parent opinion

'Being a single mum is hard, but staying in a miserable marriage for your kid is worse.'

After I announced to the family that my husband and I were separating, I got an unexpected call.

His former partner, who had loathed me for most my marriage, wanted to give me some support. She meant well.

“Being a single mum is hard,” she warned. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

I laughed. “It’s got to be easier than being married,” I joked.

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The way I saw it, my marriage had turned into such a disaster that after leaving, the only way was up.

And to be honest, it has been. I wouldn’t be married or partnered again for a million bucks. (A billion – maybe. I don’t know. I’m waiting for Elon to hit me up and then I’ll see.)

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I accept that it’s easier to have a marriage end when you’re the one making the decision. But I never saw becoming a single mum as a negative part of my choice, and I’m not sure why people do.

(I didn’t even realise I was ‘becoming a single mum’; I just thought I was “getting the f*ck out of there.”)

Haven’t we evolved from that single mum stigma? I was married for a decade – I know from personal experience it’s most certainly not all roses.

From my perspective, I was doing everything in my marriage, anyway. I knew it would be easier being on my own, the head of my own household, rather than having to endure life with someone who firmly believed his only contribution should be a 9-5 job, with not even a nappy change before or after that. That sh*t is hard to stand by and watch.

To be frank, I was gagging for the sort of freedom where I only relied on my most reliable self.

But it’s clear others don’t see it like that. At the time I left my marriage, I had a friend who was miserable in hers, with no possibility of improvement.

“I don’t want my kids to be raised by a single parent,” she told me, without ever having experienced what it is like to be one. I also felt sorry for her, because it seemed she’d be trapped forever.

I kept quiet, but I wanted to tell her there are worse things than being a single parent; having your kids live in a miserable household, for one. Role modelling a broken relationship. Sacrificing any hope of happiness for the sake of ‘status’.

Yes, status seems to be a thing people worry about in terms of becoming a single mum.

Even a close friend said to me, “But what about status? Do you really want to be a single mum and go everywhere alone?”

Well, my friends, a decade down the track I can tell you that not only have I been a ‘single mum’, I’ve also in fact been a sole parent.

But no need to clutch your pearls – it’s not as bad as it sounds.

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Yes, sole parent means no shared custody. No shared obligations. The kid’s been my entire responsibility the whole time.

Has it been hard work? Yes! Is not being able to tag-team parenting exhausting? You betcha.

But is it the worst-case scenario for me?

No way.

I have many freedoms that you can’t get in a marriage, that you can only get when you’re the sole adult in the house. There’s a certain peace of mind with that; I run the show and don’t have to ask permission for anything.

There’s no conflict about how I parent. From what I remember from marriage, and can tell from my friends’, that’s a rare bliss.

Is being a sole parent the worst-case scenario for my son?

No way.

He still has a relationship with his dad – in fact, one where he can see the best in him, rather than a domestic one where he would see ‘the issues’ (that’s putting it tactfully).

I remember someone telling me that there are lots of kids living in situations where both parents are present, but one is not involved, or there’s sustained conflict. I thought that was such a good point.

Also, a bonus I didn’t foresee is that my son and I have a special bond that’s so incredible, it’s meant my motherhood experience is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. (Get back to me when he’s teenager.)

Look, the fact of the matter is there are pros and cons to everyone’s lifestyles. But if you are wavering on making any personal decisions, just remember this: being married isn’t a guarantee of happiness and security, and being a single or sole parent isn’t the worst-case scenario.

I’m proud of my life, as a woman and a mother. Just because it’s the path not as commonly taken, in 2020, it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the lesser one.


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