Lockdown has brought a few desires and needs that had lain dormant in me to the fore. Both small, and large. The desire to bake – banana bread, sourdough – to withdraw, be creative and more mindful. But, when I get some time to myself, two bigger desires have absorbed my headspace over the last eight weeks.
Firstly, I can’t escape the feeling that I want to live in the countryside, away from the traffic and hustle-bustle. In a cosy cottage surrounded by fields, woodland, horses and gardens, abundant with flowers. Where I can drink in the peace and quiet – when my tween daughter isn’t hounding me that is!
I can’t do anything about this desire for the foreseeable future – except mindlessly browse RightMove and dream – and not just because of lockdown. So I turn to the other preoccupation.
I want to write a book.
This isn’t a new desire. It’s something I’ve wanted to do probably since I started journaling as a child. But resistance and imposter syndrome have held me back. However, during this lockdown, I’ve finally felt able to commit to this goal.
Partly that’s thanks to Nicola Humber’s glorious Unbound Book Lab which I delighted in taking part in last month. Through completing that process I finally know I have something powerful to say, that others will want to hear, and will benefit from.
I signed up to the Unbound Book Lab last year but never found the right time to start it. Life was busy, I lacked the headspace. Lockdown presented the perfect opportunity to reconnect with that part of myself. And I’m so glad I did because it’s been such a powerful experience.
One of the first exercises Nicola asked us to do was a ‘connect with your book’ visualisation. Immediately I had an image of a book cover with the title ‘The Powerful Solo Mum’ emblazoned across it in a powerful yellow font.
This surprised me. I thought I’d closed the door on writing about solo motherhood. I’ve written only patchily about my experiences as a solo mum over the last 10+ years that I’ve been on this path.I’ve blogged and shared on social media inconsistently, and never felt completely comfortable with what I had to say, or what the point of putting myself out there was. Maybe I’d simply not found the angle that lit a fire in my belly. Until now.
Perhaps that door is still ajar.
This feels different. There are numerous accounts online about embarking on the journey to becoming a solo mum – the different ways to go it alone, choosing a donor, how to conceive and the numerous challenges of embarking on the journey.
But there are few, if any, about proudly living your best life as a solo mum. Or about understanding the impact that choice to live your truth in this unconventional way, has on female empowerment. The impact on women coming after us and the choices they make or don’t make.
The power of solo motherhood stretches far beyond our individual experience. It impacts our friends, our family and most of all our children. A close friend of mine chose to embark on solo motherhood after watching me do it. Others have felt empowered simply by knowing it’s an option they can explore. And I’ve had many partnered mums tell me they wish they’d realised it was an option because now they feel trapped in a relationship that isn’t a happy one.
Solo motherhood can be, and is, a better option for women than enduring a destructive, abusive, or simply emotionally unfulfilling relationship. It’s better than settling for less than your best self deserves. I’ve rarely been my best self in a relationship so I know it’s easy to think you have to accept that as part of the package – as part of the box-ticking exercise of life. Meet someone – tick! Get married – tick! Buy a house – tick. Have kids – tick! Feel trapped and unfulfilled – tick!
Our vision of female success has become so narrow that many of us can’t imagine a life that doesn’t follow this path. What if more women felt empowered to reject the crumbs of a relationship being offered to them and said ‘No thanks. I deserve better.’
Because I’m telling you that without a shadow of a doubt solo motherhood, while no walk in a rose bed, is streets ahead of putting up with an abusive, disrespectful, or just downright disappointing person in your life. Forever. Because that’s what having a child with someone means. You, and your child, are never free of them. Or the shadow of what could have been.
But for a long time, for me, solo motherhood felt like a failure. It felt like admitting defeat because I hadn’t managed to achieve what other people seemed to find so easy. A long-term relationship. Marriage. Sharing parenting with someone I loved. I wondered what was wrong with me. Why me? Why hadn’t I found someone?
But over time – my daughter is now nine – my perspective on it has changed. I now see my journey as a solo mum as one of the biggest achievements of my life. I had to reframe my experience, focus on what I’d gained by being free of the limitations of a relationship, instead of what I lacked.
So my book is about that – the power of solo motherhood. How it empowers women to make positive choices for themselves and their children. To live their best life, in control of their offspring, their home, their finances, their careers and most importantly themselves and their peace of mind.
What does it mean for our daughters, and their daughters, that they will never see us subjugate ourselves, and our needs, or successes, for the sake of keeping a man? And indeed for our sons and how they perceive and treat the women in their lives? They will see women as independent, strong and able to stand alone as leaders in their lives, capable and beholden to no-one.
Over the next year, I’ll be writing in community with a group of my fellow unbound writers in Nicola’s Unbound Writing Mastermind. And also with you, my community of readers. I hope you’ll stick around to watch it unfold.