway.
You don't need a guide to sex with the single mum. Heck, talk about making us seem difficult and too complicated. The bits are all the same, possibly a bit lower, is all.
2. What not to say to a single mother:
This one makes me really stabby. We're not especially deserving of tact and care. We deserve precisely the same amount of respect you'd show anyone else.
Just like you're not being deliberately offensive by mentioning your children in front of someone with fertility issues, you're not upsetting me if you bitch about your husband in my hearing. People constantly message me urging me to tell mums with partners to stop saying "oh, I'm a single mother this week" when their men go away.
No they're not, but I'm not about to start telling other women what to say. If their other half goes away and they find it hard it's a sign that the load - kids, earning money, housework - in their relationship is shared and that's a good thing.
Treat me like I'm - brace yourself for this one - just like any other mum at the school gate. Don't be rude to anyone. If you wouldn't ask the married mother how they survive financially, don't ask it of me either. But shit, bitch away about your man. Hell, I could tell you some stories . . .
3. How to be a friend to a single mother:
This is pretty complicated so bear with me. You BE A FRIEND. I don't come with special instructions. I like wine, chick flicks (especially comedy, although did anyone else really want to love Sisters and hate it? Thought so) and coffee at a nice café on a Sunday morning that I didn't make myself.
Being single is not a disability, I'm not a minority in need of affirmative action and trust me when I say I was this awkward way before I was ever single.
4. What single mothers want you to know:
OK I'm a total hypocrite here because I blog on this very topic. But not because I insist that people get what is going on in poor, misunderstood little moi's head. I'm a writer. To make sense of the world, I write.
Years ago as a rookie reporter I interviewed Helen Brown, at that time New Zealand's favourite weekly columnist. When her young son died, she explained she coped by doing the only thing she knew how to do, which was write. So yeah, what she said. Read it, don't read it. I don't need you to feel sorry for me/admire me/help me. Everyone is fighting some sort of battle, single parents aren't alone in that.
I just need to write.
I find my most enthusiastic readers are other single parents anyway so I'd be wasting my time trying to convert the married world to my way of thinking. As a workmate who is also a single mother put it: "Did you hear that? That's the sound of your column resonating with perfect pitch."
5. Reasons single parenting is hard:
Parenting is hard, full stop. Especially when they're small. I would imagine the single mother with the preschool kids does have her hands full. But then I think back to how you're also expected to be some sort of master chef/sex goddess at night when all you want to do is have an accident so you can have a few peaceful days in the ICU, and suddenly nights by yourself seem pretty darn great.
You know, the relationship broke down for a reason, because it wasn't that great. For some of us, things are easier when the person who made it hard is gone.
Take the Oprah approach. Energy flows where attention goes. If you focus on the tough stuff you'll miss the cool stuff. A single friend's teen son dragged his mum into the father/son pics at his high school ball saying "she was both for me" and started a tsunami of young men roping in their mothers for pics.
Yes, there's only me and my income to pay the bills. But there's also only me to spend the money and if you've ever gone to pay something and discovered the money was diverted into a fishing trip you didn't know about, you'll understand how great that feels.
I don't have anyone to talk to at night but that's why they invented Facebook, right?
I can feed the kids and then eat coffee and chocolate for dinner, nobody farts in my bed but me and I am actually allowed the TV remote. I have no idea how to work it, but it's the principle. If I can get the TV to work, I can choose. So empowering and life changing, like winning the lottery or finally getting Botox.
Stop making rules for how to interact with single people. It's hard enough to get social invitations.
Be my friend. Tell me about your shit, don't assume I've got too much of my own. Other people's shit can make mine seem minor.
There's only one rule. When you come to moan about your shit, bring wine.