I’ve been thinking a lot about the positives with being a single mum recently, mulling it over, chatting with my fellow single mum friends and slipping it, albeit probably randomly, in conversations with non-single / married friends. Because, excuse me while I step on my soapbox, it ain’t actually THAT bad.
Honestly, if you’d asked me years ago what I thought being a single mum would be like, I’d have painted a picture of poverty, loneliness, your kids being labelled, me being at my witts end as I juggle the work/life balance, I’d probably have to give up all hope of a career. You get the picture.
But here’s the thing, it’s far from it.
I stayed in an unhappy marriage for years, believing that it would be better for our children to grow up in a home with both parents. I thought I’d never cope on my own, anxious that I wouldn’t continue to be the best mum I was striving for and I’d let my kids down, screw them up for life.
Don’t get me wrong, there were good times but you know when that time comes to admit that life would probably be a hell of a lot better for all of us if we called it a day. You assure yourself that, as scary as those first few months will be, you’ve just got to do it, ride out the storm and that pretty soon you’ll adjust.
I’m nearly 18 months in now and it just feels normal. I’ve got used to my child-free weekends, I hated them at first, the silence and having a clean tidy house was horrible, it took every ounce of PMA to wave them off without crying, knowing the boys wouldn’t miss me, they’d be absolutely fine and that they wanted so desperately to spend time with their dad. They still bounce out the door like its the most natural thing in the world to go off to Dads every other weekend, the 3-year-old squeals with excitement “yay, it’s a Daddy day!”
So there you go, positive single parent thing number one; your kids can have a close relationship with both parents. A dad who makes his time with his children special, without me interfering. I know that’s not always the case, I’m well aware of single dads who are absolute pants at making the most of their time with the kids, I know of some who just disappear and put their own needs above their children.
I know of single mums who have done that too.
You make your moments without your kids count
And those child-free weekends? They’re the times when I recharge, I catch up on housework, lock my self away and get on top of my work deadlines, I go to the gym or I meet friends for lunch or coffee. Some weekends I go out, stay out waaaay past my bed time, I slut drop across the nightclub floor fuelled on gin and girlie night giggles, making stories for Monday morning and wake up at lunchtime the next day.
Imagine that married friends with kids! Imagine having a hangover without the mum guilt of letting your child have 3 hours on the iPad while you pretend Mummy’s ill. I make no apologies for having fun, I’m not a party animal, I’m not an alcoholic and I’m not being irresponsible. Neither am I out on the man trap, I have fun and let my hair down for my friends, with my friends, it’s more about having a boogie and darn good lighthearted yarn.
By the time my boys come home I’m back in sensible mum mode.
I’m mum and dad 24/7 ((technically 24/5 ish give or take a few numbers) and those times when I let my hair down make way for doing a kick-ass job when the kids are home as I have absolutely NO resentment for being chief in charge the rest of the time. I earnt my breather, my kids were safe with their dad, having fun, making memories and knowing that actually, life’s much better now mum and dad are happy and we’re getting quality time with both.
Friends are EVERYTHING
There’s also the friendships which form when you’re single parenting. I may have lost a husband, but I gained an amazing best friend. I had friends when I was married, but when you’re single, you find yourself navigating to other single mums. We have a shared understanding of what it’s like and that common ground breeds a warm fuzzy sisterhood feeling. It’s ace, I’m ashamed to say married me would’ve probably raised my eyebrows at the group of singletons being loud, happy and nonchalant in the pub. Married me, wouldn’t have realised she was most probably jealous they looked like they were having more fun than me, and given the time machine option, I’d like to go back and remind married me-
don’t judge someone unless you’ve walked in their shoes.
I have made a vow never to underestimate the value of friendships and be a slack mate ever again. It’s those very friends who have scraped me up and dusted me down, listened to my grumbles and made me laugh til I cry.
You get to reinvent yourself
I used my new single status to have an image overhaul. It’s not that I never made an effort before, but my free time gave me a chance to go to the hairdressers, the gym, start running, go clothes shopping and I’m not alone, I see no shame in making sure you look good.
I’ve had my teeth straightened, changed my hairstyle, change the way I wear makeup and revamped my whole wardrobe. My self-esteem was rock bottom in the first few months as a single mum, and making an effort was not some grand scheme to snare a new husband, it was about making myself feel better, I wanted to look in the mirror and know I wasn’t the horrible, ugly person which repelled my husband into the arms of another woman.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I turned a negative into a positive. Held my head up high and strutted out of my marriage looking forward with an air of ‘it’s your loss.’ I’ve seen my single mum friends do the same, some are barely recognisable and they look AMAZING. Don’t knock a single mum for making an extra effort, it’s probably more about feeling good about themselves than what other people think
So married mums and dads, please don’t feel sorry for us. Yes, it can be hard, tiring and lonely not having a wingman, but you learn to compromise.
Please don’t judge, avoid, treat differently. Invite us round to dinner parties, bbq’s and book playdates. We’re not out to steal your husbands or feel resentment for your coupleness. We’re just like you, honest!
And here’s the thing, the last passing thought which I’ve learnt as a single mum. Mentally and physically, I’ve never been stronger, so you can take that broken home tripe and stick it in room 101.
I patched up with super glue and you can’t even see the cracks.