I was reading Alice’s great post on the tiredness of a single mum yesterday and found myself nodding vigorously in agreement. Because I thought I knew tired when I had my first newborn; I thought I knew tired when we hit our first growth spurt; I thought I knew tired when I had a committed nursling on a nursing strike; I thought I knew tired when I had a second child who wouldn’t latch on lying down (preferring to scream allll night long) and no help during the nights – nobody to keep me upright and stop me falling over and crushing my baby.
I thought I knew tired.
But then I split from Karl and it was just me & two kids who’s little world had been rocked by suddenly losing a parent at night. Tired was working an 8 hour day, coming home, feeding the kids & doing another hellish bedtime, cleaning out 11 animals, working freelance til midnight, getting in to bed just in time for one or both kids to wake up and want to join me, finally drifting off at 1am and getting woken half an hour later with a foot in my crotch or an elbow in my face, being woken at 5:30 because it was light out and not being able to get me or the kids back to sleep. Tired is doing this night after night after night. Tired is doing all that and still having to clean the house, cook the meals, buy the groceries, pay the bills, etc.
And I get sympathy, and reassurance from other single mums, and they tell me it’ll get better. And it has… it has because I’ve knocked back my working in the evenings, starting going to bed earlier when I can, the kids are sleeping better (sometimes) and they even manage to stay in their own beds til 5:30 some nights.
But I feel like I don’t deserve the sympathy, and the reassurance. I know that there are mums out there doing this with their child(ren) night after night and they don’t have the luxury of an ex-partner who takes the kids away for a couple of nights a week. I know of mums with multiple children and no support, and no work to escape to in the day for a break or grandparents to drop the kids off with when things get really bad. I know of mums who go days between seeing another adult, who strike the postie up in conversation because they’re the only person likely to visit that day.
I have support, I have nights off, I have friends and family who’ve got my back. I have a supportive boss who can give me flexible time if I need it, who doesn’t blink when I am 10 minutes late to work because it took an hour to get one of my kids dressed and into nursery. I even have, by some miracle, found someone who accepts that I have to do all of this, that I have 2 children, that I have issues and ‘history’ and an emotional rollercoaster to ride while I mentally process the end of a lengthy relationship… and yet who still wants to be with me in what little free time I have anyway :)
So yeah, I might be a ‘single mum’ in the loosest definition of the word — that is, I’m raising 2 children in a single parent household — but I don’t feel like I deserve the nod of recognition & sympathy in aisles of Tesco, the ‘follow’ on twitter from a fellow single mum, the virtual pat on the back from a friend on Facebook messenger for doing another shitty bedtime. I don’t feel like a “single mum”, I just feel like a fraud.