I am in isolation again, like so many others. It’s a really weird time we are living in.
Both of the kids have Covid and I somehow have managed to dodge it, I have no idea how the virus works, but I do feel smugly elite - I’m sure I’ll test positive tomorrow.
In being confined to my own four walls, I am confined to my thoughts. I have become deeply spiritual within the last few years and I am aware that I am not my thoughts; however, it’s really hard to remember that in isolation with two children. I am feeling very human right now and less spirit. But I suppose this is where your spiritual practices are put to the test, not in the yoga classes or at the top of the mountain. It’s making the 95th snack of the day and unloading the dishwasher for the 67th time. Maintaining an enlightened state in these circumstances is the real challenge and one I feel only capable of by Eckhart Tolle or Buddha himself.
I have moments where being a single parent hit me in the face like a bag of dicks.
An altogether unpleasant hit. And isolation is one of them. Do not mistake my realisation for being ungrateful, I am extremely grateful for the boys, the support from family and friends from afar, the home I own, the understanding workplace, the food we have, the Xbox (THANK YOU MICROSOFT- It has been a pleasure co-parenting with you throughout this pandemic). However things can be multiple things at one time, I can be extremely grateful and yet still find it hard. Let's face it, mothering is hard, the expectation set by society but more importantly by ourselves is ridiculous.
Bringing up decent human beings, whilst trying to maintain your own self is quite the challenge, especially if like me, you didn’t have a sense of self before you had them.
But parenting alone has been something else. I have heard other parents say they ‘practically’ do it by themselves, and whilst I can appreciate it, practically and actually doing it by yourself are two very different things. There are of course the financial implications of single parenting, the parts of your children's lives you miss out on due to shared custody, if that is your situation. The nights alone, giving yourself a little pep talk because there is no one there to tell you, you did a good job today, you are only human, you are a wonderful mum, the kids love you, I see you. The reality of that is something completely different. I think everyone wants and deserves to be seen.
It amazes me that there is a stigma attached to being a single parent, correction single mother. There are of course stark differences between single mothers and single fathers. Let's look at this for a moment:
A single mother is deemed desperate, she requires a man to come in and take on her children, her baggage and when they do she must be grateful and when ‘he’ does - well he’s a hero. And then there are the single fathers: well he’s a hero because he stayed to look after those kids and any woman who comes into his life after will obviously take on his kids, his single-parent status is attractive. And she will most probably be labelled the ‘wicked stepmother’ AND SHE BETTER NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THAT.
Let me make something very clear
He is a hero, a single father - an absolute legend. But so is she, so is a single mother.
Single mothers are not only carrying the same loads as single fathers but dealing with this stigma along with the obvious gender pay gap, she’s not bringing in as much income as him. The single mother stigma is something we need to abolish because not only is it true but out of 3 million single-parent families in the UK, 90% of them are women.
I have had to dig down deep...
...and take a look at the stigma I had taken on; even I bought into this, because it’s palpable. And you can only really feel it when you are in that situation yourself. I have done a lot of work on shedding that stigma for myself, building up my worth and changing my own narrative.
Yes it’s 2022, and we have come a long way but there is still a long way to go. I of course wobble but there are some things I feel very clear on;
I am not looking for a father/mother for these boys - they have two parents who adore them
My life is not a failure because I am divorced. To abandon yourself to maintain a relationship is more of a failure in my eyes
I carry a load of a whole household, a job and two kids - it’s hard but I do it. This does not make me weak, or desperate, it makes me strong, resilient and powerful
I have been to hell and back and I am still standing - I do not accept your judgement, I do not settle for anything that does not serve me. Because I know I am whole and complete on my own
I am financially independent and I don’t answer to or rely on anybody
I have supported myself emotionally and some days are hard, I’ve cried myself to sleep numerous times and still I have got back up and showed up for my children and myself the next day.
We are not a ‘broken home’; we are a fully whole family showing up as themselves completely.
I have grown more from the things which didn’t go according to plan than I ever have in all the things which have ‘seemingly’ gone to plan.
None of these are any less true if I admit I find it hard sometimes.
Giovanna Fletcher - Letters on Motherhood
Isolation is just an exaggerated version of single parenting. I don’t go out after 8pm usually, as the kids are in bed. I can no longer be spontaneous, I’ve always had to plan ahead and book things in. I manage and budget my time and money. I have been living like this for a while, so there are some of the rules which don’t affect me in the same way it does others.
But being unable to pop to my sister's house, so the kids can play. Or pop over to my Mum's so I can have a conversation with another adult or where she might get them a snack. Or having them go to school and be taught by people who are far more qualified and capable than me and socialise has added a tonne of pressure.
So here’s the truth of it all; I love my kids more than I ever thought possible, I am so grateful for my support system, being a parent is hard, being a single mother is another ball game. Isolation is no way to live, we are built for community and connection, if you have found or are finding that hard, it’s because it is. I will cry again and I will pick myself up, I will snap at my kids, I will apologise. I will be grateful when they go back to school and miss them again too. I will have weak moments, but I am strong enough to manoeuvre my way through them. Acknowledging it is hard is a strength, not a weakness and does not make me any less of a mother, but allows me to show up in the world as a human being who doesn’t always have it together - no one does, so let's stop pretending we do.
I Surrender - Aron Wright
I encourage you to also share the love and the light of parenting but to also share the shit, I promise you, in doing so you will feel far less alone.