By Zoe Hatherall
Black Cat Books
St Marychurch Precinct
Hi! My name is Zoe and I own and run a little bookshop in St Marychurch precinct. I am an only parent to an eleven year old boy. I get up at 5am every day to feed our 2 dogs and 7 cats and then I workout for an hour. I work around 60 hours a week, 6 days a week, 51 weeks of the year. I'm deliberately single and fiercely independent. I'm a Supermum, but not because of any of the reasons I just stated. I'm a Supermum because my son thinks I am and that has nothing to do with my being a hyperactive, workaholic, exercise addicted control freak with severe commitment issues. In fact he thinks those are all a bit annoying. We have a fantastic relationship and every day I know that I am a great mum and that he thinks the world of me, but it wasn't always that way.
My son's dad and I were together for 5 years before we had a baby. 5 months later I left him, knowing that I was killing him, but having a baby had changed my priorities and I had to do what was right for my son. 3 months later I received the phone call I had been waiting for: after a lifetime of devastating mental health problems, the love of my life had finally succeeded in ending his. The effect, on everyone who loved him, was catastrophic. For me it was like an invisible time bomb going off inside me. I had no guilt, we were at peace with each other and I had thought I was prepared, but I don't think you can ever truly be prepared for something like that. All death and grief is transformative, but suicide has its own way of making people question their own lives and of changing their outlook forever.
For the first 3 years I seemed alright. I was a great mother, worked hard, my son was happy, secure and confident. But then I started to unravel. I made increasingly appalling decisions, drank too much, gave up work and our secure home. I dragged my little boy from pillar to post until an argument with a neighbour left our home vandalised, our things destroyed and us homeless. Around this time I remember my beautiful boy telling me that I didn't feel like his mummy anymore, because I was never there, physically or emotionally. The shining love was gone from his eyes and thinking of that even now still makes me cry.
We found a new home and life began to settle down. I knew that I had a lot of work to do to undo the damage I had done to my son and our relationship over the past 3 years. He was now 6 and desperately insecure, low in self esteem and unsure of my love. I reinstigated the routine we had always had - bath, bed, story, and we kept to it religiously. Every night, no matter what the day had held, he had my complete and undivided attention while we shared a story, talked about our days, cuddled and grew comfortable together again.
When it comes down to it what our children want from us isn't material, it's not toys or games or consoles, it's time. They want us to show them how much they mean to us by giving them our time. It doesn't matter if it's a game of football, a board game or a bedtime story, it's the undivided attention that shows them that they are important to us, that they matter more than work or washing up or Facebook. Though I've given my son my time in many other ways, that special, quiet, bedtime story time probably did more to heal our relationship than anything else. Reading the stories opened up channels of communication and conversation - 'I don't like the way he is acting; I think that mummy shouts too much, what do you think of how she is behaving?' And it gave us quality time together. It may sound trite, but I truly believe that that nightly ritual helped to salvage our mother-son bond. I'm not saying that because I own a bookshop - I own a bookshop because of that.
These days with our busy lives it is all too easy to say we don't have time, to put on a dvd or tv instead for the kids at bedtime, but if we can find the time - just a few minutes to give our little ones at the end of each day, it's not just they who benefit. We do too. I gave my son my time and he gave me back my life.