Becoming a single parent

Posted Monday 16th June 2014   By Ericka Waller

I used to say: “I don’t know how single parents manage”. Now I know, because I am one. My life as a mum is different now. It’s (even more) full on, on my own. There is no one to warm the milk while I run the bath, or help look for the tiny Dalmatian Thing-three can’t sleep without. No one to sort the dishwasher, laundry or run the hoover round. I’m a whirlwind, writing to do lists on loo rolls, making packed lunches at midnight, losing track of days.

And then it’s his turn to have the girls, and I go from having children hanging from each limb, all wanting me at once, to not being a mum at all. There is no in-between, no packed lunches to make. On the days they do not sleep here, I can’t work out which is worse, the shape they leave in their unmade beds, or the pristine readiness of covers straightened for their return.

The days I do not have them are black holes that I fall into. I go out, and I smile, sleep, and laugh, but all the while an invisible thread stretches taut and painful, pulling me and my thoughts back to my babies.

I know this will not always be the case. Dust will settle, cogs will turn, the sun will rise and set, and I will rise and resettle with it.  My experience as a mother has changed forever though, and a part of me will always feel I failed. I used to think I knew what my future would hold, now I have no idea. I’m telling myself that this is exciting.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m nowhere near ready to ‘get back in the game’, and even if I was, I’ve got three young kids, Rheumatoid Arthritis, a stomach like a pair of testicles and another man’s name tattooed on my left buttock. I’m what’s known as ‘damaged goods’ on the meat market.

Luckily for me, my babies are like water-soaked sponges of love, that can never be wrung out. They cover me with kisses and iridescent lip-gloss (which does nothing for my complexion). They are always up for a snoggy-pops… when they are here.

I hold them in my arms and inhale them deeply, imprinting them inside before each handover. They go to a distant land that I don’t know about, and they come back in different clothes and hairbands. They seem bigger each time they return.

They never come back smelling the same. I have to scrub them till they smell like mine again, sloshing soap in my eyes to hide tears of grief for the seconds of their lives that I missed.