Mum guilt is not a new phenomenon. Mums have been feeling guilty since the dawn of time. For doing it all wrong. For being too attached. Not attached enough. For working when they should be parenting, parenting when they should be working. For single mums this is intensified. Welcome to single parent guilt. There is nobody to allay the guilt, and nobody to share the load with. Of course, you’re working too hard, you’re supporting a household on your own. Of course, you’re too attached, your kids are your world. And there’s something else…
Single Parent Guilt
Single parent guilt goes deeper than the average mum guilt. It is entrenched in the belief that we’ve done something ‘wrong’. We’ve gone against the grain, deviated from the path, broken the rules. Guilty because society has taught us that it takes two parents to raise a child. Guilty because we’re constantly reminded that we’re doing it wrong. That our homes are ‘broken’. It is not just ‘not being enough’ it is ‘never being enough’.
It is choosing the wrong partner or choosing no partner. It is choosing yourself, or choosing your child. It is making impossible choices and being sure in one thing: they will be the wrong choices.
But what if they aren’t? What if you’ve ended up in this place because you made the right choice? What if you’re exactly where you need to be? Are you happier than you were before? Does your child have everything that they need? (Not what they want, but what they need.) Then maybe it’s time to start separating yourself from that guilt.
Will you ever be completely free from guilt? Possibly not. Mine last flared up when my son missed a classmate’s birthday party which I felt was because I had dropped a ball. But I bounced back quicker than usual from the guilt-trip, because I have realised that when you’re juggling two people’s ahem, balls, alone, then occasionally one will drop. You’ll apologise, make good, and pick it back up.
If you are living a life motivated by guilt, it will seep into the cracks and make everything rotten. You’ll stop choosing the path of joy and start choosing the ‘least bad’ option instead. What will make you feel not the most joy, but the least guilt. These days of single parenting are intense and magical and hard. And they’re even harder when you’re carrying the burden of guilt on top of everything else. When you release this burden, you’ll be free. Free to find the joy in your situation. Free to live a life motivated by joy. Free to relish in these magical single motherhood moments. Free to fall in love. (And then get ghosted, and fall in love again.)
When people see me out and about and enjoying my life, or relishing moments of solitude and ask: ‘don’t you feel guilty?’, I wish the answer was ‘no’. ‘No’ is my goal, but for now, it’s ‘sometimes’. Guilty that I’m enjoying my messy, unconventional family life? No. Guilty that I enjoy my time off from motherhood? No. Guilty that I’m not the perfect mother? Sometimes. Guilty that I let guilt guide me, when I should always choose the path of joy? Yes. Of this I am guilty.
Guilty, but on the path to redemption.