50 shades of guilt
Posted 8 October 2018
After separating from her partner ten years ago, Vicki used Gingerbread’s advice and guidance to move forward with her son. Here, she discusses the emotional aspects of her journey as a single parent.
Someone once said to me that if you cut a parent in half, they would be half-tired, half-guilt. I think when you become a single parent, this somehow manages to double in size.
In 2007, I left my partner of six years with my four year old son Charlie in tow. Yes, I left him, and although there were several factors leading to this including affairs, alcohol abuse and emotional bullying, I was the one who broke up our family and changed all of our lives forever.
The guilt that comes with a decision like this is tremendous, but that is the tip of the iceberg. Going to work and putting Charlie into full time nursery – guilt. Turning up to parents’ evening with Charlie due to a lack of childcare – guilt. Buying a bottle of wine on a Friday night from Tesco with my son – monster guilt!
Facing social stigma
One time, I went to one of Charlie’s friend’s houses for a play-date. In the two hours there, I had managed to invent a wonderful husband and a lovely four- bedroom home; it just felt more acceptable that this was the truth.
The irony is my son didn’t care about any of these things. The guilt is driven by the way we are as a society, and what we believe is right and wrong. But still, most of the decisions I made as a single parent were driven by the guilty voices in my head.
In 2009, my manager suggested I should try a dating app to meet someone new. Of course, my instant reaction was ‘no way!’, but one Saturday night, I thought I would give it a go! I woke up the next day feeling the panic of what could happen next. In my head, this involved bringing a man into Charlie’s life, Charlie resenting me for it, Charlie then failing at school, Charlie being unemployed and a criminal as an adult. (Maybe a little too much thinking here!)
Instantly, I took down my profile from the dating site, but in the twelve hours I’d been registered, I received an email from Paul.
Paul was great. We spoke via email for weeks – he had two boys and we really seemed to click. But how could I introduce a new man into Charlie’s life with the feared possibility of Charlie becoming a criminal as an adult?!
It took me two months to finally meet Paul, and three months before I introduced him to Charlie. They instantly clicked and things seemed to be going ok.
One of the biggest struggles I faced in the early days was when people assumed Paul was Charlie’s dad. On one hand, I didn’t want to correct them as it would be easier to fit into the standard ‘happy family’ profile that seems to be much more acceptable in the society we live in, but at the same time, I didn’t want Charlie to think I was trying to replace his dad with Paul. There didn’t seem to be a parental scenario to navigate through this without guilt.
Charlie is now 15 and I am married to Paul. Over the years, I have come to realise many important points.
- You are doing a good job.
- No one is judging you.
- Your children are absolutely fine!
I still need to tell myself this a lot and still struggle with the daily guilt, but as a single parent, just because you are taking on extra responsibilities and roles as a parent, you don’t need to add guilt to the list!
I have completed lots of runs in the past, but promised myself I would not raise money for a charity unless I could really support the charity’s core beliefs and one that is personal to me – that’s why, in March 2019, I will be fundraising for Gingerbread by running the London Landmarks Half Marathon.
Read our separation information pages for helpful advice and guidance on where to begin.
Find out more about how you can support us through fundraising.