Way before I got married or even divorced, I have had friends who were/are single mums. But for the very first time in the past 3 years, I met another Muslim single Mum.
It wasn’t our first meeting, to be honest, I have known her for the past 3 years; one of her sons is just a year older than my eldest and her youngest is the same age as my youngest. I used to see her every week at the local surestart, at first she used to come with her youngest son, then later with the little girl.
We would always say salam, and I would ask how are the kids and she would answer in her broken English that they are fine. I tried to have a conversation with her few times, but it was a struggle, she couldn’t understand most of what I was saying so I just stuck to the polite hello.
As my kids were growing, I started to see her at the paddling pool sessions I take my girls to. By that time, I wasn’t a regular sure start attendee anymore; I had a full time job and would only take the girls to paddling on Saturdays. She would come there on her own with her four children and we would say hello as we normally used to and get on with our own things.
Last year, I met one of her friends who told me she moved to the same are as me, and to get in touch with her. I did accidentally meet her eventually one day in Aldi, and we spoke briefly. She told me she’s seen me a few times on her street walking up (I used to go down her street when walking to work). And after that we just got on with our things.
Today, I was shopping in Aldi. As i was loading my car, I saw her coming out of Aldi, she stopped to say hello. And, we spoke briefly. I assumed she was going to the car with her husband. As I was exiting the parking lot, I saw her still walking, I stopped and asked if she’s going home, and asked her to jump in. She said to drive to my house, and she’ll walk for the rest of her journey but I said it wasn’t a big deal for me to drop her off.
Her English has improved considerably, we were able to hold a conversation, and as we were talking, I actually took the direction of my house. So we drove past my house and I showed her where I live. I told her she should come around now that she knows where it is. She muttered the word ‘husband’, and I understood she was asking about my husband being around, as she won’t be comfortable with her being in my house while his around. And I just casually answer as I normally do that I am divorced. I could see she was shocked and she said ‘me too’. This was followed by a moment of silence, it was a silence of excitement, we were like two old friends who just met after a long time. I was happy, not because she’s divorced, but I have met someone who knows what it feels like, who understood and I could see she was feeling the same. Her eyes were a bit watery, she wasn’t sad, neither was I. We were happy that we had someone to share something with, we were happy to find someone who understood everything. She then said 4 years, and I said 3. She told me she was 3 weeks pregnant when she got divorced and I told her, I was a week pregnant back then. We both smiled and I could see her being a bit emotional. Then she said, ‘it is hard, and I don’t have anyone here.’ I understood, I have my brother but I am the type of person who believe that each one should take of their family, and try to avoid being a burden or worry for him and his family. But I knew what her life was like, I live it everyday! We swap numbers, and both left each other with a feeling of accomplishment.
As I got home, I received a call from her; she forgot her shopping bag in the car, so back I went. She invited me to come inside, and I was about to refuse when her children dashed out all excited. I haven’t really spoken to them before but something told me I should accept the invitation.
I agreed to come in for a little while, and the kids jumped with joy, they screamed ‘yayyy!’ It was strange, those kids did not know me, they’ve never spoken to me before yet it made them happy to welcome us in their house.
I knew what made me stay. Like her, I very rarely have visitors, except for my brother. And, she didn’t even have that. Her kids must be happy to just have someone else in the house, to have people to talk to, and other children to play with. I remember a conversation I had with a friend a week back, she came to visit, and my house was a mess with kids toy all over my living room, and I apologised for the mess adding that it doesn’t bother me, cos my house is for my kids first and foremost. And, she said it’s ok (for my house to be like that) as I do not really have visitors. And she’s a good friend, and she didn’t mean it in a bad way, and neither did i take it the wrong way. After all, she was telling the truth and I seriously don’t care what people think of my house or me.
My new friend’s kids must just be overjoyed to have company, to be like other families. Like me, she didn’t belong to any community in the city. She’s Albanian and there’s very few of them where we live. I am Mauritian, and I have never met another one here.
In the Muslim world, people tend to stay with ‘their’ people, they mingle with ‘their’ people and those who don’t belong to the same community as them are normally outsiders who they acknowledge on the street but won’t really call over. Majority of Muslims have family/relatives who they hang around with most of the time, leaving them almost no time to socialise with outsiders or even wanting to socialise with outsiders. On top of that, if they do socialise with people outside their family, it would still be mainly with people from the same country of origin as them, as they belong to the same community. When you belong to a different minority community, it’s harder to fit in and get accepted, as there is no benefit from befriending you. On the contrary, you will probably invite them to eat food other than ‘theirs’ and which they have no interest in tasting.
As a single Mum and and an outsider, I knew exactly how much of a social life she must have. At least, I drive, I can take my kids around and enjoy days out with them. Transport is quite costly, and with 4 kids, it’s not easy to go on public transport. She must be lonelier than me I thought. We talked without talking, we knew things about each other which we didn’t have to say. We knew what it feels like when you are feeling really sick, yet you find the courage to get up and sort your kids out as there’s no one else to do it or even ask to do it. You just get on with life, and pick yourself up every time you feel like you are falling apart and start all over again. You know what it feels like when you feel like doing something with another adult, and no one has time for you as they are too busy with their friends and family, you know it all.
We had both moved on from our past, and happily! But, we have also found each other for support to move forward. Language was not a barrier anymore, we had each other’s company in a way we can’t even describe. We felt we could count on each other, without feeling we are burdening the other!