What is the definition of a solo mum?
Since my divorce, I’ve pondered this on many occasions. Are you still a solo mum if you’re dating? Are you still a solo mum if you re-partner but don’t live with your new partner? Does it magically happen when you decide to delve into the defacto arena again or perhaps it only happens if you remarry? Is there some magical light bulb that one day will flash above our heads and signal our exodus from this ever growing club of stalwart women crusaders, or is that light to remain dim forever, heralding the fact that once you become a solo mum, you will in fact always remain one? More to the point, is this parenting status one that society can place on us? Or is it completely up to each individual to decide when, if ever, we decide to stop flying our solo mum flag?
With the various structures and make ups of families these days, the line of what makes a mum solo or not is perhaps harder to distinguish than it has been in the past. To some extent, especially with younger generations, the idea of a family is becoming more emotional than genetic. If that’s the case, then today’s family is made up of those grandparents and aunts, close friends or cousins that we invite into our lives, rather than what we ended up with in the lottery of creation.
While I may not have a husband or partner to support me and my parenting, I have a range of confidants and experienced parents I turn to when I need to nut out some new or challenging behaviour in my son. My iPhone is awash with photos waiting to be sent to loved ones to join in the ooohs and ahhhhs of his newest accomplishments and when I want to fall over and not get back up, I have my blogging community, online support groups, friends and even Playgroups to encourage me to get back up again. Then you hear of mums who are married, yet their husband’s are unsupportive, don’t contribute to parenting or household roles, yet bring in an income. Are those mums not flying solo in some capacity? Or, by that definition, is it our financial status as a couple that is the key to defining us as solo or not solo?
Am I any more ‘solo’ than the married mums with no support? Or the married mums whose husbands work away? I guess you could say so, I guess you could say not…
I hear differing views on the subject, and over the 500 or so days I’ve been a solo mum, the idea has ping-ponged around in my head on and off – at what point in my future will I no longer be a solo mum? Then, not long ago I had a conversation with another solo mum that surprised me. Leonie Percy wore her solo mum badge for three years after finding out her husband no longer loved her. Separated with a young son to co-parent, she rebuilt her life and has now met someone new – and together, as a new family, they’ve recently moved in together. I smiled as she shared her story of heart-break to happiness, but then she told me that only a few days before, she’d been evicted from a single mums group on Facebook. I asked why. Was she evicted because she was rude or had broken some group rule? No, she was given the boot because she had recently re-partnered and so, was no longer considered to be a solo mum.
As Leonie described her situation, it occurred to me that it wasn’t that she was no longer a solo mum; it’s just that she was further along the ‘solo mum path’ than the other mums in the group. She described to me how hurt and judged she felt about the situation, firstly because she believes that she will always be a single mum to her little boy regardless of her relationship status, and secondly, as a solo mum in a new relationship, she thought she would have something unique to offer the group because new relationships that involve parenting as well as managing an adult relationship are uncharted territory and so much different from the new relationships of our youth.
While Leonie considers her new partner to be a positive role model for her son and feels supported and loved in her new relationship – which she didn’t feel when she was parenting alone, her stance is that her new partner will never be her son’s father and is not responsible for him, and so, she was surprised at the opinions of other single mothers on the topic of being re-partnered. Most of them hoped that they too could find love again but believed that if you still “felt” like a single mum once in one, it must mean you were unsupported by your new partner and the situation would surely result in another divorce. While the idea of re-partnering is a topic that is fuelled with emotional responses because your story and situation will reflect your opinion, this was an idea that Leonie, being in the situation she’s in now, can’t relate to as being true for everyone.
Putting that aside, whether the group considered Leonie to be a solo mum or not, the question remains as to why they didn’t feel they could let her be the one to decide whether she still needed or wanted the support and friendship of the group. Leonie and I pondered this – Were they afraid? Was it jealousy or frustration that they had not found love again? We’re not sure, but at any stage of the solo mum journey, isn’t it through our friendships that we find growth, comfort and pride from sharing our pleasures and successes as well as our pain?
Leonie ended our conversation by saying ‘If your journey is similar to mine, I promise you that if you open your heart so you are able to give and receive love, not only in new relationships, but to others in all walks of life, you will be rewarded in ways that you could have only imagined in your wildest dreams’.
So after 500 or so days, I’ve decided to put down my internal ping pong bat on this topic to allow everyone, especially myself, the freedom of defining their own individual solo mum journey and where it starts and ends.
Whether you’re single, married, re-partnered or ‘other’, you’re welcome in our private 365 Day Sanctuary Facebook Support Group – for any mum who feels she’s flying solo, whether it be sometimes or all the time. Contact us to join.
* Leonie Percy is the proud author of the book “Mother Om – Connect with yourself and your child in one mindful moment a day” and founder of http://www.yogamamata.com. Leonie’s mission is to keep families connected through yoga and mindfulness.
About the author
Naomi is the editor of Lift e-Magazine and single mum to 22 month old Jim. For the 12 months following her divorce, she documented her journey of single motherhood in her award-winning daily blog ‘365 Days, a Diary of a Newly Single Mum’. When she’s not experimenting with new cookie recipes or planning her next trekking, climbing or snowboarding adventure, you can find her at her desk in the picturesque city of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, weaving together solo mum stories… whether it be handy tips, triumphs, tragedies, exotic tales of travel or other tidbits to publish here. And before you ask, no, she doesn’t mind the freezing cold Tasmanian winters and yes, she had her second head removed years ago in an unfortunate accident involving a curtain rod and a drunk moose (and no, she’s not interested in hearing from anyone who doesn’t believe that drunk mooses exist in Tasmania… or those who may suppose that ‘mooses’ is not really a word).