How soon is too soon?
Well this is a post I thought I wouldn’t have to write for some time.
It’s been just a month and a half since everything ended. And, if you can believe it, he has moved on with someone new. I can’t even begin to explain the crushing feeling. Here I am, night after night, putting our son to bed, cooking dinner for one, curled up on the couch alone, soothing myself to sleep, still making sense of the last few weeks. And that’s fine, I understand it’s temporary, this is life for now, and I’m learning to be okay with it. But I’m still coming to terms with the fact he isn’t here anymore. I’m still missing him. Wishing it didn’t have to be this way. Wondering what went wrong. Remembering what we used to be.
But at the same time I silently shed a tear for what was, he is out wining and dining, completely oblivious to the pain and devastation unleashed a mere 6 weeks earlier.
Which begs the question… how soon is too soon?
We were together four-and-a-half years. A baby and an engagement later, surely a mere 6 weeks after we part ways is too quick? But how am I to know? What is the formula one follows when moving on?
This is unchartered territory for me, I have never been so entangled within someone else’s life. I’m used to calling it quits, cutting the person out, and promptly learning to be on my own. But in this instance we talk most days, see one another a few times a week, all the while wading through a turbulent tide of grief and pain. I’m still drowning most days. But he is fine… or is he?
I’ve no doubt this is a band-aid slapped over a gaping wound. He tells me everyone copes with things differently. But that doesn’t make the pain any less bitter, nor dispel the feelings of disposability. How could I have been replaced so quickly and easily? I’m the mother of his child. I’m not just a regular girl he took on a few dates. Surely that called for extra grieving time as opposed to a normal child-less relationship?
Then there’s the elephant in the room. Perhaps I’m jealous of how easy it is for him – as a single dad – to move on in comparison to me. I’m repelling men at the moment. A newly single mum with a baby under one? Try banging that on your Bumble profile and see how many men who would’ve swiped right suddenly, and without pausing for thought, swipe left. It’s a frightening concept for a man without a child. And that’s fine, the right man will come along when he is supposed to. But the double-standard is bitterly unfair. My life is centred around my 10 month old son. Every thought, every action, every decision revolves around him. And that will be the case when I eventually move on, start dating, and allow someone new into my life… sorry OUR lives. My new man will be taking on me, and my son. We’re a pre-packaged pair. Two-for-one. It’s non-negotiable. You can’t get one without the other. And men who are not willing to take on that commitment need not apply.
Yet for (some) men, it’s a different story. They march on. They wear one hat for their private life, and pop another on when it’s time to be dad for an access visit. Single mums have no such luck. Our marital status and whether we have children from a previous relationship are up for scrutiny and debate. I’m quickly learning that in the race to move on, it’s more often than not the mum shackled with ankle-weights, forced to start 5 metres behind, and blindfolded.
I’ve had a few well-meaning friends try to set me up with their boyfriend’s brother’s friend’s cousin. Upon flicking through a few photos of “the guy I absolutely HAAAAAVE to meet” i’m cautioned with “oh maybe don’t mention you have a baby on the first date. You know, you don’t want to scare him away.”
Sadly, I know where they’re coming from. A mum and a kid. It’s a daunting prospect for so many men (and women). Revealing it too early could frighten him away, plant the seed investing in me is just too hard, freak out about what I expect from him. Relax, mate, at this stage all I want to pick out is an entree. Not the cut of a diamond. On the other hand, deciding to sit on such a huge part of my life also has the potential to look dishonest. I would be disappointed to go on a date with a guy only to learn afterwards he has a child. Why should such a monumental thing in a person’s life be shrouded in secrecy?
So while I can understand my friend’s concern, being asked to conveniently forget to mention my son exists always leaves me feeling defeated. How can the most important, beautiful, special thing in my life work against me? I haven’t entered the dating world yet. But when I do, I hope I have the confidence to walk into the situation with a sense of pride. I have nothing to hide. I am who I am, and that’s a single mum to an incredible little boy. It’s a privilege to be in his life, and anyone worth our time will realise that.
So to anyone about to go on a date with a single mum, please don’t be put off by the fact she has a child. You won’t have any idea what she has sacrificed for the sake of her baby, the back story of why she isn’t with her child's father, and how sick with nerves she is to throw herself into the dating ring once again. And while the prospect of taking on another man’s child is a daunting prospect, consider this…
A single mum is resilient. Birthing a child is no easy feat, neither are the sleepless nights. And in amongst this massive upheaval, she’s been through hardship. Becoming a single mum is never a decision one makes lightly. But despite all of this, she has made it to your date in one piece with her hair and make up done, ready to give you her undivided attention for the next few hours. She knows life goes on.
She’s independent and self-sufficient. She has had to be. No one is around to help nurse a teething baby back to sleep at 1am, 3am and 5am, then wake up not long after to prepare breakfast, clean the house, tackle three loads of washing, feed the pets, entertain the baby, and somehow fit in her own work and wellbeing somewhere in between.
She’s selfless. Anyone with a baby will attest to the fact soon as the baby arrives, it’s baby first. Mum second. I can’t begin to count the amount of times I would still be in pyjamas by 5pm, with dirty hair, picking last night’s leftovers, starving as it was my first bit of food for the day… but Ollie is clad in sparkling clean clothes, napped three times, and has consumed his weight in milk.
She knows her value and she won’t settle for anything less. Now there is a child in the equation, she won’t let just anyone into their life. You have to prove your worth. And we all know that anything that’s worth it, won’t come easy.
She’s strong. Being a mother is hard work. Doing it alone with a broken heart is 10 times harder. But she’s learnt to dig deep, develop a thick skin, and get the job done without falling into a heap.
So while it can be easier to run a mile when you learn about her situation, a good man will understand the fact she has a child in her life has only enriched her, not diminished her. There shouldn’t be a stigma associated with being a single mum. If anything, it’s a role that should be revered. Having a baby is HARD work. All mothers deserve a medal. But when you’re doing it alone, well that deserves a trophy – and perhaps a giant glass of wine every now and then.