Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Single Moms Club

The day I took that positive pregnancy test my life changed, my whole life - I have talked about it many times before, and I think about it every single day. The most immediate change was not actually that tiny life inside - just a few days old and a tiny collection of cells at that point - the biggest change right then was how I thought of myself. I remember walking through a crowd the next day thinking "don't bump into me - I am with child." When a guy smiled at me I wanted to tell him off, I was going to be somebody's mother after all! Once the news spread I was suddenly no longer allowed to reach things on high shelves or stand on public transport. I had joined that (sometimes) exclusive club of motherhood. I smiled at other pregnant women, they smiled back with that satisfied dreamy smile that only pregnant women can encompass - 'yes, I feel it too mama'. I stared at tiny babies and little children, I recognised my future self in their parents. I had arrived.

I moved to London with 6 month old Vinnie, to a place I couldn't have pointed out on a map, where I knew a grand total of two people - my kid and my ex. I had to make friends, so I sought out other mamas. Anyone with a buggy or an ergo wrap - 'hey lady, I have a kid too, let's be friends!' And it worked, I made lots of friends, people I might never have met had it not been for the fact we had kids around the same time. I built relationships and a community there, based around the mutual fact we were parents. We could swap stories and tips and empathise and giggle together all because we knew, we all felt the same.

And then I joined a new club. One that is not so esteemed. I gained a new label the 'Single Mom'. Really, nothing had changed, my ex moved out, I got a little less sleep. But I was still the same woman, the same mother. But everything had changed. I started to feel isolated. I looked at my kid like "it's just me and you now kiddo", we were all we'd got. I didn't tell my friends or my family about my break-up for over a fortnight, the first person I did reach out to was another single mom. She knew. She could empathise. She had known that taste of bitterness and frustration. She had the fear. I felt it too.

Eventually I told people (actually, I updated my relationship status on Facebook and ignored my phone when it started to ring) - but after that a shift happened. I was recognised as a single mom. And anyone who was there, or had been there, suddenly they identified with me. My relationship with my own mom - herself a single mom for most of my childhood - strengthened and deepened in our mutual understanding and experience. Old workmates, my dad's girlfriend, a friend of the family all reached out their arms and they welcomed me into their club. The one that said, 'We know it too'. They knew the pain and the anger I was feeling, they had felt it too and let me tell you, there is no fury like a single mother scorned.

Recently something has changed in me too. As I come to terms with my new life, roles and labels and as I share my thoughts and my hopes and my fears and my dreams here - people are reaching out to me to tell me their stories - of troubled marriages and first husbands and thoughts of separation and the fear we both know.

I have talked before about how motherhood changes you, how you walk and talk and think of yourself. And I think single motherhood does too. How I approach my kid and any more kids I may have, every path I choose and every relationship I have and the way I relate to every other mother, it will always be different. Now that I have seen motherhood from this side, it will always be different.

1 comment:

  1. Motherhood defines us, one way or another, doesn't it? I see my life as distinctly divided in two: pre-motherhood and motherhood. Everything changed in that moment and can never be the same again. Motherhood has changed me in ways I never thought possible, and all of those changes have been good.