Posted on May 8, 2016
GUEST POST: Mother’s Day as a single parent – Delight not disappointment
A friend of mine sent me this post earlier today. I’m really so glad to be able to share it with you all. People talk about the loneliness of Mother’s Day for mothers parenting alone but there is a lot of loneliness for partnered parents too – there are a lot of assumptions made about single parents that are just wrong. And I think this beautiful concept of delight over disappointment is so relevant to all parents . As always, there’s also a lot to be said for considering the way you talk about other parents whose circumstances are different to your own – never assume.Thank you to the author (who would like to be anonymous) for this lovely post. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas – I hope your day was delightful xo
I’ve read some seriously great Mother’s day posts this year. I’ve been astounded by the generosity of women discussing loss, discussing grief, discussing the complexity that Mother’s Day brings for many. But I’ve yet to read any that seriously resonate for me as a single parent. They are all tinged with a sense of second rate; of making the best out of a bad situation and this irritates the hell out of me, so here I come to share my experience. To say why my Mother’s Day rocks as a single mum in a way that they never did before.
Through the coupled years, Mother’s Days were hit and miss. The highlight year was when we spent the day picnicking with bubbly and favourite cheeses. The lowlight was the year my then-partner presented me with a mandarin. Ok, it was peeled and arranged a bit like a flower, but it felt like a big fat metaphor for his value of my parenting. The mandarin was followed by a fight. That was the year I swore never to be disappointed again. To make my expectations clear and direct. To take my mother’s advice of ‘be sure there are bacon and eggs in the house’ and it sort of worked, but there was always a sense of, now that you’ve had your eggs and crappy home-made card, can we get on with our lives? Can you find that thing? Are there any clean socks? The baby is screaming, can you feed it?
I’d read all about the loneliness of Mother’s Day as a single parent and was dreading my first one. Surely, a mandarin and a fight was better than nothing. But sticking to my resolve to never be disappointed, I was determined that it would be awesome. My own phenomenal mum came down to stay, we got a babysitter and went to the Opera. In the morning, we made each other breakfast. The ‘children’ gifted me with some new knickers and fancy body-wash, mum vacuumed my floors and left. I took the girls out for dinner with another single mum and her boy and we cheersed our greatness over cake and chardonnay.
Now my children are bigger and this year has been in its humble way, the best Mother’s Day yet. I still resolved to not be disappointed, but I also had no expectations. You can’t really expect a four and six year old to create what the ads say Mother’s Day needs to be. But this is where I underestimated my children, and this is the year the revolt against disappointment dissipates and delight dominates.
Following the great advice of my mother I bought some cheap supermarket croissants and left them on the kitchen bench next to a tray. Delight this morning was overhearing my kids discussing how long they should be microwaved for (10 seconds was deemed adequate). Delight was the artfully arranged tray, with butter and jam on saucers. Delight was them appearing with beams on their faces, so proud they’d done it themselves. Delight was genuine in my exclamations of gratitude for the horrible chewy croissants. Delight was the four year old, picking me flowers from her very own flower garden. The flowers that she usually doesn’t have to share. Delight was hearing my children say ‘SHE LOVED IT! What should we do next?’ Delight was my heart when I heard them discuss so seriously; how were they going to decorate a Mother’s Day table, when neither of them know how to blow up balloons. Delight was their creative solutions. The jam sandwiches cut and arranged in diamond shapes, cut up banana and teddy bears ready to picnic. Autumn leaves arranged in a jar. Delight was my soul when I said, “shall we tidy up the lounge and watch a movie?” and the six year old told me I didn’t have to tidy, it’s Mother’s Day, they’ll do it themselves. Delight was the half assed result.
I am supposed to want a clean house and a sleep in. As a co parent, sleep ins are something that sometimes actually happen for me. I’m sorry, don’t hate me, it’s the pay-off for an eerily quiet house. It the pay-off for seeing my heart walk away from me a couple of days a week. Properly clean houses are a thing I’ve stopped dreaming of. We live in a state of, what my mum generously calls ‘creative chaos’ or ‘child focussed’ which is a really nice way of saying mess. Once a week or so the three of us go hard and sort it out. But then work, home reading, baths, endless laundry and overly ambitious craft activities over take our lives again and two days later, ‘child focussed’ artwork and clothes cover every surface. So I wasn’t fussed about those things, but I didn’t expect what I did get. I didn’t anticipate the generosity of my children. I didn’t realise that they would give me everything they are capable of giving. I didn’t expect them to go to every effort to show me that they appreciate me. I didn’t know that their little acts of kindness could make me feel so loved.
Today, we’ll visit my mum and my girls will present me with a gift that my mum bought for them to give me. There might be bubble bath which would be delicious, though I’ve been dropping hints for Napisan. They’ll be the kind of little luxuries that don’t make the shopping list of a single income family and I will enjoy and appreciate them. But I’ve already had the best gift I didn’t know I needed. Today, my kids have made me feel like I must be a good mother. Their great big hearts, their thoughtfulness and empathy today make me feel like the richest woman in the world.
To the ‘independent parents’ this Mother’s Day, I say: You rock. Not because ‘’you’re so brave and strong and amazing to do it all on your own and I don’t know how you do it and surely you must get lonely and I don’t even cope when my husband goes away so I don’t know how you manage every day’’ as the partnered mothers are always telling you. But because to your children, you are everything. Happy Mother’s Day, may you be delighted.