It was going so well, the waiting room was well stocked with toys, we were called through on time and you made my baby son giggle. You listened to his chest and looked in his ears, making sure there was nothing sinister underlying his permanent snotty nose and rashy face.
“I need to take a family history” you declared and turned to a new page in your note book (we all love starting a clean piece of paper, don’t we? The determination to be neat and organised with multi-coloured underlines and bullet points).
“Firstly, who lives at home?”
Pen poised, you wait.
“Me and his older sister.” I reply, distracted by my mountain goat of a son attempting to climb the sink pipe. You scribble down your notes.
Without looking up. Without a pause. Not a question but a statement. An assumption.
“No.” I reply. “No daddy at home.”
You look up. You’ve already written it so you have to scribble it out. A tiny, almost imperceptible sigh as the tidiness of the page is ruined on the third line.
And then you moved on, to maternal allergies and paternal asthma. I bet you didn’t give your little slip a second thought. But I did. It rolled around my anxious mind along with all the other times that assumption had been made. Like when the man who changed my locks told me to get “my hubby” to check it over when he got home. And when the lady in the shop, when seeing me and my daughter buying a drill, asked “is that a present for your daddy?”.
No daddy at home.
A week later and your two innocent words still dance around my mind at 2am – “And daddy.”
But surely it can’t be that unusual. Not anymore. You must meet and treat hundreds of families with no daddy at home. Do you assume with everyone? Are your notebooks littered with crossing outs of ‘daddy’?
It probably seems insignificant to you. It would have done to me this time last year. Twelve short months ago I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. I would have confidently (smugly?) responded “oh yes and daddy”. And maybe I’m being over-sensitive. My wounds are still raw. But what if my daughter had been there? My son is too young to understand the brief return his daddy made to his home, if only within the confines of your notes. But my daughter? She would have seen it, she would have known that her daddy was no longer at home.
So really, that’s why I’m writing this. To ask you to think before you speak so confidently about mine or anyone else’s family. To listen and ask questions not make statements. Because your assumption, in Clinic Room 3 might only have been a blot in your notebook but to me it was significant. To me it was another suggestion I was doing it wrong, that I have somehow failed my children by heading up our family alone. To me your words mattered. And I can’t cross them out so easily.
From a single mum. At home.
If you want to read more about the highs and lows of single parenting then head over to Suzanne’s blog – www.andanothertenthings.com