I’ll never forget the first time I felt judged for being a single parent. A fellow mum at my sons school, who I really quite liked, and who I spoke to most days was chatting away to me about the snow that weekend. Not many people were aware that my current partner wasn’t the father of my son. This wasn’t because I was keeping it a secret but because it’s not really the most common topic to come up when there’s school trips and curriculums to discuss. This particular day was a Monday and after a bit of small talk about the weekends weather I mentioned that Theo had been at his dads and built a snowman there. Instantly her face changed. As she wasn’t aware beforehand, I understand that she may have been slightly surprised, but this reaction wasn’t surprise. I can’t describe what it was exactly, but it was confirmed to me after about six other mums became aware of the situation within a week, that she felt it was something which needed to be discussed behind my back.
That was the first time my situation made me feel like a bit of a failure. I walked away feeling a bit embarrassed, and started to envision everyone thinking I was a bit of a car crash. This was probably far more likely to be my insecurities of course, but the way she reacted had triggered it and it really got me thinking. I decided that if ever I was to start writing I would talk a lot about being a single mother and having children with different fathers. Especially as I distinctly remember googling ‘being a single mum’ and finding quite a small amount of literature on it. I really needed some encouragement, but it wasn’t easy to come by. So now I am sharing my own experience.
For a bit of background; five months into my first pregnancy I found out my ex partner was cheating on me and had to move home with my mum. We hadn’t been together long. We met at university and it was a bit of a whirlwind and somewhere along the line I fell pregnant. I do understand that it was far from ideal and probably was going to go that way anyway, whether I had fallen pregnant or not. I also don’t blame him for what he did at all, he gave me the best thing in the world, so it was just impossible to stay angry and in hindsight I can see that splitting was what needed to happen as we were completely mismatched and way too young. I was thrown into life as a single mum when we split for good just four weeks after my little boy, Theo, was born. Just a year earlier I was living with my three best friends at university, sleeping all day and partying all night (with the occasional lecture thrown in) and now just a year later I was raising a whole human alone. It was completely terrifying and brilliant all at the same time.
Despite just how open and accepting we are becoming as a society, there still appears to be a massive amount of social stigma attached to being a single parent or having a blended family. What scared me the most about all of it was actually the thought of it, whereas actually ‘doing it’ was really relatively easy in comparison to the picture I had conjured in my mind (which consisted mainly of people throwing things at me in the street out of disgust, completely OTT, I know). The experience of being a single mum is not all doom and gloom, I can tell you from experience I would go back and do it all again without a second thought.
The bond that me and my son have is insane. He is now nearly 7 and he is my sidekick. We only need to look at each other to know what the other is thinking and he is open and honest with me about how he feels. It was always me and him together and I feel to some extent that our bond can’t really ever be matched. It was me and me only with him day in day out and so I got double the work but almost also double the bond.
Furthermore, being a single parent meant I got to have a break every other weekend. I was able to lie in, have a duvet day uninterrupted, go for cocktails with friends in London or party in a club until 3am knowing I could sleep in the next day. These breaks allowed me to meet my current partner and ‘date’ him as I would have before my son was born. Every other weekend we went on a date and I got to be ‘Hayley’ again rather than ‘Mum’. As much as I missed my little boy, I embraced this break and was a more relaxed and happy mum come Sunday evening.
Children are adaptable and they (and you) will be just fine. Being a single parent takes a huge amount of strength but also brings a massive amount of happiness, along with relief; when you realise you are fully capable of fulfilling your child’s needs without a constant helping hand.
My son was the best surprise I’ve ever had but this is followed closely by the overwhelming joy I gained from raising him alone. It is imperative we get rid of this ever present stigma and instead embrace blended families by rewriting the rule book, because what once would’ve been my nightmare, turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.