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As a single mother of two for over a decade, I expected the journey of motherhood to be challenging, but little did I know that it would come with a side of isolation and loneliness served by the very sisterhood I hoped would be my support system.

When I made the courageous decision to leave my abusive ex-husband, egged on by many female friends who paid lip-service to support, I envisioned a fresh start – a life where my children and I could build new connections and find backing and encouragement within the circle of other mothers. However, reality had a different plan for me.

The truth is, for more than ten years, I found myself on the outskirts of the tight-knit community of school mums. It wasn't because I wasn't friendly or approachable; instead, it was a stigma that seemed to follow me like a shadow. The reality was that I was a single, highly attractive women which unfairly labeled me as a threat, with other mothers fearing I might have intentions toward their husbands.

There, I've finally said it.

The isolation that's followed was unbearable, palpable and always obvious. Play dates were scarce, invitations to school events were infrequent, and I often found myself sitting alone during school events, meetings and functions. The loneliness was not only mine to bear; my children felt the impact as well. The absence of play dates and birthday party invitations took a toll on their social lives, leaving them to wonder why they weren't as included as their peers. It made me sad. It made me angry. But ultimately it's made me understand the fragility of most people's marriages, their egos and the inner workings of the power of fear.

Leaving an abusive relationship, I hoped for solidarity and support from fellow mothers who I believed understood the struggles of parenting alone. Unfortunately, the sisterhood I had dreamt of seemed to be non-existent. The judgment and assumptions overshadowed any chance of camaraderie, leaving me to navigate the challenging terrain of single parenthood without the support I so desperately needed. What struck me even more deeply was the stark contrast in how single parenthood was perceived based on gender. While I was met with skepticism and distance, my ex-husband, labeled a 'poor single dad,' was readily accepted and even fawned over by the very women who shunned me. The double standards were painfully evident, highlighting the deeply ingrained biases that exist in our society.

The consequences of this isolation extended beyond my own feelings of loneliness. My children internalised the rejection, questioning their own worth and struggling to understand why they weren't included like their classmates. Witnessing their disappointment after being excluded from yet another event was heart-wrenching, and as a mother, I felt powerless to shield them from the emotional toll it took.

Despite the challenges, the experience taught me valuable lessons in resilience and self-empowerment. I found solace in cultivating friendships outside the traditional school circles, largely with elderly women or older singles, connecting with individuals who saw me for who I am, along with being unbiased in acknowledging my struggles. They taught me to be proud of overcoming adversity, of standing in my truth, and to be understanding that these women were not my tribe as they could not begin to understand my life's journey - in fact, it scared the be-jebus out of them. As I became a source of strength for my children, they, too, have learned the importance of resilience in the face of life's challenges.

Sharing my story is not just a cathartic exercise; it's a call to break the silence surrounding the struggles of single mothers. The societal biases and double standards need to be acknowledged and challenged, fostering an environment where every parent – regardless of gender or relationship status – can find the support and understanding they deserve.

My journey as a single mother has been fraught with challenges, from escaping an abusive relationship to facing unwarranted suspicions that left me isolated within the community at the very time I needed help most. I've faced homelessness, sometimes haven't been able to buy groceries and at times have borrowed money just to put petrol in my car. The impact on my children's social lives and my own emotional well-being has been profound. Yet, in the face of the challenge of loneliness and isolation, we found strength, resilience, and a newfound appreciation for the importance of genuine connections beyond the confines of societal expectations.

It's my hope that by sharing my experience, we can initiate conversations that challenge stereotypes, promote empathy, and pave the way for a more inclusive and supportive community for all parents.


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