I always thought I would be a good mum. Even a great mum. And, yes I have had those occasions where I’ve sat there in the later part of evening congratulating myself on ‘a job well done.’
You know, those days when you’ve been the crafty mum with kids, paint even in the hair, glue stuck to eyebrow. Reading to them, as though I’m J.K Rowling addressing my audience.
Running in the grass doing the cartwheels that have my girls in hysterics. The home-cooked meal that is wolfed down. I even read a book while kids are bathing, bed time a breeze.
Nailed it all. Then, there are those other days...
But, one thing I never thought I’d be is a single parent. Yet, here I am.
I was never an advocate of marriage. Never dreamed, like some other girls, of my wedding day. But I did know in my heart I’d be a mother, with a loving father at my side.
A committed, loving relationship was always just the assumption that came with family life. I always wanted that.
I separated with my long-term partner with a one year old and three year old. Their Dad’s support and role is still intact, just we operate as a family differently. Two homes.
My six year old is always drawing pictures of us altogether. I don’t dash her visions, for that is accurate. The tall yellow-haired figure is Mum, the shorter block figure is Dad. (Sometimes I do explain yes, we’re family but mum and dad are just friends now.)
This friendship is the new mature part of my life, that’s made me a better person. It’s also the reason I sometimes wallow and think ‘why me, why my relationship?’.
But then, realise that being together was ‘a front’, a lie, and upholding the picture-perfect family image was not doing anyone any favours.
I believed our children were the glue keeping us together.
It was the busy life as parents that kept us together, until the truth surfaced. And we did something about it.
This whole new unknown world opened up with the title and the stigma.
I now have the title of ‘single parent’ and it’s a surprise. But would I go back?
Like a security blanket, I have imagined reaching for the past but it’s only for familiarity and a sense of belonging.
I do my own lawns, wash the car, run my big dog, cook the meals, shopping. Everything. Sometimes I wonder I how manage it all. I’ve had my fair share of tears and ‘doom and gloom’ days, but ultimately I’m a healthy mum who now embraces my role.
I can do it. And I do.
Their Dad is my friend, not enemy. I don’t judge others, as everyone has different experiences and formula for what works. I actually get on better with him, now. This peace is amazing. Instead of the internal war that raged we have let go of something that did not work. A clock on the wall that had stopped, with broken cogs but still stuck on the wall.
It’s taken me two years to say, “Oh, l’m on my own!”
I didn’t recognise the feeling of loss and grieving I felt at first, until I realised it was recognising a sense of passing – something was gone, missing. And then one day I woke to a feeling of calm that wasn’t there before. The glass half empty is now half full.
I don’t even see myself as single, I’m just a mum with my girls. Capable and strong. Not a solitary figure like a deer in the headlights, as I probably was at the start. Stumbling through chaotic days.
Today – here and now – is called ‘the present’ because it is a gift.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem