Lessons from single parents on finding balance

By Daniel Ogetta

By ANGELINE OCHIENG

Some intimate relationships lead to marriage and a happy life afterwards. Others lead to heartbreak. And, when a baby is involved, it even becomes twice as difficult to move on – or find another partner.

The baby is a constant reminder of the past and the unbreakable bond with an ex-partner. Talk about beautiful mistakes and scars.

This week, a single mom and dad tell us what it’s like to hold a baby after a relationship collapses, and what they look for in a relationship now to avoid making the same mistakes.

Diana Olonde, 24; Journalist

The last time I was in a relationship was two years ago. We had ups and downs, but I was determined to make it work.

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I conceived a few years into the relationship, and that led to frequent disagreements between us.

One of the things my parents wanted to figure out was if my boyfriend had taken responsibility for the pregnancy, and I’m glad he did.

My baby’s arrival was not very well planned. The pregnancy came with a lot of challenges due to the fact that I had no source of income. I was totally dependent on my parents.

At one point, I resorted to part-time jobs in order to buy a few items in preparation for the birth of my baby.

As an African woman, we are always advised to be patient in the face of financial constraints to avoid “losing” our partners.

That’s exactly what I did. Over time, however, my parents began to pressure us. They wanted to know the status of our relationship.

It got to a point where we both couldn’t take it anymore. We broke up when I was eight months pregnant.

Since we broke up, I’ve never heard of him. My little prince is now two years old and I can’t help but think how blessed I am to be his mother.

Motherhood taught me a lot in life and revealed a number of characters that I would never have met without him.

The way I deal with issues and relationships has completely changed. I have to be doubly careful about the decisions I make, especially if they involve my child.

Many times I have had to leave a relationship early after realizing that the man in question was only faking his love for my son. Some men assume being a single mom is a weakness, so they pretend to love your child just to trick you.

I’m in no rush to get into a relationship. I believe that in God’s time, I will meet someone understanding. One of the key things I now consider before settling into a relationship is my emotional well-being. I have to be convinced that my partner cares about me before I settle down.

In an ideal relationship, two partners must get to know and understand each other. This should happen before they even think about having children.

They must also be prepared to consider each other’s psychological, emotional, and economic well-being.

Having a child is not an offense, but it also does not mean that you have to compromise your standards to gain yourself a spouse.

A major lesson I learned from my previous relationship is to identify and respond to red flags.

For me, unless I am sure the man meets my standards of who is a good father, I will remain my son’s sole provider, no matter how long it takes.

Also, I don’t think it’s okay to keep introducing your child to different partners unless you’re convinced they’re committed.

Remjuce Bwana, 28; Sales manager

The last time I had a perfect intimate relationship, which I thought would lead to marriage, was in 2013. It only lasted two years. I was then a student, naive and madly in love.

Every other relationship I had after that left me crushed and heartbroken, but none are as painfully memorable as the one that left me with a girl. She will be two years old in April.

The years between 2013 and 2015 were the best. My relationship at that time was simply magical. Our union was characterized by respect and a lot of understanding.

How I thought it was a heavenly match. But, I ended up being dropped after just one mistake.

We lived in different hostels. I was in the boys’ quarters while she was in the girls’ quarters. We often visited each other until we got to know each other’s roommates.

During one of my frequent visits to her room, I flirted with her roommate, which she didn’t like. And that’s how she left me for another man.

The end of this relationship was the beginning of the worst times for me.

As a result of the anger and resentment that came with the heartbreak, I immediately looked for another girlfriend and was lucky to find someone.

For the second time, I thought I had really found this one. This time I chose to take things a notch higher.

The new relationship was supposed to be just a fling, but I couldn’t see it. We dated for months and that’s how my daughter was born. I love my daughter so much and want to be the best dad she could ever want, but we’re not on great terms with her mom.

Looking back, I realize that my rash decision cost me dearly. Shortly after starting dating for the second time, my partner and I realized we weren’t compatible and decided to amicably separate.

But, the very last time we got intimate, she conceived. And now we both find ourselves trapped and tied to each other.

We often disagree about our duties as co-parents. When you’re in such an arrangement, either party usually tends to be unfair to the other, cause unnecessary drama, or have unreasonable expectations.

Which I don’t like but have to live with. And, it’s not easy to take care of a baby when you don’t live with him under the same roof because sometimes the mother asks a lot, which can give the impression that she takes advantage of it.

For my next relationship, I’m looking for more than seemingly attractive features. I now know that beauty is only superficial and appearance can deceive.

In my current partner, I see someone with all the qualities of a good wife. We started our relationship as mutual friends but over time it grew into something beautiful.

She is understanding, respectful and God-fearing. She knows I have a child from my previous relationship and she still loves me. She is witty and intelligent, which makes her an ideal partner.

When we finally get married, I know that one of the biggest challenges I will face will be to help her create a strong and loving bond between her and my daughter.

What I learned is that intimate relationships should be guarded jealously. Don’t trust your friends too much. I messed up once when I was completely trusted.

My advice to my peers is that if your previous relationship resulted in a baby, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Don’t hide it, for sooner than you know the echoes of the past will catch up with the present, and it will be a disastrous mix.

Dating has no formula at all. But at least get to know yourself well before you take any serious steps forward.

From expert

As single parenthood continues to be a growing trend around the world, there is a need to ensure that innocent children are not affected by breakups.

Loice Noo, a relationship counsellor, says a number of young people have chosen to leave non-working relationships for a number of reasons.

In the past, an individual was likely to end up as a single parent only after losing their partner to the cruel hands of death. But times have changed, she notes. Over time, broken relationships have been attributed to domestic violence, divorce, breakup, abandonment and rape.

“You have to get out of a relationship once it becomes abusive or when it stops working properly,” says Loice.

According to her, seven out of ten cases of single parenthood are still the result of relationships that never worked out. Normally, she observes, the age group most affected is that of 20, 30 and 40 years.

It is important for an individual to understand what they want in a relationship, when to get in, but most importantly, when to get out.

She adds that if the couple had a baby – or were expecting one – then the next phase of “moving on” would be to agree on how to care for the baby. Co-parenting has emerged as a practical solution to this, but Loice warns of the challenges involved.

“These days it is common to find a man in a co-parenting arrangement with more than one woman, and this can bring untold stress to both parties, as well as the children involved.

“Finding a balance between the next relationship and the previous one where a baby is involved becomes very difficult. Co-parenting, in some cases, hurts both individuals, and when that happens, the baby is never spared.

Loice advises that before choosing co-parenting as an option, the characters involved must be willing to cooperate with each other and put the well-being of the child first.

Otherwise, it may be necessary to seek out another person, such as a blood relative, to become the child’s guardian.

According to her, the parent who interacts only occasionally with the child should take the time to understand how the child was brought up to avoid overindulging him every time he interacts.

If this happens, the child will begin to look forward to meeting the parent in question, which can affect their overall performance.

“Overall, it is important to note that children are a lifetime commitment and in most cases limit the future activities and relationships of the parent(s). This is one of the most important considerations to take into account before leaving one of the parents to take care of the child alone,” she says.

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