There is a lot of stigma attached to being a single mother, particularly if you don’t get along with your child(ren)’s father. Somehow, the accomplishment of raising your kids while not being engaged in a traditional family unit (with all the built-in help that usually entails) is overshadowed by the culturally-ingrained prejudice against single-parent or non-traditionally comprised families. Until my family unit became one of these, I had not realised exactly how much these preconceptions abound.After my ex-husband and I decided to separate, I began, almost immediately, to be referred to as a single mother. While this is the traditionally employed term for a mother in my situation, the label implies a lack of involvement from my son’s father. I read somewhere, probably on Facebook, the opinion of a woman about her marital and parental status. It went something like this: I am a single woman, but I am not a single mother (not verbatim, but you get the picture). She said this, because she and her ex-husband share the responsibility of raising their children, despite no longer being married. While one parent or the other will inevitably have more of this responsibility on their shoulders at any given time, they are both “there”. She and I are of one mindset. Yes, I am now single, but I do not parent my son alone.
I am fortunate to have, in my ex-husband, an incredibly decent person, who did not once waver in his consideration of our son’s wellbeing. He is also one of my biggest supporters. We have both put our son first, in as many ways as we’ve been able to think of. The act of ending a type of relationship that was no longer working for us was, in itself, an act for the benefit of our son (as well as ourselves, of course). We are both much better versions of ourselves and, indeed, much better friends, now that we are no longer a couple. Being able to be truly happy within ourselves allows us to be much better parents, and has prevented situations in which our son might have had to witness us arguing or unhappy. For us, staying together for the sake of our son was not the right step. Instead, we took the brave decision to end our marriage after nearly eleven years together (almost six of marriage), and in doing so, renewed a friendship we had somehow lost along the way. All three of us are happy – individually, and as a family. Because we are still a family.
Since our split, there have been people who have struggled to understand our decision. Yes, we considered everything carefully, we got outside help, and in the end, the decision we made was the right one for us. It may not be the right decision for everyone. But, as they see us newly excelling in various areas, they are starting to see why we made this change in our relationship. I say relationship, because it is only our marriage that is over. We are still a part of one another’s lives, and will continue to be connected through our beautiful boy. On the other hand, we have also had people remark on the maturity with which we have handled the situation, our courage in taking such a step, and their gladness at seeing us start to shine once again. At the risk of sounding cliché, a relationship that dulls your sparkle is probably not the right one. Having been quite attached to a fairytale idea of what love and marriage should look like (that being, you find “the one”, get married and live happily ever after, the end), this is not something I would’ve pictured myself saying several months ago.
I wrote this post because I realised that, while my family situation has been implied in previous posts, I had not written about it explicitly. I am doing so now, because I want to illustrate how a situation may not be so clear cut as the stereotypes would have you believe; because I want to show people that there is more than one way to handle things when a relationship ends or changes; and because I want people to know that it is okay not to be who society expects you to be, or do things in the way they’re “usually done”. That there is nothing wrong with being a single person, raising your children (whether on your own, with support from family/friends, or with your ex-partner). You can be a single parent without being a single parent. Co-parenting, though perhaps uncommon, is not unusual or unideal – it’s extraordinary.
It’s okay to break the mould, as we have done here. Try it, you may get much better results than you ever thought possible.
Mini Mummi Blogger 🌺
Mini Mummi Blogger is a first time mummy to a beautiful baby boy. Currently on maternity leave, she is looking to put her writing/publishing experience to good use through her blog, helping other mummies navigate through the wealth of often conflicting (and, sometimes, even discouraging) information out there about pregnancy and motherhood. She believes that every mummy knows what’s best for her own baby – even first time mums!
Today, we come full circle, with the third and final birth story from Hannah (the…