A couple of years ago, Sarah, now in her 40s found herself living the life of a single woman after her marriage of 15 years hit the rocks and she had to find accommodation suitable for her and her two children. “I didn’t for one minute regret the break-up of my marriage,” confessed Sarah an IT Consultant. “My husband and I were not compatible and it was a mutual agreement for us to terminate a marriage that felt more like co-habiting. After the split, I felt liberated, excited and young.
“But that’s not to say that I don’t envy Bola, my best friend, for managing to keep her marriage intact, not the least for her children, who get to grow up under one roof. It’s the little things I truly miss – the daily routine of married life. When I see Bola and her husband working as a team, and the comfortable, companionable love they share – him bringing her her favourite glass of wine without being asked for example – it can bring a lump to my throat. Being the only adult in the house can be a real struggle, and sometimes lonely. And there are the practicalities too – my children are still too young to be left alone, so when I run out of salt or find there’s no bread for breakfast, I can’t just pop to the shops.
11 As a result, I am constantly planning ahead, never letting my domestic guard down. I remember how nice it was to share those little tasks. As for the daily grind of coping with young children, I’ve found it easier to parent them on my own. I’m more inclined to be spontaneous and a bit more fun. There’s no other grown-up to take into consideration – so why shouldn’t we head out to the eatery to have lunch when it’s convenient? But if I am to be honest, I miss the back- up of another parent and a voice of reason to help when I’m stressed. When I’m screaming at the children to get dressed for school – and getting nowhere – I don’t have the ‘Daddy will deal with you’ card to play.
“Bola and her husband do a kind of parenting give-and-take. If their youngest is having a tantrum and one parent is struggling to contain it, the other will step in with a distraction and diffuse it. I’m proud of myself for coping on my own, but would love an ally sometimes. Who wouldn’t. And I know Bola thinks my social life has had a boost since I’ve been single – and to a certain extent, she’s right – but as one social door opens, another shuts firmly in my face.
“Dinner parties and formal get-togethers dominated my week-days. But these days, I don’t get invited to many. People don’t know what to do with a lone woman at the table. Do they think I’m threatening? Or that I’ll get drunk and misbehave? Who knows? But my diary is suddenly very clear of those cosy intimate dinners. There’s an easy, automatic social life and status that comes with being married. And since I’ve become single, I’ve missed being part of that world.
“Finances are a squeeze too. I’ve always worked and been responsible for the family running expenses with my ex’s input, now it’s tough learning to manage my new, much smaller budget. I know married women, like Bola my friend, have their own financial challenges, but it feels as if theirs are on an altogether more grown-up level. While they’re buying new houses or flashier cars, I’m hunting for small changes to buy a newspaper. It’s as if I’ve regressed to my student days, whilst they’re still forging ahead.
“Perhaps the thing that bothers me the most is that Bola doesn’t have to explain her domestic situation to anyone. She’s married that’s it, all questions answered. But the word, `I’m a single mother’ throw up so many variables. Was the father ever on the scene? Do the children still see him? Who finished with whom? And on and on it goes. Meeting new people, I often find myself talking about’ my children’s dad’, hoping they’ll understand and that I won’t have to tell the whole story.
“My friend doesn’t have people feeling sorry for her or have to answer that loaded question’. ‘How are the children doing?’ It’s as if she’s doing things right and I’m somehow not. Bola my friend tells me she envies me for that’ delicious, intoxicating excitement’ of a new relationship. She confesses she’s completely forgotten what it’s like to worry about what underwear she’s wearing or if it matches her bra.
“ At times it feels like I am in a different world to her. Our friendship used to be one founded on familiar rhythms – we were bonded in the same daily routine. Now it’s all so different. And I sometimes miss the feeling that we were once on the same side … “