Things Fall Apart: Until you walk in my shoes, keep your comments to yourself

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. This week, Lia says she handled her divorce in the best way she could – by staying busy. So why are people judging her for it?


Is there anything more annoying than being told to relax? It turns out there is. "You’re too busy", as it happens, is just as likely to make my blood instantly boil.

Can you just not?  Just not tell me how to be. As if I am unable to look after myself; my own worst enemy, who doesn't know what is good for me.

Or worse, those endless memes telling women to give themselves more 'me time'. As if it was as simple as that. That work could just be cut back, shelved, a child handed off to other, until I am ready to resume, having had sufficient me time.

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Related: Why Lorelai, the happy single mother
from 'Gilmore Girls', is my poster girl

I am middle class, white, educated, all of it. Consider my privilege checked. I’m also a single parent, with all the financial implications that go along with that. Not just child-related, but single person related. And I’m trying to fit my work around seeing as much of my child as possible.

So sometimes I need to be busy. Really, really busy.

Gerbil wheel

I’m not going to bore you with endless details of how busy that is, because A) we all know that busyness-boasting is now considered the height of being out of touch, and B) is there anything more boring than hearing about another person’s packed schedule?

And to be honest, it’s a kind of busyness I see in lots of my friends, single parent or otherwise. Two of my best friends (also self-employed, also in similar lines of work, both with partners), go through the exact same cycle.

One texts, "let’s go for a walk, but just find somewhere to lie down, under any old bush will do". The other is at her laptop most days before she gets out of bed for the moment, there are so many projects on.

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It’s a sort of gerbil wheel of unrelenting workloads for weeks; followed by a dip, a lull, a break, then back on again. The kind of busyness that feels as if you might just go under. That leaves no time for anything bar the basics. That some weeks means all you can do is keep your head above water.

And at those times, the urgings that come at us so often now – to make time for yourself, to lighten the load if it's all feeling a bit too much – can feel like they are ignoring, or are ignorant of, the realities of many women’s lives. Which do not always allow for the luxury of cutting back on a work load.

Because sometimes that busyness is unavoidable. Because you need to hold on to a new client, or take up a new opportunity while also still holding down all the other stuff you already do. Or just simply to pay your bills. Those urgings, to take a step back, can feel, well, a bit irritating at times.

Busy can be a good thing

I am lucky. I am lucky that I am busy at a thing I love. At a type of work that allows me flexibility; so helpful as a single parent. A type of work that means I am constantly out in the world, meeting lovely new people.

And I am lucky that I have work that pulled me through, more than anything beyond my family and best friends, when my marriage ended. When sitting on the couch each evening, on my own, trying to decide what to watch on Netflix would have felt so overwhelming as to threaten to capsize my burgeoning efforts to build a new life, I got busy and buried my head in work.

With immediate effect, it helped me to simply get through those early days, to ignore the fact that I was now the only adult living in my house, because there was always a pressing deadline to be attended to. Being a workaholic probably helped me through the worst times.

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'Busy' helped me through

In the long term, all that dedication to work didn’t hurt. Lots of lovely professional rewards have come my way that have meant a whole new work-life opened up; one that gave me a sense of excitement about the future. When your marriage ends, it feels for a time as if the future is no longer a place of possibility. Hope shuts down. More than anything (bar my daughter), work changed that.

So work helped me through, and now work helps us stay buoyant. Because also, there is that reality. I am a single mother. My way of providing might look different from yours. I am busy. Believe me, I know.

Until you walk in my shoes, keep your comments to yourself.

Photo: Jon Flobrant via Unsplash 


Read more: Your relationship with your child is different as a single parent

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