There’s a story in the Daily Mail this morning that more and more single women are having IVF and becoming single mothers. I went on LBC this morning to discuss life as a single mother.
Here’s the thing:
Being a single mother is hard.
But so is being a parent, full stop.
During the interview, Nick Ferrari asked me, if a friend came to me and said they were going to go and get IVF, use donor sperm and become a single mother what would I say?
I would never tell someone, “don’t do that.” For one thing, it’s not my place to say that. More importantly though, I would never want to take the experience of motherhood away from someone; S is the light of my life and brings me so much joy every day.
I would be lying though, if I said it wasn’t tough. And as I said on air, it’s not the lack of money that makes it hard. While it would be useful to have more cash in the bank, to be able to just do a food shop without carefully calculating how much I can afford to spend on food this month, the amount of money makes no difference to the largest, most difficult problems. I am no longer just Vicky; I am Vicky-and-Samaire. Every decision I make must be made with her in mind. And there is no safety net of having a second person to fall back on, should the need arise. The buck stops here.
Being a single parent often goes hand in hand with being perpetually knackered – especially in the early days. And you somehow have to juggle this with having the presence of mind to remember to buy milk on the way home from town, or to make sure the bread isn’t mouldy for breakfast in the morning. If we get up in the morning and there’s no milk, I can’t just nip to the shop to buy some; we go without milk for our breakfast. I can never just nip to the shop; everything has to be very carefully prepared for with coats and shoes and all sorts. Now that S is older, it’s even more of a palaver, since I can’t just grab her and put her coat and shoes on. She wants to do it herself, but then she wants to finish colouring her picture first, and then her shoes are on the wrong feet, we can’t find the coat she specifically wants to wear, she wants to wear her sunglasses and I’ve no idea where they are. All parents go through this, but when you’re a single parent, it’s every single time. There’s no “can you just pop down to the corner shop” – every outing is a family outing.
By far the worst, most depressing and scary part of being a single parent is when one of us is ill.
Thankfully, I’ve only been properly ill a couple of times since S was born and we’ve managed to muddle through. But a while back, S had an ear infection and was quite ill. There was this terrible realisation that there is not another person on this planet who loves this child as much as I do. There was nobody to prod at 3am and ask, “do you think I should take her to A&E?” I had never felt more alone and scared.
It is hard being a single parent; it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, purely because there’s no let-up. With most situations that are hard work, you can get through it purely because it’s a set amount of time: a working day, a week, a month. There’s a fixed ending and you work towards that. This was not something that changed my life for a couple of weeks, months or even a year. Being a single mother has changed my life forever. This is forever. The good times are the best I’ve ever had; the smiles definitely outweigh the frowns. But the tough times are really tough. Sometimes I feel like Sisyphus, rolling that same boulder up the same hill every day.
I think all parents feel that from time to time though; and that it can often be harder to cope with the pressures of parenthood when there’s someone there who should be helping out and isn’t, than to just get on with it alone. There are plenty of up sides to being a single mother: I make all of the decisions, and what I say goes. I have an incredibly close bond with S because I don’t have to worry about maintaining a relationship with anyone else. There are no marital pressures to try and contend with when sleep deprived and up to my knees in nappies.
Being a single parent has been incredibly empowering for me. It’s helped me to find a confidence and self worth I didn’t know I had. When people comment on how happy my daughter is, they’re giving me a massive compliment that only serves to increase the immense sense of pride I already feel.
I have no frame of reference for this; I’ve been a single mother about as long as I’ve been a mother. I’ve never experienced parenting as part of a couple, and so while it is tough, I know it probably feels just as tough for those parents muddling along with a partner as well as a child. My life might be hard in one way; another person’s life is hard in another. Such is life.
If a friend was thinking about getting IVF to deliberately become a single parent, I would advise her to think very carefully, and to spend time with a single parent family before making the decision. Because it doesn’t matter how much money is in the bank; what matters is whether you can cope with the idea of no longer being just you. You become you-and-your-child, for the foreseeable future. And that is a massive, fundamental change to your life in every possible way – more so than if you were becoming a parent as a part of a couple. Nobody to hold the baby while you go to the loo, nobody to occupy the toddler while you take a shower. It’s just you.
I’m happy being just me, and I definitely wouldn’t change our lives for the world. But it took me a long while to find my stride with this single mother lark!