I’ve been away. You may or may not have noticed. And by away, I mean figuratively, not physically.
In October, my life changed. My relationship ended and I moved out into a small rented house.
For a few months, we both pretended nothing had really changed. We split the childcare between us, half a week each, and even occasionally went out together as a family still.
And then Christmas came and the pretending stopped. Spending so much time together again was hard. It felt so false, so unreal. I felt sad, angry, disappointed, and frustrated. I couldn’t do it. When the girls went to bed on Christmas Day, I left and went to my parents, stopping en route to cry like I’d needed to do for so long. I was lonely but had to keep moving forward. But it was so difficult.
New year saw the birth of my first niece but I couldn’t get to London to see her. I spent 3 days by myself, trying desperately to cling on to something positive if only I could find it. But it wasn’t there. My children were with my ex and I was completely alone for the first time in a very long time. It hurt. I hurt.
As I spiralled downwards into a black hole, the holidays ended and I had to return to the job that I was beginning to resent more with every passing day. The work is difficult and relentless, and the hours are much longer than I signed up for, giving me even less time with my children. At that point, I could see no way out of the darkness. The result of choices I’d made. And didn’t regret. But every time I tried to write it down, my fingers froze over the keyboard, unable to find the words to talk about this. I’m surrounded by families, happily sharing their lives together, or by single mums, doing it all alone. I was none of these. Only a “part time” single mum. The rest of the time alone, eyes stinging at Facebook photos of my children having fun at someone else’s house.
I waded through January and February and then March arrived and I started to turn a corner. I had a friend’s hen weekend to look forward to and it was even better than I dared to hope. Although mother’s day turned out to be harder than I’d expected as all the other mums with me chatted to their children on the phone or laughed at photos their partners had shared with them.
Early on the morning of Bunny’s 6th birthday, I went round to drop off the cupcakes I’d made for her to take to school. It was a strained half an hour, and after school was harder, as she excitedly opened her presents, as we both tried to keep smiling with her. However, when the four of us went out for dinner later that evening, it was almost pleasant and we had fun together. It wasn’t real, but it was as close to real as it was going to get.
The following week, the milestone I’d been dreading arrived as I hit 40. My life was in tatters, nothing like I’d imagined it would be by this age. Not even close! They say life begins here. And the new starts in my life keep on coming. But my family and friends ensured it was a big celebration and I had an incredible weekend. Of course, when it was all over, the melancholy reared its ugly head again but this time I felt more confident and better equipped to fight it. I have a hideous couple of months ahead at work, but by July, the worst will be over and I can begin to look forward. It’s time to make my own destiny and be there for my children again before it’s too late and they’re grown up and don’t need me any more. In all of this, they come first and I will continue to paint on a smile and be strong and happy whenever they are around. After all, I have plenty of time without them now to crumble in private.
I’m scared of my future, but I’m determined. I know that I can get through this and I’ll be stronger for doing so. My life isn’t how it was supposed to be, but it does feel like a new beginning. And new beginnings are filled with possibilities. It’s time to go get the life I want: for me, and for my children. And learn to fill my days with genuine laughter and happiness again.