We never plan or dream to be a single parent. We never think that one day this will happen to us. Never in our wildest dreams do we think that we will be in a foreign country solely looking after children alone. But it happens. It happens more than we think.
Like every big life change, being a single parent has its mourning and recovery steps. The order of the steps are not the same for everyone but everyone goes through them at some point.
Take me for example. I am the one who asked my husband for divorce almost 2 and half years ago now. We had met and married in Dubai and had a long life of being single in the city prior to meeting.
I am the one who thought no matter how difficult it may be single; I would rather be than ‘waste’ my years not being in love. I am the one who wanted to be a better person for my children and thought that would be possible only if I divorced their father. And so, I did it. After 7 years of a very unfulfilled marriage, basically only living together for the children, I took the plunge and told my then-husband I wanted a divorce. He didn’t take it so well but respected my wishes and we separated almost immediately, and we then lived separately.
STEP 1 – BLISS
Bliss this is exactly what I felt straight away. I had my freedom, I had my children, I had home help, a successful business with good income and a very good coparenting father. It worked. We shared responsibilities and expenses. I could spend my evenings alone but actually physically alone doing what I wanted, watching what I wanted, eating what I liked, when I liked. I had nothing to complain about. Sure, some added stress over the weekends when children were not in school and I had 2 less hands to help, but everything became routine, and we got used to it. The children didn’t seem very bothered either as they would see us both quite regularly, just not always under the same roof.
Being a single parent in Dubai may seem daunting for most for a number of reasons. Firstly, as an expat your support system may not be as great as back home, where friends and family can help out. Secondly, in a country where marriage and family are so important, you may feel a little like the ‘odd one out’ at times. The public automatically thinks if you have children in tow, you must also have a husband. Once the ‘ohh you are alone, I’m sorry’ became something I heard very often and dealt with saying ‘it was my choice, we are well and happy’ and could move on fine, then I had no other worries. So I thought…
STEP 2 – LONELINESS
Once the bliss of all the home freedoms became a routine, then out of nowhere the loneliness hit. Gosh, I was alone in the evenings, always alone. I didn’t really have anyone to talk about my day, moan to, let out my frustrations. I was really alone, in silence, alone while all my friends were with their spouses and children, doing family things, weekends together, having nights out. I was alone. I worked a lot, keeping track of the million school things, school pickups, grocery shopping, doctors’ visits, play dates, extracurricular activities. I was living for everyone else but myself. ‘I need to meet someone new’ I need to find a date, many dates, a relationship, I need someone’ but how and who and when?
When I did have weekends without the children, what do I do? Yes a few of them alone were great. I played my music so so loud and danced around, did whatever I wanted around the house, watched TV in the daytime (hadn’t done this for years!). but socializing, how do I do this when all my friends are with their families? And those without children want to spend time as a couple…I became the third wheel. Did people feel sorry for me, asking me to tag along on their outings? This did cross my mind a lot, but I generally always accepted invites as what else would I do alone?
Don’t even get me started on how I could possibly meet anyone new romantically. Do I get on the apps? Do I randomly talk to strangers who are out with their own friends on the weekends and seem really old and odd? I was alone and everyone knew it. I was a single mother with 3 children, alone in Dubai.
*Part 2 to follow..