When I became a mother, I seemed to find myself enveloped by the arms of motherhood. I joined that hood. I became an honorary member. Bound by birth stories and sleep deprivation. It completely changed my perception of so many things. And so I found my place in the ranks.
But, and I feel that I should whisper this almost, I do feel quite sad about the perception of single mothers.
I’ve had lots of support, from so many people.
But you also become aware of lots of preconceptions, ideas, thoughts. Perhaps not intentionally. But you do.
For one – the pity. It’s hard. It’s hard seeing that sudden wash of “poor love” fill someone’s eyes. And you find yourself going: “No! Honestly, I’m happy. This was the best decision for us all!” And yet it just sounds a bit like you are desperately trying to defend yourself, which is an altogether more depressing scenario. When I say that I am much more content, I mean this. I do! Christ, I do.
I was explaining to my mum recently, explaining just how I feel. I’m the biggest romantic out there, who really does want to find her ‘him’. Her Noah Calhoun. Her Johnny Castle. Her Romeo (bad example perhaps, but we’ll work with it). I really do believe that, one day, I’ll have that kind of love that takes my breath away. But I don’t need a man. I don’t need a man to survive. I mean, I’ve changed wires in fuse boxes, while pregnant, in the dark, stood on a box. I am, and have always been, fiercely independent and, perhaps frustratingly, very proud too.
But the pity is hard to take. It makes me want to shut down a little. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me friends, or family. I’m really okay. Better than. Because I made the decision to be happier. We both did.
Of course I relish the family unit. Of course I want to curl up on a sofa with a belly full of a roast dinner and watch a movie, while the kids play nicely together. Of course I want to have those late-night conversations in bed, the sort you would only ever have with that person. Of course I’d like to become a mother for the second, third, however many times.
But single motherhood is great too. I do have moments of pure me-time. Where I have full control over what film I watch that night. Or I can paint my nails with no one complaining about the overwhelming pear drop smell. I’m learning how strong I am. I’m feeling increasingly proud of my efforts in my career. I know I’ll be lonely sometimes. I know I might struggle. I know I have to handle the sleepless nights on my own, but I’m prepared for that. William’s my son. Who else would wipe the tears away?
Speaking of my son. My wonderful, silly, counting-to-ten, daft as a brush, spins-round-in-circles little boy. Don’t pity him. I will certainly never come between him and his father – he has a good father who loves him very much. There are things that I can never give William, that only his dad can, and vice versa. You will not hear me utter a bad word about him. You will only ever hear me celebrate their relationship.
What loss is to be had in growing up with two happy parents? A possibility of two happy families of which you belong to both? I have many friends who have reached out to me and said that I should ignore what the doubters say, that they were much happier once their parents had split, and wish that they had done so sooner. And I think they are better qualified than any to base a decision on. A mummy and a daddy does not a happy family make. Families come in so many different shapes and sizes and the world is all the better for it.
And the last thing, the thing that is probably the most sad, is the idea that we didn’t try hard enough. That perhaps we rushed. Or made mistakes. Or that we should never have bothered in the first place. No one ever gives their heart away with a guarantee. There is no love insurance. You get your achey, breaky heart and you have to find a way of mending that yourself. There’s no Love Doctor. Or Cupid’s Arrow you can buy. You take a chance on love and you squeeze your eyes shut and you cross those fingers and you hope and pray with all of your might that it won’t end.
But it does sometimes.
It’s not discounted. Not all of it. It’s not a mistake.
A lesson maybe.
But not one we learn from. Because who ever does learn from matters of the heart?
You throw yourself back into life.
You hope for the best.
And you live it.
And besides, I can now dance and sing along wholeheartedly to Beyoncé’s Single Ladies. And there’s never anything wrong with that.