I recall living a lonely life because my mother was a single mother and I was the only child. Then, I never suspected that she was lonely because my mother was the outdoor type. But now, I believe it was the loneliness that drove her outdoors.
Nine years ago, Franca became a lonely single parent just like my mother. Then her longtime friend from Iyana Ipaja got an MTN job. Her lonesomeness became even more unbearable. Helen was her confidante and consoler after her Tobi died. She got pregnant for him out of wedlock and three months before her delivery, Tobi was involved in a ghastly car accident. Ever since, Helen had made her life bearable until a job snatched her bestie away to Ibadan.
Over the years, Franca had been repeatedly assured that “lots” of people are in her situation. She does mingle with singles like herself though, but she confessed that she hardly noticed lonely ones. Maybe they are simply good at hiding their conditions.
A lonely single parent has no counterpart, someone to switch off with. These are sole guardians. They are ultimately on their own.
There’s a tight cost-benefit connection to everything that’s made Franca an extremely productive person with deep, meaningful relationships with friends and clients. Her situation has made her to be on the alert. She can’t afford to be careless with her life, especially her emotions. She always manages every minute and every naira.
A few years ago, she had to choose three areas of her life to spend money—areas that made Franca feel the most important and most respected—and she had to cut everything else. So, she dresses classy and invests more on her looks. Apart from her psychological make up, it is good for her supply business.
Franca had heard that just five percent of single-parent-owned female businesses survive the five-year mark. She is not sure what the stats are on lone parents, but she believed she could be in the top five percent if there were a list.
She is also the grateful recipient of random acts of kindness. When the battery of her second- hand car randomly died and she was left waiting for roadside assistance for three hours, the school principal generously drove her son home because he is perfectly aware of her situation.
Of course her major solace is her child. Her son has a mentor in her. Mother and son volunteer and give back through her church because she never wanted him to feel like they are victims of circumstances. They also attend social events in a city that can’t do without weddings or one party after another on weekends. You know, that’s just the pretty side everyone sees on Facebook. You know, the smiles from mother and son during a Lagos wedding reception.
The ugly side is that she is always, almost totally fagged out every single, passing day.
Most of us have at least someone in our lives to pick up a hammer and fix a nail to the wall without paying for it. Someone to occasionally make you a meal, or alternate the school runs without doling out cash for the “help.”
Franca feels she is not wasting her time on Facebook. She is hustling to make sure that her kid’s school fees are paid on time and her business has clients.
Sometimes her apartment can be all messed up simply because she is out of energy to clean it. And when she is out of energy, it’s not due to laziness—it’s literally because her body is shutting down.
It can be heartbreakingly lonely to be a single parent. Those fun moments while watching a child learn to ride a bike aren’t that fun when you are all by yourself. Her little boy still doesn’t know how to swim because taking a little kid to the change room at the pool is like chasing a wet pig around the farmyard. The chasing-a-nude-kid-around can really kill the vibe.
It gets boring when kids are your whole social life. It sucks to only get to watch kid movies. Ever!
Franca is so over the “mommy, read to me,” because her child’s entire stimulation is either herself or an electronic device. She now despises reading, because the moment there is a split-second of downtime he will ask her to read to him. She has even thrown books across the room just to try to hide them because she is simply mentally exhausted.
Mostly, people assume people like Franca are fine. But being a single parent can be agonizing in a way that nobody can ever know unless they are living it.
A single mom like Franca needs: A friend to keep her company. A meal, so she can savour a different dish. An offer to drive a child somewhere. A babysitter to break the monotony of a constant burden. A night off in order to have a ‘self time’..
Parents like Franca look fine, but they can still be better.