Would you like a side of shame with that?
In amongst the whirlwind of emotions I experienced both immediately after becoming a single mum, and in the months after it, never once did it enter my mind that I was supposed to feel ashamed of my new marital status.
And why the hell should I? I had absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. That was, until, I stumbled upon an article detailing all of the reasons single mums feel like social outcasts, and why many feel a deep sense of shame, particularly amongst married women. Um. What? I paused for a second. Was I supposed to feel embarrassed too? When did I miss the memo?
It only took a few brief seconds of stopping to consider whether I too should feel ashamed - I mean, I suppose I am a failure in comparison to all of the other mums I know who’ve managed to keep their families together - before I thought… Fuck. That.
Because, here’s the thing. We have the choice to gulp down toxic words like a potent elixir. Let them infect our core, which then radiates through our thoughts, feelings, and the way we speak to ourselves and others.
Or, we can look deep within ourselves and determine our own personal truth.
It dawned on me that the reason I never once felt ashamed about being a single mum was because I was too proud of who I’d become since walking away from a relationship that was compromising my self-respect.
I used to rely on my boyfriends, my mum and dad, my friends, for everything.
But now, in a time I was supposed to have more support than ever with a newborn baby, the universe was teaching me to stand on my own two feet and be self-sufficient. So that’s what I did. I learnt to do it all by myself. Problem solve. Fix shit in the house I used to ask my ex to do. Think for myself instead of relying on another to make it all better. I used to be so impatient and quick-tempered. But with no one to say “your turn tonight, I’m tired” - I’ve had to learn the art of patience, taking a deep breath, and putting your head down and just getting it done because you just damn well have to!
I’m proud that I’m setting an example to my son that women are strong, capable and smart, that they deserve to be treated with respect, and loved wholeheartedly. I don’t let anyone walk all over me or disrespect me. It’s made me ruthless. I cut toxic people out of my life without a second thought, and let the rest of the people who promised to be there fall away, without batting an eyelid.
I still can’t believe that no matter how many times I was knocked down, each crushing blow more crippling than the one before it, I still managed to get up. Every. Single. Time. I possessed an inner-strength I never knew existed. And it took the hardest times in my life to show me just how damn strong I am.
And more than anything, I’m so proud of the life I’ve created for me and my son, that still includes his dad. I could so easily exclude him, hate him, create a toxic co-parenting environment for all of us driven by a desire for revenge. But who exactly wins out of that? No one. And who loses the most? Ollie. Why would I want that for him?
Just because I don’t feel ashamed, this doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes feel sad for how life has panned out. Sometimes I wonder if I’d failed my son by not sacrificing my own self-worth for the sake of a “normal” family, especially when we go to places and it’s just me and Ollie along with a heap of other “normal” families, or I hear mum friends speak of their husbands/partners, and I wonder what it must be like. But sadness is not shame. It’s okay to feel sad. I let myself feel like that. But I refuse to feel shame for standing up for myself. I’m such a better person since becoming a single mum. It took breaking me down and letting everything and everyone who didn’t matter slip away, to realise how much better off I am now. This isn’t a post designed to pump up my own tyres, rather, the ultimate goal is to help flip just one other single mum’s mindset to look at how they’re winning in life, rather than failing.
Perhaps I’m a product of my generation. Once upon a time, in another era, being a single mum probably was shameful. But so was being a woman who wanted a career instead of kids. Or wanted to travel the world. Attitudes have changed. I won’t accept that anyone in this day and age should feel any shame associated with being a single mum. We’re superwomen. Make no mistake about it.