A few weeks ago, whilst enjoying a bit of me-time on that holiday with a toddler, I got an Instagram message from the very lovely and not just single mothers tribe member Zoe, who runs the Independent Mother digital channels and events. She asked me if I would speak at her upcoming event discussing single parent stigma. My initial reaction was to politely decline. I am not one for public speaking and I am much better on paper than in person. (Ask everyone who I have dated for verification of that) But, I decided to face my fear and accept the invitation, which was a true honour.
I have a lot to say about single parenting. I have lived and breathed it for the last two years and so experienced the emotional highs and lows which come with it. Although I am proud of being a single parent now I haven’t always been. So, I thought that, much like this blog itself, I could help to inspire others and get them along the path of acceptance and pride in their parental status.
Single and owning it
As the publicity for the event ramped up, I began to panic about what to wear. I have never been to a mum meet-up before but I have, of course, scrolled through them on social media. All the mums look super fucking cool oozing effortless style. Whereas I’m more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl. So, I decided to stay true to myself and make the most of the perfect opportunity to wear my ‘Single #AndOwningIt” t-shirt. I am so glad I did as it became a talking point. One fabulous single mum – and my new mate – commented on it in the bar and cheered me when I mentioned it during my talk.
Wearing that t-shirt also showed how far I have come in the last 12 months since hiding my naked left hand whilst pushing TJ in his pram. Not only did I attend the event in a cool part of London in that t-shirt, but I travelled through the city at rush hour holding TJ’s hand and clearly displaying to everyone that I am doing it alone.
Yes, I took TJ with me. I had debated whether that was the right thing to do and I had pencilled in the grandparents to look after him. But, I only had two days with him that week so I didn’t want to lose one of them for anything. I also thought it would be a great place to take him to. Even from a young age, he can listen and learn from the strong single mothers around him and know his family is actually a one in four rather than the rarity it can sometimes feel like for all of us.
I talked about how I feel like the only single mum in my village. So, I discussed the problems I have faced going to local playgroups and feeling like I am under the microscope for my life choices. Also, I shared my story on how I handled that, which is basically by not letting any concerns over stigma hold me back from enjoying my time with TJ. As I only get 50% of my time with my son, I don’t intend to waste that worrying about what other people think. Also, the ability to face any potential criticism or judgement face on is having the confidence in the kind of parent I am. I am a good parent. I work hard to put TJ’s needs ahead of my own and ensure his happiness takes centre stage as much as possible.
Talking of centre stage, TJ also added his little voice to the event’s discussion. Before going to the event, I had told him that I would be talking about being a mummy. He said he wanted to talk about being a daddy and dinosaurs – what great topics of choice for him. When the time came, he told the adoring audience that ‘daddys wee and poo’. I swear I had nothing to do with that, I definitely don’t badmouth his father to him. But, it has to be said that it went down well with the target audience! He made everyone smile and me beam with pride at his confidence and charm beyond his years.
Strength in numbers
I was blown away by the amazing stories being shared by the other women on the panel. The single mum who was shunned by her family. An inspiring single mother by choice. The single mum who wrote a thesis on single parent stigma and will soon become a teacher. Amazing women who are smashing the negative stereotype of single mums being slutty, scummy spongers from society.
It was also great to meet Rebecca Cox, aka The Mother Edit, who I had guest blogged for – and it turns out she is from just the down the road from my village. It took a meeting on Instagram to discover that reality.
Social media is quite a community. Instead of being berated, this tribe of not just single mothers are celebrated as we find comfort in familiarity and similarity with other women who are doing the job of both parents, whether that’s all of the time or some of the time, for people like me who co-parent.
All the single ladies
I can’t recommend the Independent Mother events enough – and I am not being paid to say that in any way! I came out feeling proud, part of a community and honoured to have been able to share my story to help. Maybe, I even inspired other single mums who are totally smashing that stigma in their own incredible ways. The next event is about single mum dating. Now there’s something I do have a lot to say about!
In the meantime, a podcast is being produced on parent stigma which will feature all of the speakers – watch this space for when it is available and have a listen, it’s bloody brilliant.