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...
I went to an event recently for single parents, organised by my wonderful friend Dawn. A workshop. Ten women arrived, and on introduction, each told their own story. I recognised part of my own account in each of theirs, sometimes just the most glancing of familiarities, at other times entire chunks of their experience mirrored mine and I nodded vigorously in recognition, not even noticing I was doing so.
But there was one thing I did not recognise as part of my own version. The fact that most of them, all of them really, said that they knew few, if any, other single mothers. This is the typical experience. It’s why women like Zoe Desmond set up Frolo. To not know others of your kind, as a single mother, is very normal, it seems.
But not for me. I know many. And mostly, this is down to my work. To being a journalist. Meeting people and talking to them is my job. And amongst all the people, I meet many whose marriages have foundered. Because this is actually pretty normal.
When things fell apart
Sometimes, the foundering of the marriage is what we are there to talk about. Often, our conversation will go on after the tape has stopped. So even before my own marriage fell apart, I knew women whose marriages had. My own first single mother who I reached out to after separation? We met through work, and she had already told me that mostly, it was fine. Sometimes easier to do it yourself.
So when things fell apart, I rang her, arranged coffee and a proper low down. And she, more than anyone could have at that time, made me know that this would all be okay, that I would find my way through this. What she told me held more weight than what anyone else said, because she had gone before me on the same path. She knew, and I could believe her because of that.
Stories to tell
Not all the women I talk to are single parents of course. Most of them, though, have gone through something, they have a story to tell, that is why we are there, together, to do an interview.
Cancer, IVF, running your own business, loss, coming of age and figuring out what to do with your life, finding a new path in your sixties, miscarriage, raising kids, not having kids, losing love, finding love, losing a child.
Related: I survived marriage separation with thanks to my friends
All the things you have to go through to be a woman. How to be a woman. How to fall apart and put yourself back together.
When you get to talk to this many women, you realise that the thing is that up close, everyone is dealing with something. And so while it helps me immeasurably to know other single mothers, it also just helps to know as many women as possible. Because we are all dealing with stuff. And that is so supportive to know; that is not just you, off in your own little corner of being different than everyone else, who is suffering.
The person who helped me most beyond my own mother was my best friend, who has a husband, but who lost her father far earlier than she should have.
This week, I launched a podcast (another thing to be added to the list of things I would never have been brave enough to do if I hadn’t had to cope with my marriage being over). She (known in this column as the Work Wife, in real life as Sophie White) is my first guest, the first interviewee on How to Fall Apart – a podcast about picking up pieces.
Related: Just because I'm a single parent, doesn't mean I'm alone
A writer, journalist and podcast host, she wrote a beautiful book called Recipes for a Nervous Breakdown, which is both a cookbook and a memoir, about the nervous breakdown she had in her early twenties, and all that came after it in order to put herself back together. So she understands grief, loss, acceptance, all the rest.
But more importantly, she is open about these things, which is so helpful when you’re in the middle of it. That is the point of this column, and it is the point of the podcast. To reassure, that we are all going through something, at some stage or another.
We will cope, or maybe at times, we won’t cope. Either way, it will be okay.
Top photo: Pexels
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