There is a group of unsung heroes amongst us that I feel called to salute….

Here’s to you, working and/or studying sole parents.

There’s busy parents and there’s busy, working parents and then there’s busy, working, sole parents – and that’s just a whole new level.

Whilst other parents debate the merits of working or staying at home, you know you don’t have the luxury of that choice.

You not only deal with parent-guilt but you also deal with career-guilt.  It’s catch 22.  When you’re at work, your mind is on your children and when you get home you worry whether that distraction means that you are not performing at your optimum at work.

You know it’s 3 o’clock every day without even looking at your watch.  You know by that tightening in your stomach and the weight on your chest.  “Will they get home from school ok?”…”Will they lock the door behind them when they come home?”…”What if they start rough-housing and someone gets hurt?”…”What if they decide they want to cut an apple up instead of eating it whole?  What if they cut themselves?”….and so on.

The morning rush to get breakfast and the kids off to school is coupled with your own efforts to look effortlessly professional and ready for work – no matter what last-minute disasters occur (and trust me, they do).  I once had the dog eat the kids’ budgie 10 minutes before the school bus was due and I had to leave in the other direction to get to work.  It was a case of quick hugs, suck it up and call the neighbour to get rid of any evidence before the kids got home that afternoon.

Camping trips look like this.  You organise, buy, prepare and pack all the food.  You pack all the clothes and bedding.  Then you fill the gas bottle, get ice for the esky, check the tents, lights and other camping gear, pack the car, drive to your chosen camping spot, put the tents up, build the fire….and relax…until you have to do it all over again in reverse.

Mums – you teach your boys to fish, play french cricket, tie a tie and shave.  Dads – you teach your girls how to do their own hair (after you learn yourself) and teach them about their bodies (after you learn yourself!)

You need to be able to discipline and set boundaries that you can stick to and enforce.  You need to carefully consider the things that will make life more peaceful for everybody, because there is no back-up, no good cop/bad cop and no “Wait til your father gets home.”

Sometimes you combine all of the above with the stress of family breakups – court battles and arguments over money and custody of the children.  You might be grieving the loss of the family you once had while you’re trying to create a new life. You might be living in fear for your own safety or that of your children.  You might be dealing with your children’s hurt and confusion.

You might be lucky enough to be in a successful co-parenting arrangement where very little of the above applies and if so, I congratulate you and wish you well.

However, if you’re doing it all on your own – I salute you.

Why?  Because I am you.