Those of us with a partners might think we have an idea of what raising a child on your own might be like. But truthfully, or certainly in my case anyway, we are WAY off the mark. Not having another pair of hands to help you, doesn’t even come close to reality of single parenthood. Here Phoebe sheds light on the vast obstacles and subtle facets to the challenges it presents:

  • Being a single mother isn’t something inflicted on the weak & unable to compromise, on those that procreate with flagrant disregard.

  • It isn’t a badge to be worn to warn prospective partners that you’re probably ‘passed it,’ (Wherever ‘it’ is, I’m not sure I was ever there) But, it feels like that at times, and I’m told it’s that; in the glances & passive aggressiveness amongst tepid cups of tea at playgroups, I’m told I didn’t ‘do’ enough.

  • So, here it is – as concise as I can, on a subject I accidentally & at first, heartbreakingly know all too well – a list, a top ten if you wish, of what Single motherhood is (and isn’t), to me.

  • 10. Coming in at number ten… *drum roll, please*

  • Single motherhood is; the duality of other women telling you their relationship problems – soft play walls whisper the tales of infidelity, abuse and shit sex, you hear things far beyond your remit of understanding but yet these same women tell you how ‘they could never do it’ and ask you when you’re going to get back out there – well, if my own experiences weren’t defining enough, yours have definitely put me off! No, I’ll swerve on meeting Gary’s brother, thanks!

  • 9. It is; suddenly being priced out of your ethics, beliefs & popular culture.

  • Having morals costs moolah. Wanting to do ‘better’ or superlatively, the best, for your kids is pricey.

  • I care about the environment, I advocated passionately as a sprog for vegetarianism from before I started infant school and went on to cut out all animal produce, I grew up reading The Economist & would tell anyone that stood still for long enough that I was going to be a political correspondent (popstar was always my back up plan!)

  • Here isn’t the time and place to talk about who gets your vote in the booth, or the state of the oceans but when something matters to you – it’s really hard to not be able to access, what suddenly seems like the upper echelons of society.

  • Of course, it it matters enough, you find a way (I make a mean cleaning solution with essential oils and white vinegar) & ‘the stuff I can do with a can of chickpeas will make you weak at the knees’ (maybe, rapper would have been a better shout) but would it be nice to roll down the aisles of the supermarket, picking up Method and Violife at will – yes, of course it bloody would.

  • There is no own brand ‘Marmite’ that tastes even vaguely like the original, they don’t even pass the rabid, hangry toddler test & all your lovely podcasts & Netflix documentaries require a subscription – it’s ok, I can read what you guys think about all of these things I miss, on Instagram.

  • 8. Isn’t the only one under pressure;

  • COST. OF. LIVING. To be honest, that is the fear I constantly hear when talking to other people (women, men, parents, those without children) about why they’re not comfortable to leave a relationship that isn’t working romantically. We millenials, that jump at the chance to move out of our parents and into a living situation with a romantic partner.

  • The significance of a significant other is so pressurised because life is so bloody expensive now. As a woman under 30 (clinging to it like a lifeboat floating by the Titantic – it’s a sinking ship, guys!) many of my peers have either moved back in with their parents, or are renting rooms in house shares.

  • Maybe a quarter of the people I went to school with own their homes, and far less than that of my peers in London where I moved towards the end of my ‘teens’ – of those bethrothed to the mortgage lender, all but two of them are in long term relationships, married or have had financial help from family.

  • The average (mean) UK male income is £27,000 (May 2018) so, assuming you’ve got the deposit – you’d be able to borrow a hefty £135,000 – please, tell me where these houses are. No one would be able to live south of… I don’t know, Hull? I’ve looked and I could buy a studio flat in Portsmouth. You’re fully fledge fucked if you work in retail or haven’t been afforded the confidence or opportunity to attend university though.

  • The fear suffocated me, and rightly so to an extent – my current situation is that I couldn’t actually afford to put my daughter in childcare for anywhere near the hours I’d need to make any money and you go from looking at jobs that are dictated by ‘wage’ rather than ‘salary’ when you can only work in school hours.

  • It’s freelance or bust, here – and that’s about as reliable as that time I let my friend’s teenage daughter dye my hair. In that situation, there are

  • Provisions in place for families with a set-up like mine, and my gratitude is immense – but asking for that help, and the stigma that comes with it, well, that’s suffocating it itself. And, did I mention how much Marmite costs!?

  • 7. Single parenting isn’t; punishment for not being able to hold your tongue. In the same way any relationship ending isn’t a universal middle finger to those that don’t adhere to the ideals of society or another person.

  • My having a child threw up some extra questions, and hesitation in ending a romantic relationship with someone. I wasn’t asking my relationship with them as a parent to end. That is lifelong & up to the other parent to dictate their relationship with the child.

  • If you are reading this & feel like you could be a more well rounded, authentic and happier version of yourself for NOT sharing a bed with this person then – don’t. Get out and meet yourself where you stand, pull up your socks and dust off your shoulders.

  • Don’t limit your happiness out of fear, there’s enough stuff out there that puts a spanner in the works – we need to be on our own team.

  • I am a wonderfully kind, funny & engaging woman and in all honesty, my daughter wasn’t seeing that anywhere near as much as she deserved and now, she does. I would say, take time – ask questions, process it in whatever way suits you (talking, writing about it, meditating)

  • Obviously, it goes without saying – if you’re experiencing anything that is truly damaging to you as a person, or any abuse – just get out, no hesitation and ask questions later. Give yourself the love they can’t.

  • Try as I might, it definitely has been living in the stereotype that you’re an uneducated, sproglet of a system that dosed out council houses to anyone with a womb that was being put to ‘good use. Shagging, rather than working hard and that. I think the label needs to be done away with, it carries so much negativity.

  • I’d like a title that has a little bit more je ne sais quoi – that speaks, not of rolled eyes & “oh, gosh I’m so sorry” when you declare it, like a zombie contagen & assumes you’ve been ‘left behind’ but rather the automatic assumption of sassiness, of being a self-starter, of ultimate team work and never having the amount of snuggles you have dictated.

  • It has no bearing on what qualifications I have, is this finally the time I put those bloody certificates to good use? They’ve been gathering dust since 2006! Joy! I do, as it happens, live in a block of flats – built in the resurgence for post-war social housing need, dated somewhere in the 1960s but to me, that just means it’s actually built with bricks, rather than the cardboard and cladded tin used in new builds.

  • 5. Single parenthood doesn’t just mean ‘poor’ but, when cash is scarce, it means no money.

  • I’m lucky in the sense that I know, in every fibre of my being, that being totally brassic is temporary. I’m intelligent, dynamic, friendly & absolutely am driven by a want for experiences that money buys.

  • No longer living with the ‘other parent’ doesn’t just impact the finances in terms of household income though. It throws up a childcare cost that I previously took for granted (or depending on your industry the impossibility to find adequate childcare – shout out all my nurses, musicians and doulas!

  • A travel cost that I never really had to consider (having left London, it’s necessary that I learn to drive) & does, despite my pleas with the universe, does kind of exclude you from certain social settings or circles, EVEN IF you’ve previously inhabited those spaces and thought you had a lifetime membership for instance, I was always very keen to home educate my children (again, let’s swerve any politically charged such and such) but, feel that any chance I had kind of slipped away when I made the choice to ‘go it alone’ as I can’t afford to not work, forest/steiner schools are all hugely expensive and being indoctrinated (fnarr, fnarr I can’t help myself) by the state, is free. And, free is free.

  • Being poor isn’t just about finances, it’s poor access to resources, it’s poor diet.

  • I can definitely see by my recent experiences what a cyclical pandemic poverty can be.

  • How people can be so bloody tired of trying, that they may just… give up. It might not seem like they’re giving up on anyone but themselves.

  • But, historically we lead by example; it’s another generation lost.

  • 4. It is;

  • Questioning if people think that everything bad that goes wrong is because your kid has ‘an absent parent’ – my daughter had a fortnight of biting a couple of months ago. We had just moved & I was tirelessly trying to make everything ‘right’ – as much as I knew it was the best decision for our little family of two to leave The Metropolis, with that meant leaving the small but intrinsic support network of friends I had in London.

  • I couldn’t bare the thought that these sudden surges of aggression were because I was her only constant. I was racked with guilt. I felt like with every nibble, there was a hushed back story between the other parents, detailing my private life. And then, at the park one day, a little boy bit her – awful as it felt in the immediate – I saw clearly. I wasn’t questioning the boy’s family dynamic, I just saw a child frustrated with their lack of communicative skills doing the thing that so many other children (and recently one reveller in North Devon) do – bite. Luckily for me, and my peaking anxiety, that phase was short lived.

  • 3. Single parenthood isn’t; the same as looking after your children without your husband for one night whilst he’s at a stag. Please stop hashtagging yourself as a single or solo parent.

  • 2. isn’t being ‘lucky’ to spend more time with your child. No one wants your faux jealo-pity. If you’re ‘working for no money after the nursery fees are paid’, if your household’s second salary would assure your basic needs were met then it’s ok to admit you’ve made that choice, to work and not be with your child 24 hours a day. I think what you’re doing is ace, and valid and don’t think you’re any less of a mother for doing so – but, please for the love of Bing, don’t tell me you wish you could be a stay at home mum because you have actively made the choice, for whatever reason, not to be.

  • There are women that are slogging their arses off that want to be at home with their kids, ones that are at home full time and quite frankly would rather be at work, ones that are content at home rearing their children which is absolutely their prerogative & those of us that look after their children all day only to start work when the kids go to bed.

  • We all want the same thing. Happiness for our families in whatever form we can find it, I don’t think any of it is ‘luck’ it takes all sorts to make a world but there’s shit on both sides of the coin. I wish I had more coins. For Marmite.

  • 1. is often just being a mum, I question why it warrants a label – why would my relationship status define what kind of parent I am? But, it is the underpinning of everything I do now. “Of course, but being a parent DOES!” I hear you cry!

  • Well, all I can say is, having been a parent actively WITH someone – there are choices I don’t have now, there is no longer the team mate to run your day/finances/ parenting fears/hopes and dreams past of an evening. Those decisions and the consequences of those decisions, are built from and lay with – you. There’s no one picking up the slack, or helping you fill up your cup when there’s nothing left. I would say, in the quiet moments of reflection, that is the only thing I miss.

  • Wholeheartedly, without regret but every win has a loss – right?

  • So, that’s me – maybe too much of me or maybe, to some not enough (‘Question Time’ in my inbox, tonight, see you there!)

  • Evidently, I haven’t felt the need to list the fantastic elements of being my daughter’s parent – because that’s universal. Being a parent – mother, father, adoptive, step, grand – is limitlessly wonderful, that is no different in whatever guise it shows itself. That love needs no explanation from me, because if you’re here – on Clemmie’s wonderful, timeless blog then you get it.

  • But, this is just an experience, mine. It’s the only one I’ve got and it’s been for the majority of my parenting journey, I have no idea whether it will remain that way – in fact, I’m hesitant to even give it any thought because, that’s how good a thing we’ve got going on here.

  • No doubt; amongst the forced budgeting (can you do a weekly shop on less than thirty quid?) not having anyone to vent to and realising how crap I am at painting (despite a love for interiors) but having to do it anyway it has been an experience that continues to be fiercely wonderful, enlightened & affirming – as I hope her father’s is with her, and as any parent’s should be. It’s a reciprocal process, that is constantly subject to change – and it is really freeing to only have a single schedule & set of feelings to take into consideration – HERS!

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  • Reply Amala March 7, 2019 at 2:57 am


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