Mine is the typical story of a failed marriage.
You think you have it figured out. You also think he has you figured out. So decidedly, you take a chance on each other. And they call you a married woman.
Years into your marriage, you have children with him. They still call you a married woman. They also call you a mother. But never a married mother.
You wake up one Thursday morning in November, you’ve decided to do early morning exercises since a month ago and so you get into it. Right? After a good round of stretches, skipping, and hula hooping, you’re sweating and raring for a cold shower.
But he is in the shower, you realize, so you have to wait for your turn. The kids, your girls, are awake and playing in their bedroom. You decide to spread the bed as you wait for your turn in there.
His phone is by the bedside. A message buzzes in. You glance the direction of the phone when it vibrates, just in time to see part of the message scrolling across the screen. It is a short message. And it changes your life forever. And this is not just you being dramatic.
“I miss your kisses my darling.” The message says. Mmmh. Someone’s being getting kisses, you think. And not just from you. Your curiosity is piqued, so you pick up the damn phone. Of course, you pick up the damn phone. You read the whole thread of WhatsApp messages exchanged between your husband and his darling. His darling who’s missing his kisses. You read about the rendezvous. The sexcapades. They have been busy.
In his defense, maybe the fact that you had categorically told him that you don’t tolerate infidelity in marriage just happened to slip his mind. People forget important things all the time. People go back on their vows all the time. People betray other people all the damn time. He must have forgotten when you told him that the only thing that would come between you was an affair. Not his drinking, not his finances, not his family. Not even his constant absence because of work. Just one thing, and one thing alone. An affair. He must have forgotten. But who wants to go through the same conversation over and over like it’s a prayer to be recited several times a day, right? Who wants to forgive an affair for the third time, you know? Who wants to treat their man like he’s a kindergarten child who needs information to be repeated in order for it to stick? Who, really, has the time?
Definitely not you.
In his forgetfulness, he smears an affair all over your face. You find the unblinking eyes of an affair staring at your eyeballs. It mocks you, “What are you going to do now, missy?”
He is through with his shower. You hear him walk through the door. You keep your eyes on the phone. On his steamy WhatsApp messages. On his poor darling who is missing him. You pay him no mind. He comes to stand behind you and looks over your shoulder to see what you’re reading. “What are you doing with my phone?” he asks. You show him what you’re reading. “I miss your kisses my darling.” You say.
He stands beside you with his sexy damp bare chest and a towel around his waist. He nudges the phone out of your hands and places it on the table. He looks for words, but you can tell words have refused to come through for him at his point of need.
“Did you use protection?”
You saw this affair from a mile away. You knew that sooner or later, the affair would demand to be let out because affairs hate to be caged and the universe always conspires to give an affair what an affair wants.
“It was so long ago.”
“You think that matters?”
“It’s nothing. She–”
“You know what happens now, right?”
He can barely look at you.
“I leave you.”
He sits on the bed.
It seems like a lifetime ago now when one Saturday morning, not too many years back, two days, in fact, after the ‘I miss your kisses my darling’ incident, when I went to my children’s room, I picked a suitcase from their wardrobe, packed their clothes, threw in a few of my clothes in there as well, held both my babies by the hand – one to my left, the other to my right – and together, we stepped out of the house we’d called home for a while. I was without a job, without a plan. We simply closed our eyes and we leaped. Lucky for us, a net appeared.
I was a single woman again. Still a mother, though – the only title I’ve ever cared about anyway. But now, even though I had not been called a married mother, I was suddenly called a single mother.
I wasn’t cut out for marriage. I’m not exactly what you’d call ‘wife material’. An unhappy marriage breeds an unhappy woman who breeds unhappy children. I would be damned if I pushed two innocent human beings out of my womb into this cruel world only to allow them to be miserable in the name of marriage.
There is only one way to becoming a mother. It involves taking a young human under your wings and raising them, to the best of your ability, until the day they die. This child could be adopted, born of a surrogate, or carried in your womb and delivered after nine months. Either way, you are a mother. You are not a married mother, or a single mother, or a mistress mother, or a complicated mother because you’re married, single, dating a married man, or in a complicated relationship. You are simply, beautifully, and irrevocably a mother.
I was a mother when I was married, I am still a mother now that I’m single. The relationship that changed was that between me and my ex. Resist the urge to adulterate my motherhood by calling me a single mother just because I don’t have a ring on my finger. My relationship with my children never changed the minute I stopped being their father’s wife.
Of all the things that I am, my motherhood does not need to be excused or explained by my marital status. Calling me a single mother is apologist.
Don’t call me a single mother.