When Your Life Unexpectedly Falls Apart – How One Single Parent Created Her Extended Family and Village

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Welcome home!

This week we went on our annual firm ski trip and I took the opportunity to sit down with one of our All-Star legal assistants, Candy. Candy is a single mother who has made not only her life, but most importantly, her child’s life rich and satisfying, despite not expecting to be a single parent.

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Candy was born & raised on the Westshore where she taught sailing, and after high school, traveled the world to compete in tournaments. She was in a loving relationship with her partner for 6 years when they decided to have a child together. Sadly, Candy’s partner left her when she was pregnant, and Candy has raised her son (who is now 7) as a single parent.

When Candy first had her child, in order to make ends meet and to spend time with her little guy, she ran an in-home daycare. She lost access to what she felt was her career passion of being able to teach sailing. As a single parent, it was no longer an option for her to do the extensive travelling that she had hoped to do. She had to recreate her life. You can read the transcript of our conversation on my podcast, or you can click the link to listen in.

Why did you decide to become a Legal Assistant?

Going through a separation and the difficulties of parenting, being a new parent, and not knowing what was right, what the father’s rights were, or mine, and what was best for my child. I did a lot of online research and discovered that there was a passion there for me.

When you and your father’s baby broke up, how was that for you?

It was devastating. I had a lot of hormones, not just from having the child, but also from the heartbreak. In my research and in talking to other people at support groups, it became very clear that I wasn’t the only person. There were lots of other men and women in similar situations. And I wanted to help them. I was doing all this leg work for myself, and I also realised that all of this work that I’m doing should be put to work for other people who might not have the resources or the ability to do the research for themselves.

And that was researching what the law was, and the support to get as a single parent in our legal framework and otherwise..?

Yeah. As far as what the legal rights were, what the definitions were, whether the father was present. And also the other resources in the community. I was forced to swallow my pride and reach out to other resources like Worklink and other social services that, prior to my breakup, because I was making decent money and had a family, I didn’t think I’d need these resources. And then, or course, being a single parent and being a mess, I found a lot of comfort in these resources. It was very beneficial.

Worklink is a program that allows people who are underemployed or not employed to link up with employment opportunities and training opportunities, is that correct?

Yes. They do offer those. And people who are no longer able to go back to the job that they had before.

Even though your child had a father, he wasn’t really involved much at all at the very beginning…

Correct. The beginning was very rocky, very up and down. There wasn’t a lot of support. It has taken a lot of work, third parties to intervene. I can speak for myself, a lot of growing up and a lot of letting go. It helps now that my son is older and I feel I’ve given him this core of values and morals. The father and I now have a better working relationship. We had two Christmases together this year, one at his place with his family, and one at mine. And that has been great, and it shows in my son’s life; he’s excited that both his parents are there for swimming or skating, and Dad will come over randomly throughout the week and visit. It’s just a lot easier to breathe.

And how it that for him, to see his parents like that?

I think it’s important for him. He’s only ever known it as “I live with my mom and I see my Dad when I see him” whereas all of his friends have families that are still together. We’re lucky in the sense that he’s never questioned “why don’t you and Dad live together?” But now that we see each other and we do things together, it helps our son to see that it’s OK to have two different houses and that you can still be together.

One of the things that I understand is that you’ve essentially created your own tribe or your own extended family. Can you say what that’s like?

I had the best pregnancy that I could’ve had under the circumstances: my best friend was also pregnant. We spent our maternity leave together. Our sons are three months apart and they are essentially brothers. We created this friend family, and added to it over the years with other families who are friends and who have children. We get together once a month for a big family dinner. The girls hike or run every weekend to reconnect and talk and remember that it’s OK to have adult time and not always be tied up in work, kids, work, kids, household. All of that stuff. But for me the biggest benefit is that my son, although he doesn’t have a father influence in his life on a day-to-day basis, has these four other men who have come into the picture. They love him and adore him, and they’re teaching him what love and affection and even discipline look like, even though it’s not their job. They just do it because we’re family, and that’s the way that it is. And I get to have nieces and nephews and spoil them.

What does this extended family do for you?

It puts me back into balance. We are the type of group where we don’t need to be in constant contact, we pick up right where we left off. We are so connected that I don’t need to reach out and ask for help. They can just sense it and they assist when needed. The important part is in being with them, and getting to release those daily frustrations or anxieties about not parenting well enough, or my kid isn’t growing fast enough or the smartest, or whatever. I get to hear from them and how they have crazy thoughts, and I get to be the one to say “what are you talking about, your kid’s fine!” Even though we’re all living different lives and we have different values and morals, when we’re coming together we get to learn from one another. And also that you’re not alone. You’re not the only one who is up late stressing out. We’re all doing the best that we can with what we have. There is an overwhelming sense of belonging. There is no judgement.

You work in our law office. Talk about how that supports you as a single parent, and what you find special about that.

Well, I’m incredibly fortunate to have Val as a boss. We have a unique story. I learned of her when I was looking for a lawyer. I went to school and wanted to volunteer, and not knowing of any family law lawyers except for her. It ended up working out into a job, and it sort of went full circle!

Val has this energy that welcomes everyone into her life, into her heart, and into her home. And it wasn’t any different for myself and my son. We’ve been welcomed in my her family at work and at home, and everyone at our office has the same sort of energy.

In terms of how it’s supported me as a single parent, often there are times when my son is sick or I have to pick him up from school early, and I’ve had the flexibility to leave work or bring him into work. There’s never been any questioning, and in fact, it’s been the complete opposite: it’s been welcoming! It’s been a huge stress relief knowing that worst-case scenario I can just bring him with me to work, set him up in one of the offices. He likes to help with the photocopying and faxing! It’s not something I’ve experienced before in another work environment. It’s not just a Monday-Friday 9-5; there’s a social element of “let’s get to know each other outside of work.” We have firm family events. And it’s been really welcoming to have the people I work for accept me, and accept my child. It’s one of the perks that I don’t think you can put a price on.

There are about 8 of us, and I’d say that each of us have an independent relationship with your son.

I’m fortunate. One of the reasons that it works so well for bringing him with kind of goes back to being a single parent right from the beginning. And not having a choice of “Oh, I’ll leave him with Dad when I go grocery shopping” or to whatever appointment it might be. He’s just adapted to being in adult situations more than a kid his age should have been, but it’s worked for him and his personality and I think he’ll be better for that later in life.

We’re actually recording this from our firm ski trip aren’t we?

(Laughs) We sure are!

Thank you Candy!

Until next week!



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About the Author

I'm Val Hemminger. It is my mission to help you find happiness, in a busy world that we sometimes find lonely. In my more than 20 years as a divorce lawyer I have seen many people who believed their lives destroyed by the devastation of an ended union. I have also seen clients come back from that sadness to live a rich and meaningful life. I have seen that so many of us live insular lives. We sometimes feel isolated even though we have very busy schedules with tons to do. This site, its podcast, recommended books and related Facebook Group are all designed to welcome you to design a life built on more meaningful connection with others.

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