24 January 14
It’s been an interesting personal journey for me in the last year and a half as I have metamorphosed from a dedicated, one-half of a parenting couple into a single mum who has embraced the changes single parenting has brought. It’s now with gratefulness that I appreciate my new status, although it’s taken me a eighteen months to grow into this attitude.
I spent the first six months after David’s incarceration simply wanting him out, wanting us to return to our polite, socially-acceptable nuclear family. I didn’t fully understand the time-frames of diagnosis within the mental-health system, and I’ve come to accept them as very long, excruciatingly long — interminable — in practice.
The girls missed their Daddy, and that was all that I knew. I grew up with two parents, I had always been told that children needed two parents, and although I had friends who had parented alone, it wasn’t something (Thank God!) that I would ever have to deal with. Until I did.
Once I realised that I was single — and reuniting with David was no longer a possibility — I spent the first half of 2013 wishing I was in a partnership again. Again, I wasn’t really thinking things through; I was operating in default mode based on the conditioning I received from my very conservative upbringing.
Single parents were to be pitied, supported (perhaps), and a single mother was essentially incomplete until she found a man who would enter her life and take her and her brood of children under his masculine wing. Does that sound awful? It feels icky to me now, but that’s the message I received again and again while I learned what families looked like, while I sought out examples of good parents and while I and my friends and sisters discussed the world around us.
So the last six months has been a different journey of discovery — one in which I’ve realised that I’m a whole person and a competent parent for my four daughters — without a man partnering me. Anyone who spends time with my children can see that they’re very happy — well-adjusted, even — and furthermore, they’re not burdened by feeling “let-down” by a father who isn’t present or a society that reduces them to a negative cliché. The girls are vibrant, inquisitive, loving and generally good company! Somewhere in the last part of our journey from the middle of Australia to the far south, I’ve discovered that the four girls and I fit together really well, and I actually like parenting solo!
In November, I spent time with single mothers who share their homes with others, and this has opened me up to the possibility that I may be able to rent a house in the future by sharing the expenses with others. I’ve also seen other single parents negotiating their children’s time-on and time-off with their ex-partners, and I have a new appreciation for the fact that I don’t have to negotiate with another adult when making decisions for the girls. It’s enough to negotiate with four highly-intelligent beings — bringing another adult into the mix (with all their egoic intent) makes things much more difficult!
This time is also perfect for me to delve into the perspectives of modern feminism — so important for me because I am raising young women. I don’t want to inadvertently pass on messages of inadequacy, default conformity and poor body image! I don’t want my children to grow into adults who aren’t equipped to be happy while they’re single. The best way I can teach this is through modelling radical, independent self-confidence, sexuality and self-love — Lauren-style. I’m not transforming into Germaine Greer, but I’ve come a long way from the 2005-model Lauren, baby!
I’ve enjoyed connecting with other single women. I’ve shared long talks with those who are still emerging from relationships that ended years ago and others who have deliberately taken measures to uncouple themselves because of the destruction their partnership was causing. Each one shares a different story of circumstances, but the feelings and the challenges are mostly the same as mine. Together we’ve articulated our personal weaknesses and mapped out a future in which we don’t rely on another individual for security.
This phase of life — so unexpected — is not always rosy. It’s hard when I run out of energy and the day is not yet over. I have learned how to articulate my needs to the girls, and they have learned how to step up and fill the gap when I have nothing more to give. They honour me with their consideration, and I continue to serve them as a best as I can. Together we have formed a tightly-knit team, and we’re happy this way.
This isn’t to say that we’ll always be our contained female family unit of five. It just means that I’ve learned to first accept and then be grateful for this part of the journey that I’m experiencing. I find it immensely interesting that my life is taking on the facets of the sub-cultures that I have previously despised. As I learn to accept and love those things within myself, I continue to grow in compassion and appreciation for a wider scope of humanity.