In the last few months I’ve been coming to terms with a new way of life I hadn’t planned for. After muddling along through the first 11 years of parenting with my husband, our relationship sadly came to an end. After much soul searching he decided that he could no longer stay in the family home and moved out.
I am now facing a whole new set of parenting challenges that I never, ever thought I would have had to face. After years of thinking I was doing ok, that I’d created a pretty nice family life for us all (judging by other people’s ‘perfect’ facebook posts) every relatively-well-thought-out aspect has been thrown into the air, and is tumbling quickly around my ears.
The bottom line is, I feel like a failure. I feel that I have failed in my duty as a mother to protect my children from pain and misery. I have instead inflicted on them one of the worst pains possible – the break up of a family. And whilst, in practice they still have two parents who love and care for them deeply, they no longer have their unit, in which they placed so much importance. It gave them security, safety and a direction that they have now lost.
I have two daughters, who I chose to parent full time. It was a decision that my husband and I made together, and I left my job in publishing to bring up my family in the way I thought we both wanted. But would I encourage my girls to do the same? I have been left supporting two children pretty much on my own, I have no financial security, no partner and very little to show for the last decade except my gorgeous girls.
The answer to this is something I’m still mulling over, being a stay at home mum has been the greatest gift I have ever been given, but my husband ending up resenting the fact that I was at home all day, while he strived to support us. I also lost a lot of confidence and a true sense of myself. So, in truth, I will encourage them to do whatever makes them happy, but to keep as many opportunities open to them as they can.
But despite all the negativity, I’ve to decided to grab this rude bloody bull by the horns and run with it. It may not be the life I had planned in my head. It may not be a sun-kissed, Instagram-ready family snap-shot, in fact it’s more like a messy polaroid that needs a good shake until it all becomes clear. But that’s fine, because the picture at the end will always show my wonderful children.
I’m going to use it as an opportunity to put all the parenting skills I’ve acquired to good use. It’s the perfect time to strengthen and grow the relationship I have with my children and help them understand that life isn’t always perfect but that doesn’t mean it can’t be amazing.
After that I’m going to celebrate the wonderful friends who have rallied around to help me through the last couple of months with words, hugs and Prosecco, and reconnect with old friends who I’ve allowed to drift away.
And in a few months time, when finances are more settled and my children are happier, I may take the time to think about me. Find the confident 20-something girl I was and share with her my 40-something life experience. Then, perhaps I’ll work out what I want to be when I grow up, having spent the last 16 years supporting my husband and looking after my fantastic girls. I know I still have a lot to offer, I just need to work out what it is. Wish me luck!
A Guest Blog from Rebecca Fryer
Rebecca is mum to two girls – in another life she had an exciting job in the Arts in London, travelled the world, worked in publishing, went to galleries and socialized whenever she wanted. Now, finding herself alone after 16 years, in a part-time job that fits in with her kids, she’s starting a new, and treacherous journey, she never thought she’d be on – single parenthood!