Whether as a couple or alone, raising a child is an everyday challenge and an immense responsibility. We met Laure, a sparkling single mother who shares with us her daily life and her vision of motherhood. A beautiful life lesson!
Laure, can you introduce yourself in a few words?
I am 35 years old, I am French and I have been living in Geneva for more than ten years. I am a graduate of the Haute École d’Art de design in Fashion design. In 2016 I met the father of my daughter, Lina, who was born in February 2018. She is now 3 years old. Since September 2020, I am managing the Natural History Museum store.
Was your pregnancy planned? Was the father present?
My pregnancy was a surprise, my professional situation was not clear at that time and my couple was already struggling. In spite of everything, the desire to be a mother was stronger than anything else. We talked a lot with my daughter’s father about our fears about this new stage of our life. We then decided to continue and have this pregnancy together. I felt very happy and full of energy. I was very involved in the preparations but I also worked a lot. My daughter’s father played his part, but in hindsight, he was probably less involved than I was. Still, this pregnancy was the happiest time in our relationship.
How old was your daughter when you separated? How did it go?
My daughter was barely 6 months old when we separated. The arguments had been going on since she was born and I felt deeply alone in this new experience. It then seemed vital to me that in raising a little girl and thus a future wife, I could provide her with a model of a serene mother and a fulfilled woman. For a long time I was afraid to face the judgment of my family and friends. I knew that my marriage was a total « failure » even though my daughter was the most wonderful gift life had given us. The separation was brutal on both sides but necessary. We left each other overnight, nothing was possible anymore.
Were you afraid to be alone with Lina?
I knew it was the best decision, but my main fear was whether I would be able to raise my daughter alone. It made me feel very nervous at first, Lina was still so small. Over time, fear proved to be a real driving force. I really gained self-confidence in the months following the break-up. The more my daughter grew up and went through the stages of her development, the more my fears were released. I had to keep face so that she could blossom. I reached inside to provide her with all the love she needed and I continue to do so every day. My daughter’s father didn’t run away either, he continued to bond with her until she was old enough to spend weekends with him.
What was your financial situation at that time?
I was still employed at the time and was only working part-time at 60%. After the break-up, I really wanted to keep this rate of work with Lina because it allowed me to rebuild myself emotionally and to see her grow up. I was also not ready for new professional challenges, the daily life was already complicated enough. I had to make sure I had enough to pay my rent and my expenses. Her father was paying a pension, but we had not officially settled on a pension yet. It took me two years before I was able to ask for a judgment and to claim some additional help. Being a single mother is flirting with financial insecurity.
Being a single mother is flirting with financial insecurity.
How did you organize your time between work and looking after Lina?
I was lucky enough to get a place in a daycare center during those 6 months. My mother also took care of my daughter a lot, which allowed me to do my job without being too stressed, but above all to keep my professional ambitions. When she turned two years old, I started to work more, fortunately, the crèche admitted her at a higher rate. I am now independent and have the good and bad sides of it. I was supposed to be able to adapt my working hours by employing two people but with the Covid situation, I started on my own non-stop 7 days a week… It was crazy. I was able to breathe a little bit on weekends by working with a student I really trust but I still sometimes have to make some arrangements to work for an hour or two with my daughter. I also work a lot at night when she is in bed.
How would you describe your relationship with her?
It’s hard to describe a relationship that in the end, very few people see except the two of us. We are definitely very close and supportive, but not fusional. I try to give her all the security she needs to thrive. We talk a lot, and we have a lot of fun! Lina is very sociable and autonomous which allows me to go out with her without too many problems. She already has her opinion on just about everything, I really feel like I’m rediscovering the world with her. There are obviously moments when I have to set limits but right now we’re in a good space (smile). I am very concerned about her balance due in part to the guilt I feel knowing that she is not growing up in a « classic » family.
What sacrifices have you had to make following the separation? Do you have any regrets today?
Being separated, I knew that Lina would have to leave sooner or later to spend more time with her dad. The famous every other weekend that made me feel bad about being without her. My sacrifice was to quickly make her sufficiently independent and not attached to me so that she wouldn’t leave crying at each of these moments. I had to sacrifice my overproductive mother’s side that was written in my genes. I also had to sacrifice our weekends, in order to be able to work and bring us financial stability. I think that when you give yourself 100% there is no reason to regret anything. Except for a few cool Montessori super mom activities that I had to put aside, I still think I give my best. My motherhood and separation taught me that you can’t control everything.
My motherhood and separation taught me that you can’t control everything.
Where did you find support/comfort in difficult times?
My family and friends are very supportive. My mother babysits my daughter on a regular basis, which also gives me time to breathe and regain energy. I remember a strong sadness and a feeling of shame at the first parents’ meeting at the crèche, I felt like I was the only mother who didn’t come accompanied. However, after a few months, I also met a mother in the same situation. Last year we regularly had coffee together to discuss our difficulties, but often also to laugh about it! The educators were also very supportive, which allowed me to have an exchange on Lina’s progress and to be reassured about my role as a mother.
How do you feel today? Have you found a good balance in your life and do you feel ready to rebuild a love life?
By starting my own business, I have given myself a new impulse. I am very proud to have been able to hold the boat with my daughter while fulfilling myself professionally. This new life is sometimes very stressful, the pace is fast between going to and from the crèche, to her dad’s house and on weekends when I work, but we are both doing quite well. Today I sincerely think that the hardest part is behind me. We are lucky to live in a very lively neighborhood, which helps us a lot in our daily lives. When we get a break, we go out to eat downstairs as if we were at home. It’s nice to feel that we are always well surrounded. The health crisis we are going through at the moment is cutting us off a bit socially but we always find activities to do. I would like to rebuild myself emotionally, but daily priorities don’t give me enough time to invest in myself. It is sometimes frustrating but I remain very positive about the future, there is surely time for everything.
Despite everything, are there positive aspects and advantages to being a single mom?
There are some major advantages I must admit. For example, when there is a crisis at home, we solve the problem face to face with Lina, which sometimes seems simpler to me than adding a third person to the equation. As for the mental burden that many moms testify to, for me it is clear, I don’t have to blame my partner since I don’t have one (smile). By having the custody of this mental burden, it is in fact mine, even if there are obviously many things to say about it. To conclude, I must also say that I sometimes have more time for myself when my daughter goes away for the weekend to her father’s house than a mother who often doesn’t allow herself this time for herself or for her couple.
Do you have any advice for a mother who is no longer happy in her relationship but is afraid to be alone?
The fear of loneliness is human, it is never pleasant to have to start from scratch and get out of her comfort zone. My advice would be to stop judging yourself and embrace this loneliness which is probably only temporary. There are also separated couples who continue their story by managing to create true co-parenting, which I find admirable. The happiness of our children always ends up thinking our wounds.
The happiness of our children always ends up thinking our wounds.
What can we wish you better today for tomorrow?
That my daughter remains healthy and can evolve in a society where the mental burden is finally a problem solved. There is still a lot to be done in this regard, for us women, solo or couple mothers.