Single mother. Hmmm. What is it about that term that sometimes makes me recoil inwards of dread and embarrassment?
I think it has a lot to do with the stigma attached to it. Growing up when I thought of the term single mum, I would think of the Jeremy Kyle guest lookalike. Lambert & Butler fag smoking, uneducated, with an Adidas tracksuit, living on the 12th floor of a block. She's got three snotty kids running around her making up noise in the supermarket, living off state benefits.
Well it took me a long time to come to terms with that "Single mum" terminology, You see because I myself have become a single mum now. Guess what? I'm none of the above.
I'm a hardworking 30 something year old woman, with a great job as a Specialist Nurse in Paediatrics within the NHS. I've always worked, I've worked since the age of 16 ranging from retail, bar work, manager, admin and the Probation service to name a few.
I was a late decision maker. I got used to earning money from 16 to 21 as you do. Then I decided to go to university and study Paediatric Nursing, I have a 10 month old daughter now at the time of writing this and life couldn't be better as a single mother.
I think the term single mum should be looked at and celebrated as something amazing. How strong, courageous and special a woman must be to raise a child on her own? It also has nothing to do with race, I used to hear remarks being thrown about by ignorant people growing up that it was a particular race that always ended up being single mums. How wrong is that? I have experienced single mums from all races- white, black, mixed race and Indian. It's not exclusive to a particular set of people. So let's squash that stereotype right away first.
Out of the single mums I do know, we are all hardworking professionals, some with mortgages, some privately renting and yes some in local authority buildings, but what strikes me with all of us and when I say us, I'm talking about from personal experience from those around me. What strikes me is the strength that we all have. We still smile, we work hard for the best and ensure our children have everything without them being spoilt. We instill great values into our children and of the single mums I know whose children are older than mine, I've seen how fantastic these kids have grown up to be so far. So I know I'll be just fine.
But let's break it down. Unless you've been in this situation you will never understand. I had friends and family tell me things like " Aww you'll be fine" or "you'll be a great mum" or "you can do this F*** him anyway" referring to my daughters father, and I used to say in my head things like "how the hell do you know if I'll be fine. Has this happened to you??"
I used to feel really embarrassed when taking my daughter out for walks in the buggy, pushing her down the road by myself, it felt like people were looking at me with those 'awww single mum feeling sorry for me looks' to the point I didn't really like going out as much.
Things like health visitor appointments where you would sit in the waiting area alone waiting to hear your child's name, I would scan around the room and see who else was waiting and clock that smug looking couple who attended the appointment together fussing over their little one. It used to make me feel a little sad. Not any more.
I grew up with my parents together and they still are, so this was a world to me that was new and I didn't understand, unless I had friends who were going through single motherhood before me.
I think it's a term that needs to be celebrated and perceptions need to be changed. The circumstances that led us to become single parents is what should be taken into account and what is best for your child or children.
If it's abuse and I don't just mean physical. Abuse also covers emotional, psychological and sexual abuse. Think, is it safe both mentally and physically for your child or children to be witnessing such things?
If you're in a relationship but you feel single anyway, because your partner isn't lifting a finger, he's always out and not necessarily out at work, you can't rely on him financially or emotionally when it counts, he doesn't get up to do the changes or feeds and makes excuses as to why he can't, if they put you down in anyway and you just feel lonely and helpless even with a partner, then think about that too. Ultimately you do what's best for your situation.
No one goes into single parenthood willingly. Maybe some do, but I'm speaking from personal experience from myself and those around me. It takes great thought, strength and guts to go forth alone.
There are days when you feel like you can't do it, and you just want to be at home crying in front of the television and not speak to or see anyone for a few days. You just want to enjoy your space without visitors. You know what thats fine, you can do that.
There are also days when you feel like a superwoman octopus and you've managed and juggled so many things that day like a G and you say to yourself smugly YES I'm a pro! Enjoying that glass of wine at the end of the day haha.
I'm generally excellent at multitasking and organising anyway, I also think years as a Nurse helps too. When you've had to juggle 4, 5 sometimes 6 patients to yourself, you have to have a meticulous, organised mind to make sure medication is given simultaneously along with feeds, then maybe one patient needs to go to xray, the other needs to go to the hospital school on the other side of the building all by 10am. I say if you can be a Nurse and manage the fast paced, stressful life in the NHS. You can manage anything.
Single parenthood is amazing. You get all the joys of seeing your children grow, meet their milestones, achieve well in school and see them happy and thriving all to yourself, and guess what it's down to us and the work we put in to not let them be affected. That's something to be proud of.
So to all my other single mums or dads out there, when you get those moments of feeling low, finding it hard to cope, just look at your little one/s and take a deep breath and be proud of what you are achieving so far. Even on the days when your patience is being tested to the max with screaming, crying and tantrums just remember it's all part of their development and it will pass. The best is yet to come.
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