As a single-mother-by-choice, Mother’s Day isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact what’s supposed to be a celebration of all that it is to be a mother, has often become a lonely reminder of what I’m missing – a person to share my daughter with, and to share both the joys and responsibilities of parenting.
It’s the occasion when I most keenly feel the absence of a father in our lives. My lovely little girl is still too young to do a great deal off her own bat. Yesterday she came home with a card she made at nursery which is lovely, but with no-one else to organise breakfast in bed, or buy a small bunch of flowers, the day itself is bit of a non-event.
Gosh, I sound like a right old whinge-bag don’t I? Apologies, I don’t meant to. I know I’m extremely lucky to have the many wonderful things that I have – a healthy child, supportive family and friends, a new home and a great job. I’m grateful, it could be alot worse I know.
As a born optimist I don’t usually spend a great deal of time dwelling on what I don’t have, but there are certain occasions that bring them to the surface. Mother’s Day pushes all those buttons.
It’s not just me. For lots of different reasons – a recent bereavement, not having children in your life when you desperately want them, estrangement or distance – many people may not feel like celebrating this Sunday, because Mother’s Day reminds them too much of what they don’t have.
Most of the time Poppet and I merrily get on with things. Nearly four years in I’ve got used to shouldering the day-to-day responsibility of parenting by myself, and after a few hiccups in terms of where we live, and relationships that have turned out to be non-starters, the two of us are a happy little unit.
It wasn’t always so happy. I was living in Australia when at 38 I took the decision to have a baby by myself. Until you have a child you have no way of comprehending just how relentless parenting is. I severely underestimated how hard it would be, and severely over-estimated my own resources and resilience. For the first two years of Poppet’s life we were on our own, and it was flipping hard.
Over there, on Mother’s Day not only did I feel an absence, but I felt desperately lonely. No flowers, no breakfast in bed, and what’s more most of my friends were also mums to little ones, so were busy being treated and made to feel special by their other halves. As a result I’d spend the day alone at the park, killing time.
Now we live near my mum life is unrecognisably easier because my mum is a pillar of rock solid love and support. She helps us out so much that I have no idea how I coped without her. What’s more she is the only other person in the world who finds my little girl as fascinating as I do – as a father may have, if she had one. In fact my mum would happily continue talking about Poppet all day, long after even I have got bored of dissecting every little think our precious little girl says and does.
Of course now we spend Mother’s Day with my mum and my brother, so the focus is also on thanking my mum for everything she does for us. So while I still feel that sense of absence, there’s a distraction from it that keeps me from dwelling on it for too long.
The message I want to get across here is simple. Don’t get so caught up in your own life that you don’t notice that those around you may not have lives as full as your own.
Take a moment to think about whether you know anyone who might be feeling as I did this Sunday? Is there anything you can do to help them feel less bereft and alone, that lets them know you realise this special occasion must be tough for them? Perhaps you can send a card, meet them for a coffee, or invite them to join you and your family for lunch? Even a just a quick text or phone call could make all the difference.
One year in Oz at the last minute one of my oldest friends invited me to join her and her family for a roast dinner because it suddenly dawned on her that I was probably spending the day alone. That small gesture of acknowledgement was all it took to lighten my load.
If there’s no-one you know that needs a supportive gesture, or even if there is, why not a mum you don’t know? I support a local charity, Stripey Stork, who run a Mum2Mum campaign every Mother’s Day. In return for a £5 donation a mum in need – who may otherwise not get a gift this Mother’s Day – will get a little pamper pack from Stripey Stork to help brighten their day. Visit the Stripey Stork website to find out more.