There is something to be said for moving into your forties. The much dreaded 4-0 that often gets partied away as if it never happened or indeed it gets made a big deal out of in the spirit of “if it’s going to happen, let’s make some noise”. It is a milestone to be reckoned with either way and it doesn’t deserve all the bad press it gets. In hindsight I spent most of my 20s trying to be or become someone. It was a rushed and grabbing opportunities kind of time, where I had my eyes on some sort of target although I am not sure if I even knew what that was. In my 30s I tried for the most part to keep together what I had tentatively built in my 20s. Albeit that I assumed it was rock solid, it really was paper thin and based on who I thought I should or could be.My world caved in when I was 36. The paper walls finally soaked up enough poison to slowly disintegrate and everything else appeared to be edible like the witches’ house in Hansel and Gretel so it was steadily eaten away at until there was nothing left. I remember standing in disbelief at the edge of the abyss where previously I had known my home to be. I had nowhere else to go. Little did I know that this kind of aggressive wiping clean of the slate was the best thing that could have ever happened. From that moment onwards I had no longer a desire to be or become someone, I had a desire to live.
What a joy it is to be your own person. There is little guilt, much less of having to make the story sound good or needing to prove myself. I am the way I am. That doesn’t mean for a second that I see myself as fixed or finished. In many ways I have much to learn, but I know where I am at. I don’t regard my lesser strengths as insurmountable obstacles, but works in progress. Equally I treasure my unique skills and abilities and work hard to enhance them. It is neither arrogant nor pretentious to know where you are with things. You just save a lot of time not having to pretend. Being your own person and celebrating your capability is a joy. What else are we supposed to be and do here, unless we can work with what we have been granted, improve it and dedicate it? I believe people are just so much better than they think they are and stripping back to whom you really are and want to be is the most honest and rewarding part of it all.
You are who you are. Maybe consider it to be perfect… for now.
I was single mum way before becoming a mum for the 2nd time. In many ways perhaps I had been a single mum all along. I hadn’t given too much thought to becoming a mum as I was in the middle of a successful personal training career riding the crest of the wave. It took me all of the first 9 months to get somehow an understanding of the huge change that was about to happen. And then again, I probably had no real idea of the enormity of it until it actually happened to me.
My 2nd pregnancy was altogether a lonely journey. The person I was living with at the time was living another life simultaneously somewhere else and although he left after the birth of my 2nd boy, he may as well have gone before. I wish I had known of his planned exit as the shock of him leaving with his parting words of “have a nice life” was so huge, it took me many years to recover from it. Not in the least because as a single parent you have little time for tears and it’s the last thing I wanted my boys to see. They were just 2 years and 4 months at the time. So you go into overdrive, everything becomes a project and there is never time to be still. A good job really, it would have engulfed me and I fear I may not have been able to get up. I sort of looked up at the sky many times, begging any God out there to give me some reassurance that I would be able to see it through, that I would be able to raise my children alone. In the quiet evenings I would do the washing, the admin, tidy the house and when there was nothing left to do I would phone my sister in Holland. Every single night. Bless her, for always being there to talk to for I wasn’t thinking straight and the last thing I wanted is to hear my thoughts echo against four walls.
When you go through a huge life change as becoming a single parent, the community around you reacts in interesting ways. In my particular situation many people were so absorbed with the soap style of a story that unfolded, that I found myself playing the lead in a drama I didn’t want to be part of. I didn’t want to be stopped in the street and hear what people had known all along and it was hard to see the pity in their eyes. Or was it the relish and twisted glee of having someone else’s problems to focus on as a talking point? It must have made the days go quicker.
My family were in Holland and in my fragile state I trusted way too many people, most of whom were looking out for themselves and not for me and the boys. Some friends faded into the background under more than suspicious circumstances and although I will never know the truth my heart tells me they weren’t true to me either.
Although I tried to make my business work and build a home for my children I now see that I wasn’t functioning properly for years and I now also see clearly the string of people who tried to take advantage of that. Crucially, the situation never broke me. I came close but seeing my boys got me to somehow grasp hold of a ray of light each time and I carried on. God had sent me an enormous Guardian Angel; she couldn’t prevent the hurt and the deceit I was surrounded by but she kept me standing each time I was close to giving up. Many things go out of the window, trust, confidence and faith. And if you are not careful there is a risk they may never come back. “Don’t lose who you are”, Jesse J. sings…exactly, don’t lose who you are, even if for a while you may be very lost. It is you and just you that has the courage to keep going and it’s you who remains standing.
Single parents are unsung heroes. I have now re-married after having met the man of my dreams. I thank God each day that I am fortunate enough to share the parenting journey with a wonderful man, but I know many single parents heroes out there have not yet been that lucky. They often get bad press and have to go through the most difficult emotional circumstances whilst being alone with little, demanding children in the all encompassing single parent life. Your work is never done, your sleep is never uninterrupted and your heart is never whole. You un-prioritise anything to do with yourself in order to make up for what you may feel is your fault, or to compensate for the absence of the other parent. You choose to be a parent, but not many would choose to be a single parent. The stigma attached to it is suffocating and it is hard not to be defeated by society, by false friends and lack of any government support.
If you are a single parent or you have been one or you know one, give yourself or them a pat on the back. It is like swimming upstream with all the odds against you and all you want to do -like any parent in the world- is give your child a good send off.
Keep standing, stay strong and if you ever need any revenge, do so by living well.