Things Fall Apart: I owe a lot to the women in my life (and not just on Galentine’s Day)
10th Feb 2020
When Liadan Hynes’ marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, ‘Things Fall Apart’ she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves, as well as the realities of life as a single parent in Ireland.
You know what one of the worst things about being a single parent is?
Being sick as a parent sucks to begin with. But as a single parent? The absolute worst. I don’t often take such a definitive stance. Friends and I joke back and forth. I’m a single parent, but you have three kids, I have one, you’re more exhausted. You have a husband, but I have two parents and siblings five minutes away, ready to help with childcare.
But on sickness? No. I claim this one.
I’ve been sick on and off now for several weeks. Not severely sick, bar for one truly unpleasant day it’s best we draw a curtain over. More low-lying stuff.
Parenting, in general, doesn’t allow much room for leaning into a sickness. You’re basically still doing all the stuff you normally do, but in the face of feeling absolutely rubbish. But if there is a second parent in the house then, at the very least, you have a captive audience, forced, by the sheer fact of cohabitation, to listen to you moan.
I was a week into feeling so exhausted that by three o clock each day I could feel my eyes closing; by six, my back and legs were aching when I realised I hadn’t told anyone how I was feeling.
It seemed like such a whinge. I’m tired, I’m sore. I had tried to tell the Work Wife and the Mother – women I typically speak to multiple times a day – but halfway through, boring myself with the absolute mundanity of it, I had to stop.
It felt lonely and strangely isolating. To feel dreadful, and for no one to know.
But actually, they did know, or they guessed.
It takes a village to raise a child. Well, it also takes one to replace a spouse. You put pieces of them, or bits of the role they played in your life, in all of those around you. They are as invested in your life, in different ways, as your spouse was.
Your father helps you with the practicalities of maintaining a house, your brother takes your picture for Instagram, your mother sits on the couch with you after bedtime and you mull over the minutiae of your child’s well-being.
My Work Wife has a lovely husband but she also extends a part of herself to do a sideline in being the person with whom I discuss/wrangle with over life admin. She’s deeply invested in how I live my life, as I am with her.
Currently, she has strong opinions over how I organise the new office space I’m trying to create in a corner of my home. Previously, I had strong opinions over how she read her books (specifically that she needed a Kindle).
When she decided to change doctors, for several days I staged a genuine campaign to get her to join mine, even though it would mean crossing the river every time she went to the GP.
It’s the kind of I’m doing what’s good for you WHETHER YOU WANT IT OR NOT stuff you force on family members. Care by trying to control. Friends who become family, after a divorce.
We discuss what we’ll have for our next meal, share movie nights, holiday together, talk about the things we will do when our kids are older.
Into week three of the low-lying sickness, I ring her one morning. “Being sick as a single parent is the absolute worst,” I blurt out. “There’s no one to listen to you moan. A spouse HAS to.”
I start to apologise for the whinging. She stops me. “You can always moan to me like you would a spouse,” she says. And I know she means it.
Later that day, out of the blue, my mother offers to take my daughter for two nights, “so you can get some proper rest,” she says in her text, and I have to stop myself from crying in front of my daughter. These women who take a sort of ownership of you, in the aftermath. Who are invested.
“Galentine’s Day is such nonsense,” someone says to me during the week.
And yes, of course it is in a way – in the way that all these makey-uppy celebratory days are. And of course the commercialisation. Dreadful stuff. But get beyond that, beyond the marketing emails, and the fetishisation of cupcakes, and a day to celebrate the friends in your life, as much as the partner, if there is one, seems like the best reason to make up a day. To say that the great loves of your life do not always come in romantic partner form.
Photo: Gilmore Girls, Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions
Read more: Things Fall Apart: how to handle procrastination and the dread of getting things done
Read more: ‘I’ll be there for you’: Study finds friends are as important as exercise for your overall health
Read more: Starting over: How to put your life back together after divorce
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