This week’s #MumdayMonday comes from Samantha* who lives in London and has a 20 month old son. From day one of her pregnancy, Samantha has been a “single mum” and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I wonder how women like her do it. Parenthood is relentless and I know that while I spend an awful lot of time on my own with my children, despite the long hours their dad works in the week, he is there at weekends and he is always there to bounce thoughts off and defer responsibility to when I’m at the end of my tether. What happens when it’s you, and only you, day in and day out? How do you find that space to be you, as well as mummy? Well have a read, because Samantha has kindly agreed to share her experiences of being a “Single Mum” in this guest post.
*not her real name… now I feel all Take a Break magazine…
I’m not your conventional ‘single mum’ but then who is?! I had a one night stand with the brother of a friend of a friend of a friend. I had remained in social media contact with the guy so when I found out I was pregnant I told him. He was really happy and wanted to make a go of things. I idealistically agreed but after 3 weeks of ‘dating’ he decided there was no future for us as a couple but he would be there for the child. I was adamant we needed to get to know each other but, apart from attending both baby scans, we had minimal contact during my pregnancy. Once the baby was born we agreed a regular schedule for him to see our son. Unfortunately, the relationship with my son’s father is not good. We are poles apart in our attitude to parenting, we barely communicate and I’ve just resurfaced from a 6 month ordeal where he took me to court for more time, including overnight, stays with our, then, 14 month old son.
Despite not having the traditional set-up, I know my son is going to grow up surrounded by love and security. Throughout my pregnancy I had, and still have, an incredible support network around me of family and friends and no one has judged me or my decisions. Not that long ago, a child out of wedlock was a cause for shame. Babies were taken away from their mothers, given up for adoption or transported to Australia while the mother was sent to a home for ‘fallen women’. Nowadays families are becoming increasingly diverse. I myself have one brother, one half-brother and five step brothers and sisters and somehow we make it work. It sometimes seems like the traditional nuclear families are in a minority.
Having said that, at first I was really conscious of being a ‘single mum,’ and I was embarrassed. I didn’t openly tell anyone when meeting new mums; if they talked about their partners and ‘daddy’ I would nod and smile. I didn’t resent my son’s father, in fact I felt like I had dodged a bullet – motherhood is hard enough without having to navigate a relationship and a new one at that. However the truth is that I reached milestones, 3 months, 6 months and so on without drama but the fog didn’t lift until my son was at least 9 months old and I was truly able to acknowledge and accept my situation. Until then I avoided parks at the weekend as all I saw was ‘the perfect family’ taking baby for a stroll. These days I have no issues with the label of being a ‘single mum’. I was ‘single’ when I fell pregnant, ‘single’ when I gave birth…I don’t know any different. If I am lucky enough to fall pregnant again, naturally I would like to do it the ‘proper way’ but what does that even mean these days? Now, being a single mum is just what I do, who I am, I don’t know any different. Plus my friends in relationships have confided in me that the ‘perfect family’ strolling in the park in fact hate each other…hate is perhaps a bit strong, but you catch my drift.
At the end of the day it’s worth recognising that there are pros as well as cons to doing it alone. On a day to day basis I get to call all the shots. I don’t have to refer to anyone and my support network always defers to me. In that sense I’m lucky. The cons – on a day to day basis I have to call all the shots. No one else does bath time, no one else puts baby to bed, no one else gets up in the middle of the night, no one gives me a lie in…I’m stating the obvious really. And, of course, financially its hard.
Most people are surprised when I say that I am single. I’m yet to meet any other mums doing it alone at present. I think perhaps most other single mums have older children, maybe it takes a while for a relationship to break down, maybe I’ll meet more when my son goes to school…I’m speculating here. Having said that, the mums I do know, albeit it in a relationship, are still flying solo most of the time.
The biggest challenge I face is communicating with my son’s father. We are still essentially strangers although I have done everything in my power to change that. He seems to think its ok for our son to navigate two completely separate bubbles whereas I see our roles as threads running through our son’s life, overlapping and co-existing in the same space. And then of course there’s the same issues that all parents are faced with; returning to work, juggling child care, finding time for me…
Having said that, I also feel fortunate to be able to care for my son full time and with that comes intimate knowledge of his every mood, his every leap, new words, new skills…I watched him playing alone with his scooter in the garden the other day. The sun was shining, the air was calm. I was blown away by his determination to master the skill of scooting. He got frustrated, he fell off but he stuck at it for 40 minutes. Now looking back at 20 months of parenting I see every day the payoff for every song, book, every trip to the park, every stay and play session that I did and continue to do with him. It makes every sleepless night, every washing load, every time you have to get down on your hands and knees and clean under the high chair (numerous times a day) worthwhile.
These days the thing that puts fire in my belly is the responsibility of raising a boy in to a man who respects women and has a decent set of values. This used to terrify me but now I see it as an immense opportunity – he could even grow up to be the next….?
Not a lot calms me down, however! Moments of calm are few and far between these days and this feels like I’m exposing a guilty secret, but the truth is a glass of wine and an episode of EastEnders – in that order – is my recipe for chill-time . I love yoga and still reap the benefits although my post baby practice is a somewhat different experience. If I manage to get to a yoga class, it’s generally a mother and toddler group – the teacher doesn’t hold back and most of the time your warrior pose consists of also balancing a small child on whichever limb it manages to attach itself to. Don’t even get me started on Savasana.
At some point in the future I would like to meet a good man, build a life with him, create a sibling for my son…communicate with my son’s father in a way that supports our child. I’d like to have a nice home, in a good area, a career that I can balance alongside motherhood, family holidays. Sounds simple really.
When I look back I don’t really remember life before my son, not really, it feels distant and vague and a long long long time ago – its only been 20 months! Having a child is the best thing I’ve ever done, being a mum gives me the most fulfilment I’ve ever experienced…as hard as it is I wouldn’t change a thing.
Do you have an experience as a mum that you would like to share, sweeping generalised label and all?..! If you think you might like to take part, then send me a DM on Instagram, a private message on Facebook, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
If you feel daunted by the prospect of writing it for yourself but feel you have something to say, then I can send you some questions and help you turn it into a post.
#MumdayMonday – because every mother deserves to be celebrated xxx ( I can’t believe I just wrote that – I feel a bit sick.)