When I became a single parent, at the time it felt like I had failed my children in the worst possible way. Looking back now I can clearly see that it was the making of me as a mother.
I am a good mum. I feel rock steady crew with that statement. I've got this.
That hasn't always been the case.
I had my first child at 22 and from very early on, I was determined to "maintain the rage" and never give into the negative mothering stereotypes I had in my head. I shunned tupperware and nappy bags, I deliberately dressed in an outrageous manner for Mothers Group and I had very few friends with children.
Em and her daughter Marchella (left) and Odette.
This was a conscious decision on my behalf to do motherhood my way, a battle to preserve maximum fabulousness whilst staving off the decent into elasticised pants and crocs.
Turns out it was also a conscious decision to make my life infinitely harder and to just generally be an insufferable dickhead!
Maintaing the rage is hard work, it means that your kids don't get all of you. They get the bits that are left over after going out for dinner or a late night gig at a gay club. The wrung out, bleary eyed cranky pants version of mum.
I never neglected my babies, they knew they were loved and they always had everything they needed but I certainly wasn't hands on. I did a great deal of remote control parenting. You know the kind of parenting I mean right? When you're too tired to move from your position on the couch so you shout instructions from there and generally say yes to anything your offspring request just to make it easier on yourself.
My husband was often left to deal with the children when I had run out of energy from being just so bloody fabulous (I wish there was a sarcasm font). I'd get all the boring tasks done, lunches made, dinners cooked, washing folded and then I would collapse in a heap and Scott would be left with the actual parenting. Taking the kids to the park, on rides, to the beach.
I felt like I had done my bit so why should I have to actually get down and get dirty with them? Or as normal parents may have called it: "having fun".
Em Rusciano with her six-year-old daughter, Odette.
All this changed when Scott and I separated and I had to look after the girls full time on my own.
Party time was over for mummy and shit got very real very quickly.
My horrific lack of organisation was the first thing to be overhauled. I had once viewed organised mothers as boring and scheduled, I quickly learned that a single mother cannot function without the organisation of a military operation. I started making lunches the night before, planning meals a week in advance, washing all the uniforms on a Saturday morning so that they were fresh and ready to go by Sunday night.
I began to engage with my children on a real level, I sat with Odette every night and listened to her read, I would then go to Marchella's room and talk about her day while attempting to help her with her homework. I realised that it was more rewarding to snuggle on the couch watching Harry Potter of a Saturday night than attending swanky events ever was.
WHAT HAD I BEEN MISSING OUT ON?! You are probably reading this thinking: Duh, captain obvious. To me - it was a revelation.
In short, I had become a real mother, not a mother for show, which I think I had been for quite some time.
The girls' dad has recently moved back in with us (yes I am just casually just slipping that in there, move along, nothing to see here!) and it was he who alerted me to my improved ways of parenting.
I thought I had just been surviving and doing what needed to be done, but it turns out I was shifting my entire attitude towards mothering and other mothers in general.
I am now one of you.
For so long I stood on the outside silently judging and throwing stones. Maybe deep down I always wanted to join the tribe but never really felt worthy.
I have learned the joy of sharing a knowing look with another mother when your kid is being feral in public. I play netball with mothers from school and thoroughly enjoy the coffee after. I feel less isolated and more like I'm part of some special club that helps and supports each other.
I am no longer a lone wolf.
It took a year of being a single mother to completely understand the wonderfully heartbreaking, soul-soaring, tear-inducing, heart-bursting experience being a mother can be, and that it is okay to surrender yourself to what that entails. I am genuinely sad for dick head Em, she missed out on so much.
To be perfectly honest with you all this wasn't an easy piece for me to write, I did it mainly for any single mothers out there who are worried they're doing their kids a disservice. To those ladies I say: you are working twice as hard as most other parents do, give yourself some credit.
I'm now off to do silent reading at Odette's school and prepare for our scheduled crafternoon session.
How times have changed and thank fuck they did.
This post originally appeared on mamamia.com.au