I was raised by a single mum and while at the time I knew that my family upbringing was different to most of my friends, it's taken having kids of my own to really understand what impact it had on me.
I might not have a dad to love me, nor be a part of my life, but I had one fierce mum who loved and protected me. She taught me a lot about being a good parent.
Here are just five things I learned from being raised by a single mum:
1. There's no such thing as a prince in shining armour
One thing I've been careful not to let my three girls believe is that one day a 'Prince Charming' will suddenly appear and make all of their dreams come true. That is a lie. While they know what love looks like, because my husband and I have a solid, loving marriage, they're also aware that having a partner doesn't mean you're whole. The only way to be truly happy, whether in a relationship or not, is to love yourself. You make your own dreams come true. Work hard, fight for what you want, chose joy and love yourself wholeheartedly, and the rest will follow.
2. It's ok to be different
I spent many years ashamed of being fatherless. We didn't have much money. I never had cool acid wash jeans or the Barbie Dream House. My mum was often busy working so many after-school activities were spent without a parent. I felt very different to my 'two-parent friends'. They lived in nice houses and did things together. That wasn't my reality. But now as an adult, I've realised that being different is a gift. I've also better understood that for many of my friends, they also felt different – whether it the colour of their skin or their disability or their secret family struggles. We're all different and that's to be celebrated and something I always encourage my girls to embrace.
3. It's a lonely, hard slog parenting alone
Parenting without a partner is hard. You're responsible for everything and seldom get any downtime to yourself. You're the primary economical, emotional and practical support for another person (or people) and that is exhausting without backup. I used to resent having to always make my own school lunches, cook regular dinners, walk myself to school, clean the house and arrange my own after school activities. I wanted my mum to do more for me, but in all honestly, I now understand just how much she had on her plate. It couldn't have been easy for her. I struggle now, and I have an equal partnership.
4. Don't judge a book by its cover
I was often the source of pity for others in my life. I didn't know my dad. I didn't have any brothers or sisters. I lived in a Housing Trust home with just my mum. I know there were parents of friends at my school who didn't want their kids playing with me, in case my 'poor, single parent' life somehow tainted their 'perfect' middle class life. I was very aware of people feeling sorry for me, and the judgment. But you know what? I worked hard. I was the first woman in my family to get a university degree. I grew up and married a wonderful man and we had three beautiful kids. Most of my life's achievements have been a direct result of my struggles when I was younger. I'm a fighter. I'm also deeply flawed, but that's the point. You should never judge someone on their upbringing. Judge them by the kindness of their heart and the truthfulness of their actions. I'm raising my girls to be compassionate and accepting of all people, from all walks of life.
5. Love is everything
The biggest lesson my mum taught me was to always live with love. Always tell people you love them. And always come from a place of love. You might not have everything you desire or need, but you'll always have love. And regardless of how many parents you have, love is all you need.