A few weeks ago Elfin was being a pain in the bum refusing to sleep, so I decided to take her for a stroll as I needed a couple of emergency bits from the shop anyway. I left Pixie at home with her dad and off we went. But when we got home (Elfin snoring – yaaaas!), I realised I’d not been wearing my rings when I went out. It surprised me that I’d not noticed as I feel naked without them. They only come off when I’m moisturising my hands, and then go straight back on once the cream has soaked in – because they’re part of my identity. And because I fear I’ll be judged as a single mother if I’m not wearing them.
There, I said it. But why do I think I may be judged, and why is that such a terrible thing even if I’m right?
Well, because the nasty truth of it is that there are some pretty terrible connotations attached to being a single mother – I’d wager they’re very different to those attached to being a single father too.
Harshly Judged as a Single Mother?
I don’t feel completely comfortable doing this, but for the purposes of the post I’m going to spell out the unfair and untrue connotations I believe are attached to women bringing their children up either alone or as the primary parent:
- Low standards;
- Poor mother;
- Bad wife;
- Lack of morals.
That’s appalling! No wonder I don’t want people to think that way about me. No matter – by the time I realised I was sans rings, I was already home and the fact is that the cashier I exchanged pleasantries with in the shop was friendly. I didn’t detect any undertones of untoward biases or attitudes.
So then where does my own unease stem from? I’m slightly sickened by the fear that maybe, by osmosis or something, the disgusting stigma I’ve outlined above has insidiously become an unconscious and underlying assumption for me too; could that be the true reason I’m so bothered about popping out without my rings?
I want to say no, but just as with so many unpalatable truths about our society, it’s one more issue that I feel needs calling out. It’s in the subtext of our everyday interactions, in the advertisements we see and the culture we’re complicit in. And it needs addressing.
An Unintended Test
Just a couple of days later I lost my rings. Fully lost them – and it felt like fate. It felt like this was something I was supposed to experience and think more about, and ultimately it’s led me to writing this post.
I wear three rings every single day: my engagement ring, wedding ring, and a ring my husband bought me on our honeymoon. I knew that if they turned up they’d be together, because as I mentioned I only ever remove them to moisturise. They had either been found by somebody else and were lost to me forever, or they would turn up somewhere safe. I hoped the latter would prove true.
I’d checked every surface in my home that I could think of, but due to sleep-deprivation making my mind clumsy I knew it was still possible that I’d absentmindedly popped them down somewhere ‘safe’ – so safe I couldn’t even lay my own hands on them! In fact, at that point I was still quite sure they’d turn up, so much so I didn’t panic at all initially – I was convinced I’d happen across them through the course of the morning. But that didn’t happen.
I had to go out for the day without my rings, and I started to feel incredibly uncomfortable.
Yes, my rings have a lot of sentimental value, but more than that they are a veneer, a mask, the façade behind which I paint the picture of Perfect Wife and Mother. Take away my rings and I feel exposed and vulnerable. And judged – harshly.
But, for what it’s worth, my true considered feelings about single mothers could not be more different than the negative connotations I know I – and you – are bombarded with to the point of having to consciously reject them. Here’s what I really think about all primary parents; by and large they are:
The Truth About Single Mothers / Primary Parents
My husband recently said to me in the car (following a very tough few weeks with minimal sleep and maximal stress) ‘I do love you and I look forward to coming home to you every day’. Because I’m hilarious (and a bit mean), I responded that I too look forward to him coming home every day – to help with our little gremlins. But the reality is that although I was joking, it was far from untrue!
I cannot even imagine the strength of character required to parent full-time, without the backing of your partner; to often have to butt heads with the person who should be supporting you; to feel the full weight of responsibility to the people depending on you.
But the fact that on top of all of that these women are often nursing broken hearts having been betrayed – with the unpleasant knowledge that they’re likely facing wholly unfair and spiteful prejudice? It’s abhorrent and one more example of the patriarchal bullshit we all feed.
So, today I’m standing up to say that primary parents deserve our unswerving respect, male and female alike. They are some of the toughest and most resilient people we’ll ever meet.
I hope never to walk among them because judged as a single mother, I’m not sure how I’d fare; but if I have to? I’ll feel fierce.