Like 1.9 billion viewers around the globe, I too watched the Royal Wedding. I had promised myself that I’d do something more productive with my Saturday morning but one glimpse of David Beckham in his tux and I was hooked.
I watched with voyeuristic greed as a host of A-list celebs, royals and dignitaries traipsed down the hill to Windsor Castle to celebrate Harry and Meghan’s big day. I sat texting friends to comment on hat choices (honestly Camilla, WTF), to marvel at the gorgeous outfits (Amal Clooney – YES, girl) and to coo over the unbearably cute bridesmaids and page boys as they spilled out of their cars and were herded up the steps, presumably with the promise of endless supplies of Haribo if they could just sit through the next hour or so quietly.
I was enjoying it immensely until the sight of one guest stopped me in my tracks: Doria Ragland, Meghan’s mother, exiting her wedding car on her own. Watching her sitting unaccompanied at her daughter’s wedding, looking immensely dignified and yet so very clearly alone, unleashed a huge mix of emotions in me.
I obviously don’t know the woman and don’t claim to know the first thing about what she was thinking or feeling that day (I mean, how surreal must sitting across from Charles and Co. have been?!) but the very starkly poignant image of a single mother sitting alone on her daughter’s wedding day struck a very painful chord.
One can only assume that the decision to sit alone was hers to make (surely they weren’t too tight to give the woman a plus one?) and from where I was sitting, it was an incredibly brave one. My daughter is only five years old and any thoughts of a wedding day are far, far off but it made me think about all the milestones we have yet to go through together.
I’m currently in the ‘day-to-day survival phase’ of single parenthood but there must come a time when the school pick-ups, homework sheets, bath times and bedtimes just become tasks that you get on with by yourself without batting an eyelid or falling to your knees and raising your arms to the heavens, wailing, ‘Whhhhyyyyyyyy mmmeeeeeeeee!’ I’ve stopped that now – the neighbours were concerned.
I’ve been waiting to get used to that part of our new lives as a single parent family and hadn’t even given a second’s thought to the big life events that people have to go through as single parents: graduations, weddings, births and celebrations of grandchildren and goodness knows what else. I don’t have the first clue about how it’s all going to work but I know one thing: if and when I turn up to future family events alone, I sure as hell don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me. I’d like to think I’ll be there, as dignified as Doria Ragland was, enjoying my daughter’s big day without anyone feeling bad or awkward about the fact that I will not be sitting with her dad by my side. I probably won’t be wearing an an Oscar De Le Renta dress and it probably won’t be at Windsor Castle, but wherever I am and whatever the celebration, I hope I can do myself and my little girl proud.
To all the Dorias out there, those of you a few steps ahead of me in your journeys of single parenthood, who manoeuvre the intricacies and difficulties of split families with such good grace and poise – thanks for letting me know that it can be done and it will all be okay.
Image credit: PA