Why should life end because you are 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.
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?
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!