I held my precious newborn daughter close to my chest, as I watched my now ex-fiancé leave the house and drive away.
It was only 12 weeks since I’d given birth.
The living room suddenly felt empty and the emotional pain was intense.
Though we’d spent more than a decade living together, it was woefully clear on that day a couple of years ago that we now wanted completely different things from life.
Tom – not his real name – wanted a busy social life and worked long hours, even attending his office Christmas party on the night I shakily left hospital.
I was at home, bonding with our premature baby and recovering from an emergency Caesarian and sepsis.
My ex-fiancé’s personality quirks – including his short-temper and impatience – had seemed insignificant before the demands of parenthood, but after I gave birth, they took a real toll on my physical and emotional well-being.
It felt like I was treading on eggshells, living in constant fear of eliciting an angry response.
He’d been physically violent on more than one occasion and would also engage in the ‘silent treatment’ for days on end.
Crucially, he’d refused to participate in any counselling, even though he’d admitted his behaviour wasn’t acceptable. So it felt like nothing would ever change.
I’d be devastated if anyone treated my daughter in this abusive way – and I knew if I stayed in my unhealthy relationship, she would inevitably grow up believing it was OK for men to do exactly that.
So I ended our engagement and insisted he leave the family home.
There’s still a huge stigma around being a single parent
It’s rare for a woman to become a single mum just months into parenthood, so –last month – I was surprised to see that Love Island’s Malin Andersson broke up with her boyfriend eight weeks after giving birth.
The reality TV star and her ex plan to co-parent baby Xaya together.
Speaking about the painful breaking up, she said: ‘I didn’t expect any of this to happen, I feel truly blindsided.. but as always, I trust that the universe has a plan for me.’
And Malin is totally right to trust in the universe.
While it’s no secret that being a solo parent to a baby is hard, it’s also liberating and rewarding.
I’m in no way implying that Malin’s break up had the same cause as mine – but I want her to know that it’s more than OK to find yourself single with a newborn.
In my case, I know both me and my child are better off.
It feels good to raise my child in a nurturing environment with the peace of mind of knowing she’s never heard angry voices or felt unsafe at home.
And many of my ‘mum’ friends say their partners are unsupportive, manipulative or emotionally unhealthy.
I’m sad that they don’t have the confidence to leave their husband or boyfriend, as single parent life can be much easier than remaining in a difficult relationship.
I might be permanently short on money and have far too much work, but you can’t put a price on a safe space.
Becoming the primary caregiver lets you choose your parenting style.
Our National Childbirth Trust instructor taught us about attachment parenting, but my ex favoured a strict approach that didn’t come naturally to me.
Once Tom moved out, I could follow a flexible feeding schedule; babywear with a sling and later on co-sleep, without fear of being told I was overindulging Lily* or encouraging her to become ‘too dependent’ on me.
Now that I’m a solo mum I have freedom to decide on the healthiest approach for us both.
With nobody constantly criticising the smallest things, I have the confidence to do what feels instinctively right.
I remember mowing the lawn in the middle of the day, with my sleeping baby strapped to my chest. Though exhausted, I felt blissfully liberated with nobody to dictate when to do the gardening or even what to cook for supper.
Last month, Lily and I caught a plane to Gran Canaria on a whim and stayed in a seaside hotel, having a truly magical time swimming in the pool; exploring the beaches and eating ice-cream in the sun.
And as I drove our tiny rented Volkswagen around the island, with the Atlantic Ocean on the horizon, it genuinely felt like the last two years of hard work and emotional pain was finally starting to pay off.
I could picture a less stressful future ahead of us with lockdowns coming to an end and a renewed opportunity to make new friends together.
Funnily enough, Lily spends more quality time with her dad now than when he lived with us.
She visits him for a few hours at a time and there’s always another adult present, so there’s someone to help out when he’s feeling overwhelmed.
There’s still a huge stigma around being a single parent.
Boris Johnson once described the children of single mothers as ‘ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate.’
Similarly, my neighbours often say ‘my taxes pay your rent’ or ‘why don’t you get a job?’, even though I work full-time and own a house.
These comments wash over me – we all know that the best environment for a child is a safe and loving one.
And as a lone parent, I sleep soundly knowing that I’ve made the uncomfortable decisions required to keep my little one safe.
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