I’ve been a single mother for the last ten years. My now ex-husband went off with a girl half my age who he met at the local gym.
My twin daughters were furious with him and have barely seen him since. Not least because he hasn’t kept up with his maintenance payments. I’ve meanwhile worked full-time as a shop manager to keep us fed and clothed.
It’s been tough and I’ve often got scratchy and lost my temper with them as they’ve gone through their difficult teenage stage.
They are now coming up to their A Levels and I am overwhelmed with anxiety that once they leave school and go off for their gap year – something they have saved up for by working in a local café - they will leave me behind too.
I cut off my mother from my life when I was 25 because she was so nasty and now I fear they will do the same to me. I adore them both and just don’t know how I will manage without them. But it is so hard to always be patient and tolerant of all their ways. Sometimes I wake up at night crying at the mere thought of them leaving me.
What should I do?
It is totally understandable that having escaped from your horrid mother you fear that your daughters might follow with the same pattern for you, especially as they’ve also had to cope with their father not doing his share of parenting. But things have been very different for them, largely because you have loved and cared for them throughout their lives. If you think about some of the painful experiences you had compared to what your daughters have experienced you will see there is a massive difference.
Being a good parent means sharing painful events, dealing with loss and disappointment as well as being authentic with your feelings. They’ve also experienced you being grumpy with them when they needed to shape up. All of this helps them learn that they need to develop into thoughtful, considerate young adults.
It is healthy that they want to spend time travelling at this stage in their lives and good that you are giving them encouragement and support. Seize the opportunity while they are making their plans to let them know something of your feelings. They may also be anxious about leaving you and home behind. So try and open up a discussion about the mixed emotions you all feel. If you are brave enough try to be honest about some of the reasons you left home but take it easy and see how they react.
Although you might cry and feel low when they actually leave because you have been so close to them once they are out in the world on their own they will probably appreciate what you have done for them much more. There are also many ways they can be in regular contact with you so you won’t lose touch. Once they come back as mature versions of themselves, you will have the chance of having a different but equally warm and caring relationship with them.