Mental Health, Men, Single Parenting & Talking
I have written and lot about male mental health over at Don’t Believe The Hype and there is good reason for it.
Every week 85 men take their own lifes, 74% of suicides are male, 25% of men live with a mental illness and men are less likely to get help.
These figures are frightening and as a generation we need to encourage each other to talk more, share problems with each other and be more open about our thoughts. To any man reading this please learn to speak out. It has started and there are more and more male networking groups such as Dad La Soul to encourage this.
I am fairly fortunate and have a fabulous relationship with the kids mum. It took a while and lots of patience on both sides. But we learnt over time to overcome the obstacles for the sake of the kids. We see each other as brother and sister these days. We still bicker and argue from time to time. However, we still have each others back and respect. In fact, it is not unheard of for the ex to stay over at our house, so she can get some extra time with the kids. I have openly described this on my personal facebook page.
‘We have had the pleasure of the kids mum staying over for the last few days. It has thrown routines, caused chaos in the house, changed the dynamics and I have been sleeping on the sofa. Pretty much the same as when we were married then……….’
It was during one of these visits that I realised one of the many issues affecting single parents.
I can often go several weeks without having a proper conversation with another adult. I don’t mean the pleasantries to other parents on the school run, or the small chat while you pay for your petrol at the garage, or the shared guilty pleasure chats, as you bump into another parent in the wine section of the local shop on the way home from afternoon pick up on a school night. It is the proper chats, the ‘how was your day’, or the talking about stuff. The normal conversations you have everyday as a couple.
Social isolation can become a big issue and it is one that can spiral out of control rapidly. My normal daily routine isn’t unusual or unique, many single parents have a very similar one.
Get up, drink coffee, make packed lunches, drink coffee, get kids up and to school. Go to work. Pick up kids from school, housework and cook dinner. Then finally, get kids to bed and chill for an hour before going to bed myself.
Add to this the, refereeing, teaching, playing, giving equal time to everyone…….. Finding time to pick up the phone and chat or having a coffee with someone isn’t always the number one priority.
If I am honest, it is the person working on the checkout at the supermarket that gets the full brunt of my loneliness. A simple, ‘How is your day going?’ or “How are you?’, results in a full 15 minute sound off from me. Suddenly and unwanted, they hear everything that I have done, my feelings about it and what the kids have done in the last week. I can actually see them age and regret their question in front of me.
Where mental health really screws with your mind is that it can persuade you, that you can’t be bothered to go out, don’t need to pop over to a mates or arrange a playdate so you can mingle with other adults. Or worse still, those precious moments, when you are childless for a few hours, or overnight if you are lucky. You persuade yourself to stay in, not take up your friends offer of a few drinks, or a meal out.
I see myself as a fairly seasoned single parent these days. Having been bumbling my way through it for about seven years. I still have my ‘meh’ days, but a lot less frequent of late. My advice to any single parent is;
Put the kids first, don’t argue or bad mouth each other in front of the kids. If you have more than one child, try and find time for quality one on one time with each of them and look after yourself.
Talk, Talk, Talk, find time to talk more. Open up. Oh and talk some more. The housework can wait. Pop over to a friends so the kids can play together and you can have some meaningless chit chat. That ‘meaningless chit chat’ may just save your sanity.
While I see this from a male perspective and thankfully we are starting to see more done about male mental health awareness. Mental health as single parent, parent, male, female, mum, dad, child, adult, should be forefront of everyone’s mind. We are in this together, let’s start saying, we have got this together too.
If you see a single parent at school, go and say hello. You never know, you might make someone’s day. But be prepared for a full on, ‘what I have done over the last week’ sound off.