This has happened a few times in a few conversations I have been in.
Last week the comment was, “I’ve told my husband if he doesn’t shape up, I’m going to get a divorce so I can at least have every second weekend off.”
Other people have said to me…and I quote…”I would kill for 48 hours away from the kids!” Sure! But every second weekend? And on your own?
And I have heard someone else say to a friend who has 50/50 shared care of her kids, “You get a whole week to yourself??? All the time? Wow. That’s awesome.”
And I know I’m singing to the choir here, but sometimes those comments really sting like a fricken’ bee.
My ‘weekends off’ are spent driving up and down a highway to pick the kids up from their dad who lives two hours away. I also spend most of my time washing, changing bed linen, cleaning the house, cleaning – actually scrubbing – the toilet, because…boys. I catch up on work. I go to the supermarket and get a fortnight’s worth of food. I basically get as much done as I possibly can so when the kids ARE with me they get my attention (most of the time). And my to do list is lighter.
Our ‘days off’, ‘weekends off’, ‘weeks off’ are spent keeping ourselves busy to distract ourselves from missing our little people so much. They are spent trying not to think about what is happening while we’re not there. They are spent trying to manage our overthinking and not letting our imagination run wild about dangerous scenarios our babies could be in. It’s like being a lioness without her cubs for a period of time. And it’s exhausting.
Saying that, many of us do our utmost to wedge in some self-care (although once again its usually to distract ourselves), some time with friends and of course, our BFF Netflix. And it IS a godsend but at what cost?
So when you hear those comments either directed at you or around you, here is what I recommend.
Other people’s comments actually have nothing to do with you. It is all about their own perception and their own experiences. This mum didn’t even know I was recently separated. I could tell she was ‘in’ her own story. She is a funny, lovely mum who meant no harm. So while it hurt a little, it was easy to let go. One of the other mums who knows about my situation gave me a secret wink. And that was enough.
2. Smile your way out of it
Sometimes just a smile is all you need. That’s what I did that day. I had only met this mum and she was great fun, so I just smiled and laughed along with everyone. If there is one thing I know, it’s us single mums are pretty darn good at smiling our way through stuff and picking our battles.
3. Make a comment at the time
Now sure, you can say something if you feel it’s the right time and place. Previously when someone told me I was lucky for getting every second weekend to myself, I told them luck had nothing to do with it. Trauma, pain, betrayal……now THAT had something to do with it. But luck? No. I knew that person well, said it with a wry smile and while she was a little shocked at first, she apologised straight away and actually said, ‘That was very insensitive of me to say that and I’m sorry.’
And the number one rule for deciding whether to make a comment or not? Does it improve on the silence? Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? And you know what? Sometimes its not necessary and sometimes it is.
4. Have a chat after the fact
Sometimes pulling someone up in front of a group about an insensitive comment that was never meant to hurt anyone, but did, isn’t the right way to go. You’ve got a good opportunity to educate someone on how comments like this can sting a little. So if there’s a chance and you’re comfortable with bringing it up maybe just a quick, friendly chat away from the group later on can help.
5. Water off a duck’s back
There are many single mums who don’t get affected by comments like this. I know I’ll get there eventually. Already I can feel how less triggered I am by similar comments and situations, 10 months down the track. It’s a part of that empowerment and moving on journey. The more you move on and heal, the less impact comments like this will have. We’ll get there!
It just comes down to understanding that unless you’ve truly experienced something and been in a situation yourself, you don’t understand the impact of your words. This mum has never been separated or divorced or lost her partner and that is where her words come from. I am not saying she’s ignorant, not for one minute. I truly hope she NEVER experiences what we have.
And this isn’t an Us vs Them post.
It’s just a simple fact that unless you’ve been there, you simply don’t know what it’s like.
Accept that people’s words come from their own stories and are not a reflection of yours.
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