If you’re new to the blogging world, here’s a hot tip- Dannii from Mummy Republic is one of the freshest voices out there.
Occasionally tongue in cheek, sometimes heart breakingly raw, Dannii delivers sharp and insightful posts addressing everything from trending fads to brutal truths about parenting. She is a staunch advocate for mental health awareness, social/mum life balance and encourages women to remember #TheMeBeforeMummy.
Starting her motherhood journey (essentially) as a solo mama, Dannii has navigated through single parenting, dating and now I’m so happy to be able to bring you her latest instalment of ‘The Single Parent Diaries’- the transition to a new family unit.
“When two became three” by Dannii @mummyrepublic
All the women, who are independent, throw your hands up at meeeeee!
Welcome to 2019 where the message is clear – women can do anything. Beyonce herself has made a living off promoting how powerful, strong and independent females can be and that we are! Mothers in particular are coming out of their shells, empowering each other and raising our voices. We can do it all, we can have it all and we can be it all; all on our own.
But does that mean we should have to? Absolutely not.
I became a single mother when my daughter was just 8 months old and although I never expected to do it alone, I managed to make it work. Just like you do when you are thrown into the whirlwind of motherhood itself, I quickly adjusted and learnt to do it all solo. Having just gone back to full time work I was forced to wear all of the hats and fulfil all of the roles (and try not to have a mental breakdown in the process!). Mother, father, nurse, breadwinner, entertainer, nurturer, disciplinary…in a nutshell, superwoman. The emotional rollercoaster was volatile and the pressure on my shoulders was heavy but my routine evolved and for three years my daughter and I operated like a well oiled machine. A machine that was potentially running out of steam but nonetheless I managed to keep her at the forefront and just kept going. I had no choice but to.
That was until January 2016 when I met the love of my life on new years day.
He was quietly handsome.
I was noticeably hungover.
We became friends. Fell in love. And finally my unhappy ending turned into a fairytale.
But unlike the movies, it wasn’t as simple as riding off into the sunset on a white horse. There was a whole extra carriage that needed to come along from the ride and that was occupied by a little lady named Peyton.
When it came to dating I had always taken the stance that I wanted to keep these two worlds separate. By no means was this because I was ashamed to be a mother, in fact it was the opposite, I wanted to ensure whoever I let into my world was worthy of knowing my daughter. Dating is a minefield in itself but for me, introducing my little one before I really knew what I was dealing with was a risk I didn’t want to take. As a single mother I think you are always conscious of the representation of males in your child’s life and it’s important to ensure you are providing them with adult figures that align with your values. Something that can be difficult to determine after a few dates but only you will know when it feels right.
Dan had never really been around children. None of our friends had children at the time and he had never been an uncle or a big brother so this was unknown territory. He is pretty much a big child himself but aside from the jokes and funny faces, his repertoire when it came to parenting was quite limited.
The transition for us was slow. We were lucky that we were friends first and Peyton adored him but from the outset my priority was ensuring she was comfortable.
Open conversations, regular check ins, plenty of one on one time to ensure she didn’t feel excluded was all key. To be honest it can be difficult to find the balance. A large part of me hadn’t been privy to this level of happiness in years and I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to be completely swept off my feet. But romcom fantasy or not, it was no longer just about me. From the moment she was born, there was always another little voice that needed to be heard.
For her this was a big change because all she has even known was just the two of us. Me and her. Her and I. It was our little world and she’d never had to share me before. Which understandably, can be quite daunting for a four year old, but with a steady and conscious pace, she handled the changes with a great deal of maturity, openness and love.
The interesting thing I found however, was not so much how my daughter adjusted, but how I did. I had been so invested in ensuring that she was supported and comfortable through the process that I often neglected to check in with myself. It wasn’t until Dan finally called me out on it that I realised I was still operating like I was on my own. By this point we were living together, in a home that we had purchased together and although he was a large part of my life, our life, I was still struggling to really let him in.
As a single mother you learn to not only juggle all the balls but to do so with such precision that you almost adopt a military like mentality when it comes to your daily life. Without even noticing I had gradually turned my world into one big schedule; having a routine for food, sleep, work, social life, hell even my “down time” was in a designated time slot. I had lost all sense of spontaneity and instead developed an intense anxiety when it came to being in control, on time and the ability to plan. At the time, I could not rely on Peyton’s father and my family is wonderful but lived two hours away. Aside from the offers of assistance from friends (which I did take on the odd occasion) I was literally doing everything on my own. It was the only thing I felt comfortable with.
I was so scared that if I didn’t have everything accounted for I would miss something. That if I wasn’t on top of every possibility, that if I couldn’t manage everything, that if I dropped one ball, the whole set would fall. And I didn’t know if I would have the strength to pick up the pieces…. So I just kept on going. Kept planning. Kept doing the best I could.
It wasn’t until Peyton started school that I noticed how stretched thin I was. I was offered a massive job at work that required my attention 7 days a week, and this was due to begin at the same time that my baby had a big transition of her own. Instead of trying to work out how to manage it all myself, I finally opened myself to the possibility that I needed help.
I began to let Dan in.
It started small with something as simple as him packing a lunch box and we then worked up to him collecting her from school and even staying at home with her whilst I had a coffee with a girlfriend. The trust built in his parenting abilities (not that there was any doubt he could handle it) and so did my faith in knowing that it didn’t have to just be me who takes responsibility for her anymore. Allowing someone else in does not make me a bad mother and I am ALLOWED to accept help without feeling guilty. Just as you are too. My routines changed, my anxiety (although still there) began to soften and the walls that I had built so high began to slowly retreat. This was my person. This is my family. This life is now OUR responsibility, not just mine. A mentality that took me a long time to adopt but was required in order for us to grow together.
Fast forward to today and we’re at a point where I’m not afraid to ask for help or to let Dan take charge as we present ourselves as a parental unit. A lot of the larger decisions or discussions are still initiated by me but I make sure that I now consult and include him. His influence is just as important as mine. I don’t feel like I’ll ever completely lose my desire to be in control or to plan- it’s become a deep seeded part of how I operate- it had to be! But I’m certainly more open to accepting help… and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
You are allowed to be strong, you are allowed to be independent but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you have to do it all on your own.