By MAVIS KING
At a party, a social gathering, simply chatting to a parent in a park, almost anywhere, if a conversation goes for long enough eventually I need to declare that I’m a single mother of a young baby. This needs to happen for a conversation to progress with any authenticity on my behalf.
On declaring my status I quickly have a sympathetic ear, particularly of other mothers. Soon enough however they feel compelled to claim a closer alignment than might be deemed fair. ‘I’m practically a single mother, he’s always at work’ or ‘I was like a single mother, he didn’t do a thing’ or’ I’m like a single mother I never get a moment to myself’ they state with enthusiasm.
I must confess, it’s somewhat hard to sympathise, for feeling like a single mother is most definitely not the same as being one.
These comments about moments of absence, mostly related to time, ignore and completely discount the hardest and very real aspects – emotional, financial and physical – of what it is like to be a single mother.
A single mother does it all, there’s no shifts, no relief that comes in at the end of the day, however late. If the night is sleepless due to a fever, teething or something unexplained then the morning rolls on regardless. This can happen night after night with no relief, that’s just the way it is.
There’s no one to accuse of not pulling their load, there’s no chance for a sleep in or nap because you did the night tough, it all rolls on and so does the single mother. Invariably she musters a smile and is hopeful for a better sleep the coming night or some night after that.
A single mother invariably has a concern for finances with lone parents significantly over-represented among poor groups in society. When women with husbands in high-powered jobs complain of their long work hours, it can be hard for a single mother to sympathise. A cleaner, a babysitter, a holiday – luxuries one would not dare afford when the future bares down upon oneself and child with just a single limited income.
Moments: first solids, first steps, first words and all the silly things in between, the funny grins, little habits – the single mother may record them but they are to be shared perhaps, with her mother or friends. It’s very different to the wife that calls her husband in elation, sending videos through that he shares with colleagues and friends. Such moments – the significant moments – are often celebrated by the single mother alone, for there is no one with which to share. Yes, still significant and they do bring joy, but the tinge of sadness that can creep in to each moment should not be discounted for we all know they would be better shared.