If you ever asked me if I like being a solo mother, the simple answer is, no.
I don’t like it at all. In fact there have been times I have hated it.
When my husband Craig and I decided to embark on parenthood, it was a decision we made together. We were so lucky that I fell pregnant almost immediately. I didn’t enjoy pregnancy, and my birth is something I’d rather forget and a tale for another time. However, when our little Heidi was put in my arms I fell hopelessly in love with her. More than in love. In fact if Craig and I could have held a parade down the city streets, we would have. While there was no parade, we instead paraded our brand new baby around the streets and cafes of Geelong.
We were shameless.
“I’ll have the eggs on toast, a pot of green tea and have you seen this beautiful baby that we made? Yes, we made her! And you don’t have to tell us she’s the most beautiful baby that ever graced this earth, because we already know.”
It honestly makes me laugh when I think back to that time.
As Heidi grew, we loved her even harder. Craig was worse than I was, he spoiled that child rotten. I worked many weekends of Heidi’s life because of my wedding celebrant work. Many Saturday’s were spent just Heidi and Craig.
I’d return home in an evening to find the two of them on the couch cuddling, eating twisties and of course Heidi would have some kind of new toy that Craig would buy her, for no other reason than he wanted to give Heidi the world and he couldn’t say no. When an enormous trampoline turned up in our backyard despite it being no special event, I shook my head.
Craig was the best kind of dad. He was never a ‘babysitter’, he never begrudged being with Heidi. It didn’t matter what was going on in his life, he would simply take her with him. Be it work, a camping weekend, a trip to the shops – off the two of them would go on their own little adventures.
I never had to pack a snack, a change of clothes or make a meal, he just had it sorted, in the most effortless way. He was far more effortless as a parent than I could ever hope to be.
Craig was born to be a dad.
I’m not actually sure I was born to be a mother.
I never really had a maternal instinct, and while I just assumed I would become one, I wasn’t that fussed on it.
I most definitely don’t feel I was born to be a solo mother, nothing about it feels effortless at all.
Yet here I am.
I became a solo mother in an instant. Through no choice of my own, and boy is it a kick in the guts. There was no preparation, and as an avid researcher or ‘googler’ there was no chance for me to research what I was up for. In an instant I was thrust into a role I desperately wanted to give back.
I remember it dawning on me about 48 hours after Craig’s death that I was now a solo/single mum. I’m not sure why it took so long, perhaps my brain was avoiding this worst case scenario.
It made me feel sick and it filled me with utter dread and overwhelm.
How was I going to raise a child on my own?
How would I be able to support her financially on one income for the next 14 years, if not longer?
How was I going to manage her grief when I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to manage my own?
What impact was this going to have on her life?
How was I ever going to leave the house again?
I feel ashamed to say it, but I also felt embarrassed by my new title as a single/solo mother. I felt like I’d failed in some kind of way and that I might be judged. The first time I had to say I was a single mother my stomach felt sick and I’m often reluctant to admit it.
It’s been a tough road for both Heidi and I as we’ve adapted to our new roles. Me as a solo mother, Heidi as the child of a solo mother.
So what is it like?
It ain’t easy, I’ll give you the hot tip.
I don’t get every second weekend off, I do every bath time, breakfast, clothing change, reader, snack, dinner, bed time and screaming match and it is relentless and exhausting. Add to this running a household and then making sure I work enough to pay our bills, but not so much that I’m an absent mother. It’s stressful, and I’m sure there’s a part of me that’s waiting for the rug to be pulled back out from under us again. It’s any wonder I always feel tired.
Where I used to freely walk out the door with a ‘see you soon’, I can no longer do this. Time away from my child, always means asking for help. There’s no quick walk around the block, dinner out or coffee unless it’s planned down to a tee. It can be really challenging when someone asks you to do something and you know it’s impossible. Be it that you can’t afford a babysitter, feel guilty for asking for help yet again, have a child that doesn’t want you to leave – sometimes it’s just easier to stay at home. I’ve lost a lot of freedom too. When someone minds your child you feel you have to explain where you’re going, what you’re doing, and that it’s a valid enough excuse for them to be minded. It’s hard to not feel jealous of people that can simply do what they want, when they want.
But the worst part?
There’s no one to share her with. And I don’t even mean sharing the load. There’s simply no one to share this incredible and delightful child with. Well, no one that will ever be as invested as Craig and I were, and that’s the true heartbreak in it all. I don’t have someone to come home to and beam with pride as I recount the story of Heidi coming first at her school athletics. There’s no one to ring during the day and vent that she’s being hard work and could they rush home to give me a tap out. There’s no one to talk over major decisions like schooling. There’s no one to look at photos with and say, ‘she’s actually the cutest child alive’. It all just sits with me.
However, as time has gone on. We have found our groove.
Slowly, Heidi and I have become a tight little family unit that love each other fiercely, even when we’re driving each other up the wall.
When you go back to basics, we are simply two girls who have come out of a pretty traumatic experience, shocked, frightened and not trusting of the new world we have found ourselves in. However, we’ve begun to trust each other more, open ourselves up and I’m so proud of what we are becoming and I look forward to seeing how we both evolve.
In the darkest of times, she is the one that brings the smiles, the laughs, the unconditional love and stability I need. Let’s face it, without her, I’d probably be permanently drunk in a foreign country somewhere, trying to escape it all. So a big thank you to Heidi for that one!
In her darkest times, I hope I bring to her the smiles, the laughs, the unconditional love and the stability she absolutely needs and craves.
If I thought I was in love with my child when she was the beautiful newborn that we paraded down the streets, I am even more in love with her right now.
I’ve also begun to embrace my role as a single and solo mother, as I now realise single and solo parents are a formidable force.
I’m also eternally grateful to just be here and be alive because there’s one person in this situation who misses out, and that is Craig.
So, do I like being a solo mother? No.
Do I like being Heidi’s mother? I couldn’t think of any other thing I’d rather be.
Will I give being a solo mother everything I’ve got? Absolutely.
Did you know Jo is a marriage celebrant? Read about how she continued after the death of her husband in her post 450 weddings and a funeral.
If you need some beautiful photos of your own family, I highly recommend Courtney from With Love From Near + Far who took these shot of Heidi and I.