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What real busy looks like: The career of being a single mother

July 20, 2016

Before I had my children my life was full of busy. Busy working on building a career. Busy with a full social life. Busy travelling here and there. It was lovely busy. All that glorious time to self-indulge in whatever I wanted.

I was just busy being busy. I was ticking all the boxes as I moved through my life so when I went to tick the ultra big one, ‘have children’, I had little knowledge as to how busy I was about to get. Naive and sold on the way life goes, that was me. That is many of us.

So I had them, two within 16 months of each other. My life cleaved open to include other things like keep the house for a family, look after babies, be a contributor to the financial resources of married life, be a wife, learn to live on little sleep and keep a business going. I learned what busy really was. It was a shock. Even more so because I was unsupported when this new pile of responsibility landed on my shoulders.

Three years into my hollowed out, lonely and totally exhausted existence it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to come through this well. I got my stuff, what was left of my energy, and I left.

My story is a familiar one. I hear it all the time from women managing their time to within an inch of their lives, guilty because they never seem to get enough done and in a constant flux because of the worries of money, stability for their children and whether the future will keep them safe.

You see, your priorities change. At the top of your tree are these little people who pull at your heart, want your time and most importantly need your love.

The world keeps on going around you though. You need to work and perform. You need to provide the income that feeds, clothes and shelters. There are mortgages or rent, bills, the movies, a new pair of shoes, a birthday present, an excursion, all tugging at the base of your business suit along with a little wide-eyed kid asking for a cuddle.

It’s like moving in two worlds where there is work and family, with a third, the one where you are a woman and need your own space and solace, all vying for attention. All pulling you and asking you to be the best, have it all and still smile.

That all encompassing day, from when you first ask ‘What do you want for your breakfast?’ to the time when everyone is tucked up, fed and bathed, house tidied, when you take off your bra with a sigh of relief and fall into bed thinking that if it’s Thursday then you only have another day of the same and then you can take a break.

It is easy for the weeks to turn into months, into years, without putting your head up. You do it. Because isn’t that what mothers do?

The busy word is something that I think resonates deep into women, whether they are in marriages, partnerships or on their own. Often I will hear it, and have used it myself, as I see the woman doing the weekly shopping, with small kids at her side. One woman will say to the other, ‘I bet they keep you busy.’ They agree, exchange knowing glances and an unspoken respect. They’re in a club. They know that their quest is on hold while they bring these next generation of humans through. It means sacrifice on a number of levels.

For single mums, it often means times of great anxiety, guilt and emotional hardship. But they do it. They rise through it all, energised by smiles, surprises, cards with hand-written scribbles of kind words, achievements, cuddles and mainly love. Because there is no choice. You need to keep going.

I could go on to write about the issues that surround women in general and how having children affects your ability to continue, unhindered, into the bigger and better where career is concerned. But there are better people who have written on the topic.

I just wanted to send something out to the mums who are doing it on their own. There are many and they often aren’t written about let alone considered.

I’m saying hello to you, telling you that you’re doing great and that I respect your journey. And if you’re not one of these women, I bet you know someone who is. Tell them the same and make their day. I bet they’ll really smile at you for doing so, despite them being busy.