Why should life end because you are a single mum?

Being a single mum

You know when you read something and lots of lights go on in your head? Well, THAT!

Reading ‘Why can’t I talk about my children at work’ by Sarah Wood over on the fabulous Birds on the Blog site I was taken back nearly 40 years to a time I hadn’t  thought about or given much attention to but now realise it was the start of a journey that got me to this destination. but not without a fight.

What were the choices?

 

My son was just a year old when his father and I separated. I remember it being a time of great excitement about what MY future could hold. I had lots of ideas in my head and the world seemed to hold all sorts of adventures for me grab and experience. I was once again single but there was a difference. I was a now SINGLE MUM.

My son was my life and whatever the future held, it had to accommodate both of us. That would filter some of those experiences and it would also have to include an income stream of some sort. I couldn’t just go backpacking looking for washing up jobs to pay for food! When I met my husband, I was just about to go to college to train as a teacher. It had always been what I was going to do when I grew up. Neighbourhood friends growing up would be used to playing ‘Schools’ with me and of course I was always the one standing at the front. I had my own blackboard and easel and of course, no aspiring teacher would be without a lift up desk.Being a single mum

Meeting the man who was going to be his father during the summer before I set off to college completely put me out of kilter. I went to college but it was at the other end of the country and although we wrote each day, it was not the time of mobiles or even telephones in every house so I soon became homesick and left after a couple of terms.  I do, however, remember saying that I could always go back and with the separation that was what I did.

 

The right choice?

 

Becoming a teacher would tick lots of boxes – a career for me, security for us both but most of all it would fit in with my son until he was ready to leave home. We would have school holidays together and apart from having to work during the evenings planning and marking, our days would follow a similar timetable.

My college was very supportive of us both but they did not run a creche so I had to find someone to look after him for that first couple of years. It was hard leaving him but at least my timetable wasn’t solidly 9 to 5 every day and by my thrid year he was at school so we managed. So, I had found the route to a career that wouldn’t involve all the negativity that goes with working mothers?

WRONG!

One of my first lectures discussed the importance of the first few years of childhood and how imperative it was that the child spent that time with its mother. Here was I  having left my son with a childminder! I can feel myself feeling guilty all over again just writing that! Despite my best efforts to try to accommodate us both, it was hard from the word go.

 

Isn’t that the point?

 

But isn’t that the point? Are women who are mothers really supposed to have careers? Aren’t we really supposed to stay at home looking after the children, waiting for the day they say ‘Thanks, Mum’ and leave? The increase in the number of women working from home and carving careers for themselves from their kitchens or studies is proof I think that there is still this tension between what is expected with what is aspired to. How many working single mums carry a huge slice of guilt?

Folks may have felt that I wanted my cake and to eat it. I know my ex-mother-in-law did, but then she didn’t move from the house and found it incredibly hard when her son got married and left home. The proof of the pudding rests with our children and what they feel about it all.

I hope my son is happy with the journey we took together and understands the decisions I took were for us both. The fact that he is now a head teacher and followed in my footsteps must say something, doesn’t it!

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20 comments

  • Great post, Julia. My Mum was a teacher and I think that having a working Mum show’s kids that it’s something to aspire to. Everyone has their own choice to make of course and maybe the kids of teachers are the lucky ones – our Mum’s were fulfilled with their career but still had the school holidays off with us. Win win for us, very tiring for her!

  • I’ve always admired people who know what they want to do for a career, pursue no matter how difficult and succeed as well as you have Julia. Well done, I have no doubt that you are a great educator and mother.

  • Pondside

    I think we all just do our best and then hope that our children see that we did. It sounds like your son did. It also sounds like your were quite a mature and wise young woman. You sacrificed for a better future for you and your son and you made it work for you. I mostly stayed home with my two, but circumstances dictated that – I had always intended to stay in the workforce. Subsequently, I didn’t work full time again until I was nearly 50 and had some serious catching up to do. We can’t second guess our decisions.

    • Thanks for commenting! You are so right about decisions we take as parents. We never know if they are thew right ones until it is too late! Great to see you here

  • What a nice post. I was a single mother for eight years. There were certainly times I felt as if I was not there for my girls. I understood, however, without any support family, I had a job to do and that was to put a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and kiss them goodnight as often as I could. Was it difficult? You’re damn right, but I pray they feel as if it made them stronger women. Thanks for sharing. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

  • My son has never resented me working. His father and I divorced when he was only four years old. His father has Aspberger’s Syndrome and I didn’t find out until I was almost 40 that I have type 2 bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. His father and I were oil and water. We were a much better divorced family than we ever were a married family.
    My son later expressed that he was proud of me for working so hard. He is now 26 and we help each other out as much as possible. He is high functioning autistic, and unfortunately, although he is very intelligent, he has never been able to hold a job due to anxiety issues.

  • Interesting post. Life does throw us some incredible curve balls. I was reminded of Maya Angelou as I read this.
    I feel your resolve and resilience. As a non-parent because I was too scared to have a child by myself. I’m sure you and your son have a special bond as a result.

  • What a lovely post! I’m not sure if the guilt wouldn’t still be there no matter what choices we make as women. We do adapt to the decisions we make and our children do, too as your son has grown up to demonstrate.

  • I was a teacher too (primary) and worked throughout the years of my four children’s growing up. At times, it was a very difficult juggling act and my husband was not terribly supportive. I think there were definitely times when my children were a bit resentful of the hours I spent on work-related things but the girls in particular grew up with the idea that it was entirely normal for them to have careers. Neither has children yet, and if that does come to pass, it will no doubt bring its own set of challenges! They are both far more confident than I was at their ages and I’m sure they’ll work things out one way or another.

  • Fabulous post Julia.

  • Życie jest piękne w każdym etapie. Dojrzalość dostarcza nam pociechy z dzieci i wnuków. To jest radośc z życia .Pozdrawiam. Roma.

    • Hi Roma,
      I hope you don’t mind me putting the English translation

      Life is beautiful at every stage. Maturity gives us comfort with children and grandchildren. This is the joy of life .Pozdrawiam. Roma.

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