Modern Families?

When I was a little girl, I had a habit of marrying things quite a lot. I was quite the practiced vicar for my age. Barbie and Ken wasted no time in getting remarried every day. And it made me happy. I would always have a family – there would be a mummy, a daddy, a little girl and a little boy. Just like my family. 

And I knew that you didn’t always get a little boy and a little girl. Sometimes you would get a rabble of boys. And sometimes you would have more than two – like my cousins, who were sets of four. But that was what a family was to me.

And it stayed that way for a long time.

And as I grew older, i realised that some people didn’t have mums and dads, they had a dad, and a mum, but apart. Or they just had a mum. Or they had two mums. Or two dads. Or they lived with their grandparents. They had lots of siblings. Or they were an only child.

And they were all happy.

And so it never occurred to me to mind.

But still, I wanted that family I dreamt of.

I wanted to play Mummy to a Daddy. I wanted to get married and say “I do.” And I wanted a little boy and a little girl to call my own.

But I fell pregnant at 23. My baby was a little boy, so unlike the first child I turned out to be. I didn’t have a ring on my finger. And I didn’t get to stay home and be the mother I thought I would be.

And now? Well, my son has a mummy. And he has a daddy.

They used to be in love. Until they weren’t.

They speak most days. But only about him.

And they are happy.

And they don’t hurt his ears with arguing. And he doesn’t see them sad or angry. And he loves them both.

He was 18 months-old when that happened. And his memory of before that, whether a blessing or a curse, is something that he’ll lose in time.

He spends time with Daddy. And they go on adventures together. He goes to see his grandparents in Lincoln. And they spoil him rotten and he’s part of a family. And that will never change.

But he spends time with Mummy. And Mark. Someone who is ready to take on the role as his step-dad. Who wakes up early and lets his mum have a lie-in so they can watch Old MacDonald Had a Farm on repeat. Who, as a pair, go missing, only to be found in the conservatory. William lifted high in the air, so he can turn on the fan. And she can watch them both as they spin around in circles: “Spin, spin, spin.”And they are part of a family. A new one. But a happy one.

When we walk around the street together, as a trio. People will look at us, as they pass by, and assume we’re a family. That little boy looks a lot like his mum, they’ll think. And you’d not know any different.

When my parents go to the supermarket with William, while I’m at work. They’re often asked, aged only 50, if he’s theirs. And my mum will blush and my dad will laugh and they’ll say: “No, no! I’m Granny, he’s Po!”

If you see a mother, pushing a pram down the street in the middle of the day. Her husband might not be at work. She may have a wonderful wife who she’s on the way to meet on her lunch break. She may have no one at all.

But that smile she wears. It comes from being a happy parent. Regardless. 

We can’t walk around with signs that tell you who we are and what role we play. We just walk around and live our lives. Because to us, this is normal. 

And if you see me in the street. Walking to work. A far cry from how I look on my days spent with William, would you think I was a mum? Often I’m met with shock when I explain that I have a two year-old waiting for me. “You’d never of guessed it!” They say. But that’s an entirely different topic for another time.

What I have learned, particularly as a parent, is that you cannot prescribe happiness. You cannot tick a Happy Family box which contains a man and a woman and 2.4 children. It’s not a magic sum to a happy relationship.

You’re no less happy when you find out you’re expecting another boy.

You’re no more lucky to have one of each.

And a step-family doesn’t mean that one individual is more important than any other. That a child from one, is less important than a child from two.

There’s no rule book for children when they are born. And there’s certainly no rule book that helps you through the changes in your life. 

And my son. My goodness is he a happy little boy.

And he knows.

On Sunday, as the rain lashed down outside, I heard him playing. I’d been upstairs to put some washing away, and I came down to hear:

“Mummy Cow. And Mark Cow. And Wiyum Cow. And Daddy Cow.”

And I crouched down next to him.

And Mummy and Mark Cow could not have been closer if they tried. And it pleased me to see that.

And Daddy Cow stood to the other side. With little Wiyum Cow in the middle.

And little Wiyum Cow was trotting around and making all sorts of happy moos. And he kissed Daddy Cow, and Mummy Cow, and Mark Cow.

And one day Daddy Cow will have a Lady Cow. And Wiyum Cow will have two of each. And I’ll always be his mother. And he’ll always have a father. But I will never turn a blind eye to how important our partners are and will be in his life. And I won’t fight it.

And as I stroked his head and did my best cow impressions for him. I felt a single tear fall down my cheek.

For sometimes, as a mother, who couldn’t give her child what she thought was guaranteed happiness, it’s what she needed to hear.

So if he gets it. Aged two and two months. The proud owner of his first metaphor.

Why can’t everyone else?

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  • Reply
    19th August 2014 at 7:47 am

    Wow! I have never commented on any of your posts, but this one is truly beautiful (been reading your blog for like 3 years now!)! I am not yet a mother and not planning on it any time soon. I come from a family with my parents still married after (I think…) around 30 years and everything happy and 'traditional'. But this post is something that many in our society should read! Lots of people still have it in their heads that children will only grow up to be 'normal' if they live in a 'traditional' family in the bible sense. What these people do not realize, is that a happy parents make a happy child and that children will only think that something is off, if they feel that the grown-ups around them feel so.
    Thanks for this post- gives me a lot of new great arguments for those nights where I am the only one arguing that 'non-traditional' families are not by default 'bad' for a child's development 🙂

  • Reply
    Alison Perry
    19th August 2014 at 8:38 am

    So well put, Charlotte xx

  • Reply
    Amy Green
    19th August 2014 at 8:40 am

    So lovely and true! I was brought up by my mum and we were the happiest family 🙂 you should be very proud of yourself xx

  • Reply
    19th August 2014 at 10:23 am

    This post is so wonderfully put. I grew up with just my mum who had me at 21. However i have always had my grandparents in my life and they are still like my parents now and i am 23.
    William is a beautiful, lucky and well loved little boy. You should be very proud! xxx

  • Reply
    Hannah - Budding Smiles
    19th August 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Hi, I don't think I've ever visited your blog before, but that's going to change! What a wonderful post, truly one of the best I've read. Your son sounds like a fantastic little boy and it's great that he has so much love in his life xx

  • Reply
    Ellen O'Keeffe
    21st September 2014 at 10:00 pm

    I must have read this post around 15 times and just realised I never commented, I think it's so powerful and worded perfectly. X

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