The Deceit of Doing it Alone

Last night there was an hour when I thought I would need to take my eldest daughter into Accident and Emergency. And, beyond the panic of this temporary health emergency, now abated, I met a truth inside of me that I have long fought to deny.

I realise that my life mantra is based on self-sufficiency. I’ve single-mothered for 7 years, since my daughters were two and four. I’ve learnt to do every piece of life alone, taken pride in my resilience. I developed methods of carrying both girls, heavy with sleep, in from the car after long days out. I learned to erect Ikea furniture, mend washing machines, mow the lawn. I found ways to do long distance flights with two small children in tow. I made peace with broken nights of sleep; and found that even though nothing feels so lonely as returning to an empty bed after clearing up one’s child’s vomit in the early hours of the morning, even that I could do. And, all the while, I thought I was building up an inner strength that would mean I could do it all for my girls.

Men have come and gone. Romantic men, sexual friends, men who have wined and dined me and even promised me their hand. But no men genuinely ready to face the fact I’m three. And, so all the while my mothering muscles have grown and grown – both nurturer and provider. I make soup, bake cakes, host birthdays, book dentists, wave proudly at each school event, witness every dance performance and encourage new adventures. Whilst all the while making money to fund the life we live.

And, my mantra has been “I can do it all”; my reality is I have to.

And, then last night. The thick swell of panic in my abdomen, a lump of fear in my throat, my heart suddenly quickening, as my pale-faced daughter casually reports her symptoms from the kitchen chair. I feel an on-set of paralysis, as if this is something I simply cannot handle. And, the only thing I know to do is call her Dad.

I get the measured greeting of his voicemail and do not bother to leave a message. “Call me, I’m worried about Lily” I text and then send another to his girlfriend. I wait for his call whilst looking at my daughter’s symptoms on the internet. She has two of the symptoms that say she should be taken to the hospital immediately. And yet I remain paralysed. It literally feels beyond my capability to pile my two girls into the car and get us to the hospital; and so I check my phone again for the call that’s not yet come.

My phone rings at last and I step into the now dark living room, away from the girls in the kitchen. Voice shaking, I tell him the scenario and he says in the same restrained tone of his voicemail greeting that perhaps I should take her in. “Better to be safe than sorry” he says.

All the weight of my solo parenting ladens itself onto my already bent shoulders. I am three feet from the summit and can simply not take another step. My ex husband hears me cry for the first time since our split. “I can’t do this one alone”, I say with tears rolling down my face; “I need you”, I add with a crack in my voice. Words he’s never heard.

Of course what I wanted him to do was jump into his car that instance and take care of every piece of it. Take our beloved daughter into the safety of professional reassurance that will tell me she’s okay. Today and ever more. I wanted him to race his way to us so that I could, just for a moment, take the mantle of responsibility off my aching shoulders. I wanted to hear the words “I’ve got it” and trust he really meant it.

None of which he did.

But this story is not about what he could or could not offer us, that’s a chapter long time closed. The more sobering awakening has been toward the deceit of all my doing.  Because last night I met my own fragility, that shows the cost of my deceit, the holes in my fabricated story.

And this morning, I wake knowing that something needs to change. That it is misguided of me to insist on looking for all the strength and spare within me.  Our hands are made for reaching, touching and exploring. My hand is too long empty. Now it is reaching out and open.

Photo credit: nuino via Visualhunt


  1. I love this post and I completely relate.

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