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On The Absence of a Man


premature baby single mother

One of the main issues I have with being on my own with S is that she only has me to look after her.

For the most part, that is a definite plus in our lives: we have half the bed each (well, to be fair I think she takes up more than half a lot of the time), we don’t have to share each other’s time with anyone else, and we’ve developed a very strong bond.


My friend says I have First Baby Syndrome: I use the sling more often than the push chair; I carry S everywhere with me; I rarely leave her with anyone. In fact, I’ve probably left her less than a dozen times, each for no more than an hour. Depending on who you speak to, this is either a really good thing and means we’ll have a firm bond that will last S long into adulthood, or it’s really quite bad and S will be some weird mummy’s girl forever tied to my apron strings. 

When faced with the choice between Gina Ford and Dr Sears’ Attachment Parenting, I’ll opt for Sears every time. Being on my own means I’m probably making life very hard for myself by going down this route. S is never left to cry if I can help it, and I get quite irate if someone I leave her with lets her sit and cry. She is breastfed on demand, and I have no interest in trying to find ways of tricking her into sleeping through the night before she is ready. As a health visitor pointed out to me not so long ago, if you decide you’re going to exclusively breastfeed, on demand, for the first six months, you kind of just have to accept that your life is not your own for that time. There are several people with whom I would happily leave S for extended periods of time, but at the moment there is no point exploring that avenue, because I need to be nearby to feed her every few hours; more when it is hot out, or she is teething or feeling otherwise unwell. I am perfectly happy with this. If S turns out a weirdo because of it, well then all the Gina Ford subscribers can have their perfectly-trained toddlers pelt me with copies of her books.

The only problem comes at times when it would be useful to have a second pair of hands. For example, if I’ve not had my dinner before S goes to bed (most nights), and she’s having trouble settling to sleep (every night at the moment), it can get fairly frustrating to spend an hour or more trying to get her to sleep when my stomach is growling and I’m tired and fed up. She is teething at the moment, and has had some fairly miserable, grizzly days when I’ve had no choice but to feed her Calpol and Nurofen every couple of hours and spend large portions of time with her sitting on my lap, chewing my hand through a muslin and crying whenever I try to put her down and sneak off to the toilet. I actually ended up putting a Bumbo chair in the bathroom in the end, so that I could just take her to the toilet with me. (incidentally, I hear that’s a good thing for helping them to toilet train early, but still, I’d rather pee in peace sometimes, ya know?) 

Also there are times when I could do with just popping to the shop to get some milk, or to post a letter, but I don’t bother going because it is too much bother to get S into the sling, and she usually falls asleep in it any way, which makes for trouble at bed time, which is something I have to then deal with on my own. 

Taking S out in the pushchair is also an ordeal, being as we are, on the first floor. It would be handy to have someone to help carry the pushchair up and down the stairs. Someone to carry the shopping, someone to help with the housework, someone to play with S when I want to spend more than 5 minutes in the bath in the morning, someone to answer the door when I am breastfeeding (that’s a sure-fire way to get rid of unwanted callers, let me tell you), someone to whom I can say, “wow, did you see what she just did, that was awesome!” 

I have been sitting here racking my brains to think of other examples of when it would be useful to have a partner, and can come up with none. Obviously it would be nice for me to have some adult company and hugs and kisses and suchlike. But realistically, when S is awake my attention is on her. History attests to the fact that I have, at best, shoddy taste in men. I would not consider having any potential new beau around while S is awake. My evenings are fairly full, what with housework, decorating, two Open University modules, a blog, and an unhealthy addiction to several TV series via Netflix. If I were to acquire myself a young man, realistically they could only spend one or two evenings a week (from 8 til 10pm at most) here. And since S shares my bed, there is no space for a man in it.

Obviously, S doesn’t know any different, so it’s not like she feels that she’s missing out. When her father first cleared off, I had major concerns about her missing out on having a daddy and feeling like she only had half a family. But actually, when you look around you these days, it’s not like when I was a kid and everyone lived at home with mummy, daddy, a dog, one or two siblings and a white picket fence. In fact, by the time I was a teenager probably a lot of my peers’ parents had divorced. The modern family is no longer a heterosexual, married couple with 2.4 children; in fact, one of those is quite rare these days. Many families are made up of children from past relationships, step-siblings, half-siblings, extended family either living together or spending a lot of time together, and neighbours or friends who are no relation at all spending more time with the child than one or both parents. The options I was faced with when S and I came home from hospital meant that either I maintained a strong bond and a good routine with her, or she spent time with her father. There was no middle ground to be had. Since then other details have come to light which mean that, even if he were to attempt to locate that middle ground, I would be having none of it.

From a financial point of view, I am probably better off being on my own with S. I know a lot of women who have had to go back to work after having a baby a lot sooner than they would have liked; many perhaps would have liked to stop work altogether and focus on their child, but they cannot afford to do so. For me, being a single mother, I will be skint whether I go to work and pay for childcare, or stay home and live off benefits for a couple of years until S is in pre-school. In that way, I probably have more of a choice than most women. 

I have no qualms about living off the state for a few years, until S is in school. I have paid my taxes all my life specifically for this reason, and while I am actively raising my child I feel I am still contributing to society by not producing a delinquent for the system to deal with. I am also studying for a degree, and looking at the possibility of taking on freelance work if I decide not to go back to my job. I may still opt to go back to my job, and if that happens I will be spending a lot of time making sure wherever she goes while I am at work is offering her a better environment than staying at home with me. It has to be worth her while for me to consider leaving her.

It looks like it’s taken me less than 1500 words to convince myself that S and I are fine on our own, and do not need a man about the house, her father or otherwise.

Vicky is a mother, a blogger, a podcaster and a social media trainer. She writes about life as a single mother, parenting and lifestyle type things.

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