Family dynamics

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Single mums and the importance of friendship

FEMALE FRIENDS
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SUPPORT NETWORK: Good friends can help you through the toughest of times.

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No women no cry sang Mr Marley. And lordy where would us single mamas be without our female friends? Like Monica without Rachel and Phoebe, Tina without Amy, Oprah without Gayle, that's where we'd be.

A recently split up friend said the support of her female friends has been incredible over this time, and that while the stories of our other single mama friends are all different of how they came to be where they are now, there is a common bond of talk, discussion and feeling which helps nurture one another.

Being understood or being listened to and validated is empowering, (and for me soothing), and helps you get through the day. Especially if that's the only out-loud conversation outside of chatting with your kids - or to an amorous neighbour aged 72 - ("You're too picky Jody!") you'll have today.

I know that at times I used to leave the house and want to talk about the things that were on my heart and then sometimes lay big things on people (eg I find the double standard where single mums are held responsible for the state of the financial crisis, but $2 billion worth of child support owed mainly by men barely gets a mention.)

But just because I'm trying to make sense of it, it doesn't mean these conversations have always worked or that I have timed them that well. If you talk about the DPB you WILL be met with examples of single mums who are second only to Peter Steigrad in their callous abuse of the law. Whose Peter Steigrad? Why one of the four Bridgecorp directors responsible for the collapse of the company which saw investors - many of them very real mum and dad and grandma and granddad investors - lose half a billion dollars. Yeah man, $500,000. You remember! That director who seven weeks into his nine month home detention last year, flew to Australia to see his wife, then on to Europe for a holiday which included attending his daughters' two wedding ceremonies...? But, I digress.

It is amazing how the song "love is something that if you give it away, give it away...it will come right back to you" works in action. Giving to other friends feels good. Not in a Murray McCully paternalistic looking-back-to-move-backward foreign aid policy kind of a way, in a so-many-friends-have-helped-me-out-let's-pay-it-forward kind of a way. A meal, a smile, a listening ear, old bras, it's an ace feeling as all you mums and dads reading this will know.

Before you break up/your situation changes, you can think "I can't do this/better the devil you know/I'll be so alone/who can I talk to about our kids...." But after the break up you'll find some of the different-sized space now available is about creating communities. Creating a whanau, when you may be mourning or recovering from or celebrating the loss of one. Female friends, especially single mama friends can help because often, they understand.

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When you are separated or divorced or have lost a partner who has died, there are a myriad of feelings at play. A three-way split or more in your head. There can be the release of a partner's dying so there is some relief there, running concurrently with the never-ending loss of that partner for you, and your children. That absence unapparent to others, but always lived with. Perhaps as smile, or a whisper, as a murmur or a full-blown howl.

So many times I have heard single mamas talk and they are managing similar threads - still caring for an ex-partner but severely disliking them, cheated on by a partner but needing to co-parent with them, coming to a place of acceptance while also managing ongoing niggles/fights/communication differences. You're watching your kids struggling with split loyalties and your kids changing, and not knowing what to say.

Families co-parenting for years then one of the children only wanting their birth parents at an event no step parents allowed etc.

It's a fox trot/folk dance crossed with the javelin part of the Heptathlon event at the Olympics. Managing this cross training is tiring, exhausting, makes you proud of yourself and your kids, and man! It makes you weep.

Having wahine toa alongside, a call or a Facebook or a stride over the fence away helps. It is uplifting even KNOWING you have people who will be straight with you, give you a shoulder to cry on, or talk filth with you when the single life gets hard. Keep calm and carry on? Have a cry, a cuddle, a laugh, and THEN carry on? Just the ticket.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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