Guest post: Nicki Ryder, mum of two, spills the beans on what it’s like going to parents evening alone and eventually finding love again.
“I became a ‘Mum Plus One’ when my daughter Livi was three and a half – old enough to know what was going on but too young to really understand why. We kept it very amicable for her and I never used her against him. No matter what was happening between us, it was important that she maintained a close relationship with her dad.
For me the most challenging thing about raising Livi alone was not having someone to ‘consult’ with about her. For example, if she’d been a bit naughty, I would previously have discussed how she would be disciplined with her dad or if she was finding something challenging, we’d have worked it out together but I felt like it was all down to me to sort out – not necessarily because he wasn’t interested but he just wasn’t around at that moment.
That time ‘together’ was so special because the reality is, we had two whole years of living together, just Livi and me. We had picnics on my bed when I couldn’t be bothered to make tea. I’d fall asleep on the sofa after work while she watched a movie and she’d always let me snuggle next to her. Everything in our kitchen was pink, because why not? We baked A LOT and had special days out together all the time. Not having her every weekend made those weekends I did have her, all the more precious.
Attending ‘parenting’ or school events was hard because I would invariably always be on my own. From sports days to parent teacher meetings and from school assemblies to even going to visit new schools, I was nearly always on my own amongst the other couples. I’m sure most of it was in my head but I would feel quite lonely at those types of things. I was also a working mum, so Livi would go to afterschool club each day, meaning I missed the opportunity to meet and chat to other mums – I always felt like a bit of an outsider – always the mum stood on her own in the playground.
My advice to anyone feeling anxious about attending parenting events alone would be to remember that no one is looking at you thinking, “Hmmm… there’s that single mum who couldn’t put her child first and just make the relationship work” or “There’s that mum who brings in shop bought cakes because she chose to work over raising her child and therefore doesn’t have time to bake cakes.” People are really not thinking that and in fact, there are so many of us mum plus ones out there now, all doing the best that we can. Be confident in who you are as a parent and never explain yourself to anyone.
As a mum it’s important to have a good support network but as a ‘Mum Plus One’ I think it’s even important to surround yourself with people who accept that you are a mum plus one. You do come with a little person in tow and they will always come first in your life. Surround yourself by people who will bring light and positivity into your life and your child’s life. If you’re feeling alone, there are some fantastic mama networks out there where you can meet likeminded, non-judgemental mums, just like you. Be brave and get yourself out there.
I’m now married to a wonderful man and we’ve extended our family with Jasmine. There were days when I wondered if I would get my ‘happily ever after’ and admittedly, when this handsome younger man took an interest in me, knowing I came with a plus one, I was dubious. I did a bit of social stalking, mutual friend questioning and tried terribly hard to play hard to get but he was committed to the cause! 7 years later and we are married and living very happily in Cheltenham with my original ‘plus one’ plus ‘another one.’
‘Mum Plus Ones’ are incredible because we just get it done. We are so low down in our own pecking order but that’s ok because we’ve got this. Even today, it was time to lower Jasmine’s cot, so I got the toolkit out and got it done. Sure, I could have asked my husband half a dozen times to do it and he would have done it, eventually, but I’m more than capable, that’s how I was raised and that’s why being a mum plus one never phased me. We are strong women and as the saying goes, “may we be them, may we know them and may we raise them.”
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