I never question the way I grew up. Looking back, growing up living with my mum felt natural, like it was 'normal'. I never felt I was missing out by not having a father around or because it was just me and mum for a lot of my upbringing. But it's only when people ask me what my dad does or ask about my childhood that I realise my upbringing was different.
I don't really remember my mum and dad being happy together. I remember lots of fighting. A lot of tension. I used to get stress nosebleeds, a lot. And anxiously tip over glasses at the dinner table. I remember feeling nervous around my father and how safe I felt with mum.
My mum and dad never married. They were together, then they weren't. Then they were together again, and then they ended things properly. After this I lived with mum and saw my dad every weekend, or maybe every second weekend -- I don't really remember much of this time, to be completely frank. All I remember is feeling like myself and feeling safe with mum. I guess mum sensed this, and after a shitty court case mum was granted full custody.
I felt so incredibly sad at the pain I caused my father, I felt it was truly all my fault, but at the same time I felt relieved. So incredibly relieved. I remember each night, for a long time afterward, before I fell asleep I would cry and apologise for what I had done, but I felt safe in my bed, in a cosy house with my mum. Home.
It took some time for mum's and my wounds to mend and I had a happy rest-of-childhood and turned into (well, I think) a pretty good adult.
I don't have 'daddy issues'. I don't feel deprived of not having a male influence. I'm not an angry or confused person. When I look back on my childhood, I don't see an absence. I look back and realise how strong and kind my mum was, working to pay the rent and feed us, while studying part-time and while the rest of her family was all the way in Germany. She was, and is, my role model and I will always cherish our close, friend-like relationship which we still have now.
I don't think anyone had the 'perfect' childhood. The bad times make you appreciate the life you have now. Growing up with only one parent made me stronger, more independent, more gracious, more appreciative of my relationships with my beautiful boyfriend and friends. I feel lucky, and that's because I am.
I think it's because of my upbringing that I don't see marriage or family the way most others do. Contrary to what everyone who questions or argues against me thinks, a marriage isn't a 'divine' relationship and a nuclear family doesn't automatically equal healthy or happy. A strong family can consist of an only child and a strong mum or dad. There are so many permutations. Love is the only necessity. And a couple's relationship doesn't need marriage to verify it.
My boyfriend of nearly seven years and I don't plan on getting married. Neither of us needed to compromise or settle on this because it's just something that feels right. It's odd for us to be considered 'progressive' or unorthodox when, really, what's more natural than just enjoying each other's company, cherishing one another and supporting each other no matter what happens?