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Thursday, 23 February 2012

Why my parents amaze me...

I graduated on the 3rd of November 2010, having worked my backside off to get a first class honours degree in Journalism. (Sorry, did that sound smug? I am smug, that first took a lot.) Having gone to the ceremony with my husband, children and Mum, my Dad rang me on my mobile (unheard of!) to congratulate me (also unheard of!) I can remember exactly what he said “Well done, I’m proud of you. You really seem to be on your way – two smashing boys, a degree, a new job and a pretty good marriage. Well done.”

Two weeks later I was crying in their living room as I had to tell them that my marriage was over.

Growing up, my parents never hid their opinion of single mums. As a young child, I definitely assumed that single mums were “bad”. Divorce was not the norm, and somehow women without their children’s Dad were somehow less than we were.

As an arrogant teenager I would challenge my parents’ views. Conversations would go like this:

Me: “so-and-so’s mum is really cool. We were talking about X and she said Y”

Mum: >Sniff< “Well, she’s a single mother, isn’t she?”

Me: “So? What’s that got to do with anything?”

Mum: “Well… What’s she got to brag about?”

Me: “Argh. You’re so old fashioned. And hard.”

Hard would definitely be my word of choice – quick to judge, and with no thought as to what may have happened for so-and-so’s mum to become single. Not that one reason is really more worthy than another. I struggle to believe anyone becomes a single parent for the larks.

My Dad’s attitude, when challenged about why they never mentioned the fathers who left these families, just the mothers, was: “Well she picked him, didn’t she? What does it say about her?”

With these memories ringing in my ears, I had to tell my parents that it was over – that I had become what they had never wanted for me: A single mum, working full time.

I was shaking when I walked into their lounge.

My Dad tried to get me into marriage counselling, was furious at the ex-husband. He was neglecting his responsibilities apparently. I tried, in vain, to explain that this was an equal split. My Dad was horribly biased. Naturally, it was all ex-husband’s fault, I was blameless. He still sees things that way, and I never stop correcting him, to no avail.

Mum, who had always seemed to delight in other people’s misery, turned to “It’s no one else’s business, is it? It’s just one of those things.”

How times change. How my parents must love me, to take such an about face on their frightening right wing views. They have their faults, but I can do nothing but love and admire them for their support. This is unconditional love – something I had never felt I had from them. I was so wrong. I only hope that when my kids challenge my core beliefs, I can be as strong as they are.

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