How being a single mother is just being a mother

“I love, more than anything, that I don’t have to take anyone else’s feelings or opinions into consideration when I do something… It’s just me and Jack against the world!”

Here’s something I wrote recently during an argument: “Your membership of this family is not unconditional. I’m sorry if I made you think it was.”

The argument was invariably (I can’t remember the specifics) about one of us not getting our needs met. It most likely had something to do with communication. I forget the argument but that sentiment about family membership being conditional stuck with me. If it applies to him then it must apply to me and to our daughter and to any other member of this family.

I was reminded of it today while reading the thread on about “Why I love being a single mother”. Some of the behaviours these mothers were escaping were shocking. One writes:

“no more wondering if he is still cheating (of course he was!)”

Another member writes:

“I love that my home is emotionally peaceful now (yes, even with four kids).

I love that I am not walking on eggshells or tiptoeing around someone else’s moods and quirks.”

Another member:

Here’s my top five list:

1. Having control over my body, finances, and time.

2. Knowing exactly what to expect when I walk in the door.

3. Pride in my home, my family, my values and my life choices (and never having to compromise any of them).

4. Embracing my spirituality without feeling ashamed of my faith.

5. The ability to pass these gifts along to my son in the most loving environment I am capable of creating for him.

This thread has been going for eight years.

“I love that my kids do not dread coming home from school because dad is here
I love that they can go online without me worrying they will see porn (he never bothered to delete his downloaded videos or history)
I love that they don’t have to be on eggshells all the time wondering when he would go off next”

– nobody calls my older kids insulting names , like ” the little n…..s ” !

– I don´t have to hide food from him anymore , so that he doesn´t hurry up and eat it , before my kids get some or get in fights with him , because every time , we have cake or donuts or some special treat like that he goes ” do the adults get 2 and the kids 1 ?” or ” we ( the grow-ups ) should eat as much as we like and then give the kids the rest”

And the saddest one I’ve read so far:

Not seeing my children punched, kicked, slapped, pushed, bloodied – all in the name of “discipline”.
My children and I no longer living in fear or always being on edge.
No more holes in the walls, or broken possessions.
My kids not being walked over (literally!) because they were “in his way”.

But some of the sentiments don’t sit well with me:

“To sum up what everyone has posted: no interference.

I am the master of my domain!”

And the one I posted at the start:

“I love, more than anything, that I don’t have to take anyone else’s feelings or opinions into consideration when I do something.”

I don’t agree with those sentiments. The rules I mention about being in this family apply to me too. It isn’t my way or the highway but basic rules about love and putting each other’s needs first. My big task is how to make this ‘our’ task and create an environment where everyone can contribute.

I have changed in many ways since having a child. The state of my flat was a mess and I didn’t change that until I was told about it by M’s father. I need to go to the dentist but I didn’t do anything about it other than ponder for a while until my sister nudged me and said hey, you need to do something. I don’t always know best. There are things I’d rather let lie until someone forces me to do them. My housemate points out the cleaning and the tiny’s tv-watching and other things he sees. When he does it out of love and concern then I have to listen and no matter how annoyed I get that my issues are being mentioned, I pay attention.

I posted the Art of Loving on International Women’s Day because of its message that love is about giving and it is about loving others as much as you love yourself. Not more and not less. I remember a time in my life when I was asked to picture my situation as a film genre and what kind of role I had in it. I was the supporting cast in my own life! That just can’t happen anymore and I don’t want it to happen to my tiny child.

At first, the most difficult thing in setting boundaries and establishing rules seemed to be my reactions to other people’s reactions. Their anger, moodiness, lack of communication but mostly the anger. The yelling. The criticism. My response to it all was a huge well of emotions, mostly fear.

But then time passed and nothing happened to me. I didn’t die. I managed to survive and no one really minded being told that certain things were unacceptable. I’ve not worked it all out yet but that’s my main message to me and my daughter, there are rules and boundaries and they exist with anyone at anytime. Being a single mother is just being a mother and no one can escape people.

This is a sentiment which resonates with me:

It is easy to understand how there can be no more stable foundation for friendship than the shared awareness that both individuals are strongly committed to the happiness of the other. What room is there for jealousy, anger and resentment when we know that our friend or partner is deeply committed to making us happy? When we know he or she values our welfare as much as, perhaps even more than, his or her own happiness? Who inspires greater confidence in us than the person who truly believes that they gain more from kindness than from greedy self-indulgence?

(The Art of Loving – Medialens)

And being single has nothing to do with it.

Family photo

Valentines Day

Here’s why I like Valentines Day, for one day a year everyone is focussing on love and happiness even if they’re alone and miserable.

It’s the same reason I love graduation days even when I’m not graduating. The sense of achievement and success and possibilities is everywhere. The happiness was almost palpable as I used to sit in square 3 at Essex University and watch the graduands walk around in their robes.

If Uri Geller could bend a spoon by having everyone focus on the tv set imagine what could be achieved for love. Maybe we could think about love of all the animals and free them from their cages in the zoo or just avoid eating them. There’s love of the earth and climate change and keeping the Arctic a drill free zone. There’s so much that could be done in the name of love.

I also love it because my daughter was born on February 14 and when everyone is celebrating love we are celebrating her too. Hopefully she will love it for all these reasons too.

A letter to Mersina, 23 January 2013

I’ve had the strangest worry today that something would happen to me and Mersina wouldn’t have any memory of me. Before the day was over I wanted her to have something that she could keep – some sentiment from me. I’ve never particularly liked those letters that mums write to their children but this was barely a choice. I wanted her to know certain things and this was the best way I knew how.

I am not always comfortable with too much personal stuff on here but I’ve already shared so much so this feels like the place for a complete picture for her of how we are.

Dear Mersina Anne,

Four years ago today I woke up knowing that I was in love with your father. Not only that but exactly one month after I met him, he went Morris dancing and I knew that someone who could do that would meet most of life with the spirit which I saw in the world myself.

The fact that he didn’t feel the same way didn’t matter and didn’t change how I felt. I couldn’t shake off this love no matter how hard I tried. Maybe it was you that I had already seen in him and I couldn’t let that go.

About a year after your daddy and I met, you started to pop into my mind. Little pictures at first, sketches of a faceless little girl, older than you are as I write this, standing next to the two of us. I thought it was me being silly but sometime in 2010 we found you.

I loved you from the first instant and your daddy loved you from the first moment he saw you. I don’t think he believed it until then.

There was never a moment when you weren’t loved. You are loved every moment of every day. I hope you carry that feeling around with you forever and through every lifetime.

When we put your picture in the paper for your birth announcement we wanted something inspiring and fun for you to take with you. None of this “no matter what she is when grows up as long as she is happy”. We wrote, and we wrote it in complete agreement, that you would be the first foreign correspondent in space when you grow up.

You are already showing signs of aiming for his dream. Your spirit of adventure is your biggest characteristic equal to your big smile and your love. You can be very determined in your love and also forceful when you shove food in my mouth to make sure I am fed, or when you stroke my head quite violently so I can close my eyes and rest. You don’t know your own strength and I hope that knowledge comes to you in the future.

For now, I hope you can take with you the joy, happiness and love that you are and bring with you

Our miracle, our gift. Always loved.

Things I find when looking for love

Things I find when looking for love

Love is… snowflakes, lavender, smiles, cuddles, dolly, cupcakes, coffee, …

snail love | when you can't say it, show it!/search/%23love

I think: “what’s ur angle mutha f’er?! I will f you up!!” I say: “Son, please dont pee on the carpet!” #love #vodka


At Home by Crystal Fighters (link)

At Home


Love and bedtime stories, an education

Love is a funny kind of thing. I fill my days either apologising to my daughter for my latest misdeeds or telling her how much I love her. Her father does the same and I imagine that we’re pretty similar to new parents all over the world.

Sometimes she cries in her sleep, just one wail or sign of unhappiness and then drifts off again. The first few times she did it I felt terrible that I had introduced crying into my baby’s life where there was none before. I now see it as crying being unavoidable and at least I’m there to comfort her when she’s upset.

I feel that my love is also mixed up with worry about doing the right things, feeding her when she’s hungry, teaching her the right skills, sending her to the right schools, protecting her when she’s out of the house when I can’t be around.

I may be getting a little ahead of myself. Yesterday I was stressing that she’s already seven weeks old and I haven’t yet taught her any Greek or helped her learn any Spanish or French. Or we haven’t been swimming yet so how are we going to be the next Ironman champion? I remind myself that we’re only just getting a routine together and I should be happy that our 2.30 to 5pm naps are so far progressing well. (We’ve had two.)

I remember being so in love, a little while ago, and feeling like everything was just right with the world. Love was happiness. It was all wonderful.

Obviously it didn’t last but it’s such a nice feeling and it helps me remember that the worry and the aspirations and the stress and the fear aren’t love. The willingness to get up three or four times in the middle of the night is love. I had to change her at four in the morning yesterday and she was so sleepy but still managed to smile at me and that was love.

Dad came over to visit and once he got past his own ‘I love you’s he read to us from a Spanish edition of Asterix. We yawned and got a little dozy and it’s a shame it couldn’t have been closer to bedtime. The important thing is that we were finally learning some Spanish. Clever daddy managed to combine love with an education. Phew.

Baby: waiting and love

40 weeks, four days

I have to write this sentiment down because I suspect it will be one of those things I shake my head at later. I am looking forward to the pain of child birth so long as it does ultimately deliver the child. I’ve started to long for any cramp or pain or ache that could possibly suggest any signs of a beginning.

I am four days overdue now and in the scheme of things the delay is quite normal. It won’t even be much of a problem until I reach 42 weeks. I mean that it won’t be a problem medically. I am feeling the biggest I have ever been and can’t imagine that my body can fit this little person anymore. The baby’s movements have become more lethargic with occasional bouts of stretching that seem to attack my right hip bone in quite a tortuous way.

Luckily my sister has been visiting for a few days and she has been taking care of me, and the flat, while I am camped out on the couch. My housemate has been nice but he’s not so active in the ‘taking care’ part since he’s out until nine or ten o’clock most evenings.

The pain part and the anticipation is something I’m getting excited about. A friend was due four days after me and she had her little girl on my due date. It reminds me of training for months for a race and then having to taper for a couple of weeks before the big day. The body is ready but you can’t do anything until the right moment. In my case, I’m not even sure when the big day will be, I’m hoping it will be today but who knows.

I’m also reminded of some of the long runs I used to do around Bristol when before I hit 10kms I would be grumbling to myself that this didn’t even feel exciting or worth it, I like to struggle with every step I would insist, feel like I’m putting the effort in. Once I was closer to 20kms, of course, the struggle and the pain from grinding knees would have me grumbling again.

Today I am making a concerted effort to drop the grumbling and enjoy the last few days of silent, in terms of the baby, love and the more present aspects of it with my sister’s company. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The most beautiful flowers bought for me by my sister

Valentine’s Day suggestions: a professional meal at home

Surprisingly perhaps, for someone who has been single for four and a half years, I adore Valentine’s Day. I enjoy all the things to do with celebrating love and affection and companionship and passion. I love watching movies like Moonstruck and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (apart from Kirsten Dunst) and I love treating me to all my favourite things. Seeing as there is just the one of me, however, I probably don’t need a whole cooked meal at home or a delicious dinner treat somewhere fabulous. For those of you who do hold someone’s hand when you’re strolling through Bristol, you might find the following service by chef Danielle Coombs useful. She has been kind enough to let me publish her Valentine’s offer.

Valentine’s Day
by Danielle Coombs

Just realised that Valentine’s Day is a week away and you have nothing planned? Tried all your favourite restaurants and they’re all booked up? Want to do something special to show your other half that you care?

Don’t panic! I offer the following options;

Private cookery lessons – I could help you prepare and cook a romantic 3 course meal for you and your loved one, with full recipes and instructions, I can even supply the ingredients, and guide you through, step-by-step.

Private chef – I could come and cook a romantic 3 course meal for you and loved one in the comfort of your own home, I would supply all the food, and clean up afterwards.

Private restaurant – You and your loved one could come and be my guests at my private restaurant. One table. Real fire. Candle light. Up to five courses of yummy food. (BYO drinks.)

So, if you fancy any of those, drop me an email at for details and prices.

Don’t have a Valentine? I’m planning a singles’ supper club, coming soon. To be included on the mailing list please email at the above address to receive details of upcoming events.

Reflected Together

How the baby went from mine to ours

For a few days in January I thought that I had lost my unique selling point of being a single mother doing it alone and making all my own decisions.

I chose the baby’s name, where we lived, what religion, what activities, what school the baby attended etc. It was all mine. My baby, my choices and no one else to worry about.

Then there was an evening where the baby’s dad told me he wanted to be a dad and be involved in the baby’s life. I was initially a little wary but started to picture how having someone else share the decision-making responsibilities could be a relief.

I wanted him to play a role and at the same time I didn’t want to share ‘my’ baby. I think I said no to every suggestion he made that night about baby’s middle name and some other things.

I tried to work the words ‘our baby’ in some sentences. I wanted to see how it would feel. For certain things it was wonderful. I had so many dreams and aspirations for the little one and it felt different talking about it with someone who had as much interest as I did. Things like taking baby to Greece to meet grandma and grandpa and pick up some of the language, to visit Brussels and her auntie who lives there, take the baby swimming, to the library, and various other things.

I would be up at nights reading about women who had killed their children through neglect and email to tell him never to leave the baby in the bath alone. Never, ever. I sent him articles about newborns and what to do, I told him about the clothes my parents and friends had given me and I wondered whether he’d like to pick out baby’s first outfit.

For a few moments it was nice to share all of those things. One of my worries, about burdening the baby with an absent father figure, was starting to disappear and I was getting more comfortable with the word ‘our’.

Then two days before my due date he came over so we could talk. It turns out there wasn’t to be as much sharing as I had anticipated. The dad’s involvement would end at getting to know the baby and he would not necessarily be there for the responsibilities, the decision-making, the day to day commitments.

In one conversation, in which admittedly I spent more time listening than talking, the baby went from being ‘ours’ and back to being ‘mine’.

My intention was to love as much as I could, all the parts of the baby’s life, and this included the father, his family and all the wonderful things they brought to the equation. It feels a bit more of a challenge now but much less than before he wanted to be involved.

At the end of all that, baby still gets to know a father, which is great, and I got to see how much I wanted someone to share the decision-making and the responsibilities. I had lost track of how much love and support I already have and became a little too wrapped up in believing that I couldn’t handle it all. It will still be ‘my’ baby but this was a lovely reminder that I was never doing it alone. Now I just have to deal with all the thank you cards once little one arrives. There will be many.

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