All mums and dads face parenting in their own way. There are books, guidelines, channels where we receive advice and various support groups. Perhaps my best support network has been the group of mums I met at antenatal and baby classes. We’ve had a group Facebook chat and group message since Day 1. I distinctly remember turning to that group for advice on how long the little man slept, or which bottles could help his colic, or whether that nappy/sick/cough was normal. I relied on them for support throughout my maternity leave when my husband was out at work.
Strangely, since becoming single, I rely on them even more. Some of them have gone on to have second children. Others are coping with new roles at work or moving house. The things that we support each other through have shifted from colic and weaning to general everyday things. We call ourselves Team Baby, but we share much more than that.
Last night we all invaded one of the brand new homes of a Team Baby family, armed with copious amounts of prosecco and all of our chat. We had such a good time and caught up on gossip, laughing together until the small hours. I got into a discussion with the girls about how all of them would be dealing with a hangover and a toddler – or in some cases, a baby too – in the morning. I laughed at them, and they laughed with me, but it got me thinking.
Time is the one big bonus of being a single mum. Yes, I am the primary caregiver and as such I have my little guy five nights a week. I wouldn’t change that for the world. My two nights off are when I run around with the Hoover, get the dishes done, hang up clothes and generally get things sorted. When I make plans to go out, it is on my baby-free nights so that I don’t have to arrange childcare or worry about the potential hangover. I relish my long lies, one weekend morning a week guaranteed, and I think about how lucky I am. My free time really is that: time which is entirely my own and undisturbed should I wish.
I should be happy with that, shouldn’t I? Every member of Team Baby would kill me for this morning’s sleep, which lingered on in a prosecco flavoured haze until past eleven. I would be ungrateful if I didn’t acknowledge that it was very nice.
But in the stark light of day I imagine a different kind of support that Team Baby all have. I’d rather be awake early every morning if there was someone there who would say, “God, love, you look knackered. I’ll make some breakfast.” Or if the little one wakes three times in the night, to just be around and tell me how appreciated it was that I went to him. Or when I’m making decisions about his progress and where he should be going next and all those things that affect him, to tell me I’m doing a good job. That kind of emotional support for me as an adult from another adult who has no reason to be with me other than love is missing, and I suppose I am jealous of that, which takes a lot to admit. I can pretend to be as strong as you like, but I miss it.
Would I swap my position for the girls in Team Baby? Perhaps. In reality, I probably wouldn’t. I have their support and the support of my family and friends, and that’s all I need. If I can give my little guy the kind of life and love that all the couples in Team Baby can give theirs, I’m happy.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying that one long lie too much to mess with the equilibrium.