Our column opens up the life of a single mum – juggling life, love, work and of course kids on her own.
Sal Higgins is an author and journalist and mum to five kids, ranging in age from 19 to two, and is now raising them on her own. Her estranged husband has the usual alternate weekend arrangement, which means most of it’s down to her. She lives just outside London with her kids and their dog, Jamjar.
Here, she tells of her new life, the ups ands downs, the laughs and tears and the search for a new love – which, of course, will be her children’s new dad.
Am I the only mum who is quite happy things are back to normal? Not that I didn’t enjoy all the festivities – I did and the children had a double helping of fun, but it truly is the most exhausting and emotional time of year. A rollercoaster of highs and lows – being Santa on Christmas Day, then saying goodbye to them on Boxing Day… one minute up, the next down.
People have said this would be hardest time – the first time I do this, but I don’t think it will ever get better. What you just have to cling onto is the fact that the kids are getting two lots of Christmases, with two sets of families, and two sets of presents.
But there must be an emotional pull. Not just for us mums. But for our children. Loving both parents, wanting to see both at the same time. My second youngest asked if I could ‘come to daddy’s flat’? which was followed by… ‘mummy, how do you know daddy?’ It’s right enough, he never sees us talking, so it’s quite natural he just assumes we don’t know each other. Out of the mouth of babes right enough.
But I know I am not alone in this. There are hundreds, no thousands spinning the same emotional plates. At the Christmas concert – I looked along the front row where my son was singing and realised that every boy in that row and the one behind came from single-parented families. Good God.
It’s not as if the mums in the audience were 14-year-olds – pregnant before we should have been. No, most of us are in our forties. Abandoned by men who didn’t want to full-time parent. Why is that? My husband has abandoned two families – how he can look at himself in the mirror, God only knows.
And why is it so accepted in our society? If a man walks away from looking after his children every day – only wanting to see them on a part time basis, why is this OK in our world? But if a woman was to walk away from the full-time family, there would indeed be hell to pay.
But most of us mums are happy getting the kids. Really, as time goes on, I love the fact that I don’t have to run everything by him. I don’t have to tip-toe around his moods. What I say goes in the house – it’s quite nice. Things are settling down and what seemed like a catastrophe at the time, is beginning to feel like a good thing.
Yes, Christmas was different. But the last Christmas he spent with us – he was difficult, crabby and grumpy. I remember taking the car out on Boxing Day just to get away from him… yet I didn’t do anything about it. I would have put up with the bad behaviour rather than split.
Plus you just have to get over the notion that everyone else is in a loving, happy relationship with perfect children and lights a-twinkiling… they’re not. They are normal people, with normal stuff going on. Many are reasonably ok and others are utterly miserable.
As one friend told me at the time my husband left. ‘You never know what’s good luck or bad luck.’ What seemed like the worst thing in the world to me at the time, is now turning out all right. Who’d have guessed?