Solo moms: When dad works far away

"Say hi to dad!"
"Say hi to dad!"

It’s 2019 and many parents are lovingly together, but raising their kids in a so-called non-traditional manner.

Beauty blogger Aisha Baker and her husband, cricket player Wayne Parnell could be considered one such couple – they find themselves apart quite often when Parnell’s away on tour. This leaves Baker to hold the fort by herself and, if her recent tweets are anything to go by, it is hard.

Earlier this year, the blogger posted a shout-out to single moms following a tweet stating that she knows what it’s like. She removed her initial post for the following: 

Saying it is "hard as hell" is 100% accurate, but, in-between the exhaustion, it is also rewarding, and beautiful and the stuff that super-powers are made of! I know this, because I too am what I call a ‘solo mom’…

Also see: WATCH: Be still my beating… Rice Krispies heart! The easiest, yummiest Valentine’s Day treats you can make for your kids

Solo (not single) parenting

For me, an unplanned pregnancy showed up as positive in the midst of a long-distance relationship (LDR), and my anxiety shot through the roof. 

Would it be possible to co-parent from two different countries? Can a relationship survive these conditions? Will we be able to provide our little one with the full, happy life that he deserves? The answer is a confident yes! 

What it’s like to parent solo

Let’s be honest; taking one for the team when it comes to all the admin of having a baby, such as waking up at all hours of the night is hard – but, to be fair, parenthood in itself is not an easy task. 

Like all things, some days are better than others, but it gets a whole lot easier when you have a solid support structure, and make peace with longer days and shorter nights – it won’t last forever, after all.

Solo-parenting, once-a-month visits, costly flights and story time via video call won’t last forever either. So, as a solo mom, I lap up the double dose of bedtime cuddles and appreciate that I get to witness every developmental milestone. All while my partner selflessly watches from a distance as I grow in my role as a mother – and he is my biggest cheerleader! 

When people refer to me as a ‘single mom’, my heart sinks. Not because I don’t see the comment as a compliment to my ability, but because it disregards my partner’s sacrifices. It ignores the effort he crams into the one week of the month that he gets to see us, and, as Baker points out, it shuns the financial and emotional support he offers. Because, after a stressful day, a phone call from your teammate makes the world of difference.

Also see:  "We spell love l. o. v. e but children spell love t. i. m. e."

Nurturing the relationship while co-parenting long distance 

While finding your rhythm helps, maintaining a happy LDR when there’s a child involved is no walk in the park. Some days feel harder and lonelier than others, but working with a clinical psychologist  who has a special interest in couples therapy  has taught us how to navigate successfully through this journey together. 

“Successful relationships require effort, and making a relationship of this nature work, demands that both partners be dedicated to the same goal”, says Cape Town-based clinical psychologist Cleo Kolbe. 

“It is not impossible. In my 30 years of counselling I’ve witnessed success stories from all sorts of unconvential relationships, but partners must be prepared to put in the work.”

She gives the following tips to couples in a similar situation:

1.  Communication

For couples in LDRs intimate and forthcoming communication is vital as the couple does not have much opportunity for physical closeness. But, many partners do not understand how to communicate constructively… 

“Communication is about expressing your thoughts and emotions, but it also involves listening to your partner with empathy, and understanding where their emotions stem from,” says Kolbe. 

Also see:"How do you afford being a single parent?"

2. Trust

Trust forms the foundation from which successful partnerships operate. While many couples put trust issues to infidelity, it can also be fueled by the fear of abandonment, which is often traced back to one’s childhood. It is therefore important that partners understand each other’s pasts as it not only benefits the relationship, but also offers a wealth of wisdom related to understanding each other’s parenting styles.

3. Goal-setting

While trust and communication are key, Kolbe explains that it is also vital for couples in LDRs to set goals that include the arrangement being temporary. Having an end goal in mind not only makes it easier for the partners to stay motivated, it also provides a secure and finite timeframe for the child.

Chat back:

What are some of your experiences as a solo parent or being in an LDR with a child involved? Send us your comments and we could publish them. Do let us know if you'f like to remain anonymous. 

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