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What makes a successful single parent?

By Bunmi Sofola

The statistics of broken marriages are never encouraging.  When they got to where one in five marriages end in divorce, the alarm bell clanged.  Then they got to two and it became a sort of ‘so-what’, now no one really knows what the statistics are because some separated couples never even bothered with the cumbersome divorce process.

They just separate, start different homes and get on with their lives. With the woman now the typical mother hen, clasping her children to her chest; her trophies for her long-suffering!

She’s then faced with the task of raising her children single handedly without the benefit of resident husband or father. Instead of panic however, she has a long list of female friends and relatives who’d themselves single handedly raised children who turned out okay.  “I was only four when my parents’ marriage packed up”, recalled Princess, a fairly successful ‘Oil and Gas’ player who is a single parent of two.

“My mother worked as a secretary in an oil company and we lived in a middle income company flat. I had two elder brothers and we initially missed our dad. Once in a while, he visited showering us with cash gifts that always put mum’s back up.  ‘Why don’t you pay their school fees for once, instead of occasionally buying their affection’ she would yell.

“In time mum got a lover but he didn’t live in. He had his own flat and was also separated from his wife. Once in a while, mum and I would spend the weekend with him when the boys were in the boarding school. Gabriel, my mum’s boyfriend was the closest person to a dad that I had. I was particularly close to him and he was always affectionate towards me.  Once in a while, he would come to where I slept on the sofa cuddling me.

If I slept bed whenever they were in the living room, he would sneak into the bedroom, take my hand and move it over his body so I was touching him. He would then lift up my nightie and touch and kiss me.  I found it a bit strange.  My real dad had never cuddled me like that before, but when he said it was our special secret, I was pleased.  He was my daddy and it was only right we had special moments.

“Our special secret continued especially when mum was at work or away shopping. Sometimes, when I was in the bathroom he would sneak in to watch me, then touch himself.  I was only happy he liked me so much. Sadly, their affair ended after four years. He’d patched things up with his ex and they were now back together. I was 14 and in a sex education lesson when our teacher talked about masturbation, oral sex and full intercourse.  Listening to her, I became alarmed. What she was describing – those embarrassing things lovers did together some of them I’d done with Gabriel, or rather, he had done to me?  I’d thought they were normal but now it sounded wrong.

“I saw Gabriel from time to time as he lived not too far from our flat.  When next I saw him, I told him of what we were taught in school. He became fidgety, begged me not to tell anyone and gave me all the money in his pocket which was quite a lot. After that, whenever I saw him, he’d ignore me and move quickly away.  The hurt was real and raw, but I got over it and never said anything to mum. She’d done a good job raising us. The boys used to give him a tough time, but she refused to involve dad, instead she enlisted the help of our uncle.

“I was a big wild at the university. Thanks to Gabriel, I’d discovered the benefit of using my sexuality to get what I wanted from men.  It was extremely empowering to be in control of a man at the young age, it kind of felt good to realize that when I wore certain things, I get drinks for free, got chauffeur driven to wherever I wanted and loads of gifts too!

“Unfortunately, I also lost respect for most men. I came to see them as predators who would stop at nothing to get into your pants. I fell in love a few times, had really passionate relationships but that never stopped me from being suspicious and I was right. A few friends had slept with each other’s husbands with little or no remorse, some husbands had gone on to brazenly sleeping with their friends daughters and even their siblings wives.  If that was the playing field, I was now exposed to, did I have a right to expect undying love from any man, whatever that meant?

“When I got married, it was with my eyes wide open. I would notice my friends incredulous look when they first met my husband but that was the idea. He was no six packer to look at and would not set that many women’s heart on life. But he had a fairly successful business and lived in his own house. He was also kind and generous and treated me like royalty.  12 years and three children later, he too strayed?  One of his office workers with whom he had an affair got pregnant and decided to have the baby.

It was the right excuse I needed to leave.  I was never in love with him and living with him was becoming stressful. I made a big deal of his ‘indiscretion’ and threatened to leave. I was really surprised when he calmly agreed to move out instead so I could have the family house for myself as the children as he intended to move into a luxury flat he just bought. He was obviously eager to grab at whatever happiness he could with a new partner who loved him.
“It was a relief that our marriage didn’t end on acrimonious grounds.  We didn’t even consider divorce.

The kids visit their dad as often as they want to and they now have two siblings. In fairness to my ex, he actually looks better and more relaxed than when we were living together as man and wife and I can do my own thing without feeling guilty. I think it’s a myth that children fare better when raised by both parents.

Some do, whilst some would have been better off living with either of the parents. When there is tension in a marriage, children easily pick it up and this can be very stressful for everyone. My children are well turned out and have friends from broken homes as well as seemingly solid ones.”


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