When Danny Evans became single for the first time in her adult life, she might have liked to travel the world. But she was pregnant. So she set off on a different kind of adventure.
Two and a half years ago I became a single adult woman for the first time in my life. The last time I was single, I was a schoolgirl of 17. I was mainly interested in my A-Levels and thought I should probably get a boyfriend because that’s what everyone else was doing. Unfortunately, the one I acquired turned out to be more of a long-term prospect than I bargained for and (more than a decade later) I ended up marrying him.
So, when he decided that life with his (sort of) childhood sweetheart was a life half-lived and he wanted to experience more of the world, I was well into my 30s. Unfortunately, he also left making this decision until I was pregnant with our first (and obviously now last) child.
Last time I was single I was wearing an ear stud and taking tentative steps towards adulthood, but mainly I was doing homework, buying eyeliner and drinking cheap cider. Here I was in my 30s and I’d never been on my own before. I’d long since given up the eyeliner. I didn’t drink cider any more but I couldn’t go to the pub because I had a baby to look after. None of my friends were in the pub anyway – they were all at home with their babies and their (non-deserting) husbands.
As well as learning what it was like to be an adult on my own, I was about to become responsible for another person. Motherhood for the first time is terrifying to many. Motherhood when the father has done a bunk opens up a whole new crate of terror where you thought your stomach was.
“How much were my choice of clothes and style of dress my own? Would I be vegetarian but for him? Was I an atheist because I was married to one? Could I have been something else? Or were all these things truly who I was?”
How would I afford to live? Would I ever leave the house again? What would happen in the middle of the night when the baby had been crying for hours and I was at the end of my tether? Who would step in and stop me throwing the baby and/or myself out of the window?
Skip forward a few months and I found out I was stronger than I thought. And a better mother than I expected to be. I got through a traumatic pregnancy. I got through a traumatic birth. I could get through the occasional bad night. Also, I never know where the keys are that open my windows, so that probably helped.
Who was this single woman? By my 30s, I thought I knew who I was, what I looked like, how I dressed, the food I would cook and eat, the things I did for fun and what I believed in. But after becoming single, I started to wonder. Maybe I sound a bit pathetic, dependent, insecure. That’s not the case. I was always very independent. I had a good job and a string of qualifications.
But everything I learned about being an adult, I learned in that relationship. I learned to cook, to run a house, to pay bills. Even buying a pair of jeans – there was always someone to consult to make sure I didn’t look ridiculous. So when it was taken away, I wondered if I knew how to do any of those things.
I’d stopped wearing makeup years ago because he didn’t like it. How much were my choice of clothes and style of dress my own? Would I be vegetarian but for him? Was I an atheist because I was married to one? Could I have been something else? Or were all these things truly who I was? Some said I was different – softer, gentler, a bit nicer. But was that the real me coming through or just because I was broken after a traumatic break-up?
This is small fry. My daughter and I have somewhere to live, it’s warm and safe, and we have enough to eat. Many single mothers across the world don’t have that luxury. I know I am lucky.
“Instead of wandering around Cambodia with my rucksack, I’m walking around a small Warwickshire town with a pushchair. It’s a different kind of adventure.”
One of the first things I did in my newly single life was bring back the eyeliner (sparingly). I still have the ear stud but, so far, it’s remained in its box. And occasionally I’m tempted to cut my hair off, dye what’s left of it bright green and get a tattoo. I even toyed with the idea of going to church (radical, for me). Sometimes I feel like I’m the 17-year-old single girl – the last single version of me – who just wanted to have fun with her friends and pass her A-Levels. But, of course, I’m not.
It’s both terrifying and liberating becoming single in your 30s. Still young enough to change but old enough to feel you should know better. Where would it lead? If I hadn’t been about to bring a child into the world, I like to think I’d gone to the other side of the world in search of adventure. I couldn’t do any of that with a baby on the way.
In reality, I bought some slightly more interesting clothes and learned how to make my own coffee. Instead of wandering around Cambodia with my rucksack, I’m walking around a small Warwickshire town with a pushchair. It’s a different kind of adventure.
Now I can’t imagine that I’ll ever again ask a man if he thinks that buying this particular pair of jeans is a good idea. I’d rather make the odd fashion mistake than defer to someone else about what I wear (which is different, of course, to asking other people’s opinion).
In the past I struggled to understand the complexities of my mortgage, so deferred to my mathematical husband. When I bought my first home as a single woman, I had to make these decisions myself. I had to get my head around it, because no one else was going to do it for me. And I did. I researched, I negotiated, I signed on the dotted line and I picked up the keys. It wasn’t actually that hard.
I had to struggle with some of the big questions: How do you get the internet in your house? Tune a TV? Was it possible for me to build flat-pack furniture without crying? If I try to increase the pressure on my boiler, will I blow the house up? What brand of tea bags should I buy? With a bit of self-belief I’ve gradually solved all these problems (except for the one about the tea bags). And as a result, I feel like a better, more capable person.
Now where’s that ear stud…?3464 Views
Danny Evans is a single mother with a young daughter. As Rude Nasty Girl, she blogs about feminism and what it means to be a woman in the UK today. She has a PhD in Victorian literature and works as a website editor.