This article was originally published in 2019
When I found out I was pregnant, it came as a huge shock because the father and I weren’t in a relationship, although we’d been friends for many years. I remember trying to convince him about a girl’s name I liked, and it turned out he was against it as it was his mother’s name. I had no clue and yet we were having a baby together. Except, after he tried and tried to come round to the idea, he ultimately couldn’t – and so then I was having a baby by myself. That’s how it has remained, just me and my daughter, and I only wish I’d been quicker to acknowledge the freedom it has given us.
I grew up in a happy nuclear family of four, but the closeness that Echo, six, and I share is something my mother and I will never have. Partly that’s just generational, but there’s also something about my child and me in our lovely, funny, giggly bubble – we go on holiday, run into the hotel room and bounce on the bed together like newly-weds. Well, like newly-wed children, perhaps. We are a couple of sorts, and while I’m always quite vigilant about her having other committed adults in her life in godparent-type roles, there’s a certain blissfulness to it just being us.
Of course, I don’t want her to be responsible for my emotional well-being. I’m definitely her mother, and she is a child. There are boundaries, and the responsibilities are all mine. But there’s nobody I’d rather sit next to on an aeroplane or share a milkshake with or even snuggle up in bed with, even though she hogs all the pillows and kicks me in her sleep. She’s a pretty well-behaved child, and I do like to think it’s because the lines of communication have always been so open between us.
Also in this series: Single motherhood and dating
Still, society can accidentally make you cry a lot. In my ninth month of pregnancy, I spent all the money I didn’t have on buying myself a decent bed, not realising it would still arrive in a flatpack. The delivery guy saw my dismay and said, "Don’t worry, pet, your husband will put this together when he gets home tonight", and off he went. I just stood there and wept. When I go to parents’ evenings at school and the two chairs are waiting for me and my invisible husband, those same tears well up again. But then the other day, when I was reading Danny The Champion Of The World’s description of his dad (a single parent) as the most fun, brilliant person to be around, my daughter interrupted: "That’s just like you, Mummy!" And then my tears were of a different kind.
We don’t hear about many happy single-parent families, so you start thinking you must be tragic when actually you’re not. Of course, we’re all knackered too, but show me a parent who isn’t. I always thought I’d get married and have a bunch of kids in a country house, but that turned out to be a fairytale. Once you let the fairytale die, you can let the living begin.
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