What do you think of when you hear the words “single mother”?
A harassed, overworked and underpaid divorced woman trying to raise her kids with negligible support from her ex-partner?
A young woman barely existing on welfare, shunned by society as a drain on resources?
Or a contented and fulfilled professional woman?
“I CHOOSE my choice!” Charlotte from Sex and the City shouted down the phone to Miranda after having her choice to give up work questioned. As women, we are used to having to defend our choices; about whether to be a working or stay-at-home mother, whether to breast or bottle feed, even if, when and how we give birth is questioned, as though by doing something different to others, we are somehow invalidating their choices.
One choice we don’t hear much about is the choice to be a single mother. Admit you are a “single mother” and people instantly lower their voices, worried they might say something that may offend. Worried that they could be wading into dangerous territory-an abusive ex, financial difficulties, a heartbreaking relationship breakdown, even a bereavement.
It is not this way for all of us. Some of us make the active choice to parent alone, often to go through gruelling and invasive fertility procedures-sometimes for years-to have what others take for granted; the chance to have a family of their own. On their own. It isn’t always easy, but it is always rewarding, and here’s why.
1.) You are now literally the same as all those people who had babies the conventional way; who got married, had 2.4 children and did everything “right.” Yes, you are now officially what Bridget Jones would term a Smug Married, without being married. YOU are now the one spamming everyone’s Facebook with pictures of your adorable newborn ooh-look-at-his-adorable-little-poo-face. You have turned into one of those people you hated, envied, were literally beside yourself with jealousy over every time you saw one of their scan photos. And it feels AMAZING. You can even go out for Mummy-lattes with them and have conversations about weaning. You have finally found your tribe, and for the first time ever, they aren’t drunk.
2.) There is no need to compromise on anything, ever.
You want to name your baby Rainbow Brite de Lacey Precious Little Diamond Codswallop? Go right ahead, there’s no one to stop you! Well, apart from maybe your mother, and your saner friends, but basically, it’s your call. You want to co-sleep? Great, there’s nobody else in the bed to get in the way. You want to breastfeed your child until they go to university? Go right ahead. You are literally The Boss.
3.) You will be forever described as “brave,” “valiant,” “courageous” and other such adjectives usually reserved for those who do battle, either literally or figuratively, against far worse things than a colicky newborn. Revel in it.
4.) No pesky ex hanging around, wanting to be involved, or worse, not wanting to be involved.
5.) You finally don’t care about being an “old spinster,” “left on the shelf” or a “dried up old hag,” because, well, who cares? You literally never need to worry about men, dating or the horror that is Tinder, because you did it-you had a baby-all by yourself, and you know what, it was OK. Men of the world, begone! There is no further use for you!
And finally, you’ll really annoy the Daily Mail, who probably assume you did it just to claim benefits (I didn’t, pipe down at the back there, Disgusted of Twitter).
OK, so I have given up the trappings of my former life. My vintage dresses hung unworn and unloved at the back of the wardrobe, lest I should trip over their floor length hemlines whilst carrying a toddler, or lest they be destroyed by little banana and mud-caked fingers. My love life has dwindled to the point of nothingness, and not even starting my own reality show where I pay people to marry me can redeem me now, and I am living at home with my mother in the house I grew up in as I can no longer afford a flat of my own. But I am happy, deliriously happy, happier than I have ever been.
So take that Daily Mail.
This post was first written as a guest post for the website Meet Other Mums