Elsa

 

DARONNE: Elsa, 31 years, fashion journalist

FAMILY SITUATION: Single mum of Lucien (4 years)

 

Elsa became a mum in complex circumstances. She had not immediately planned to get pregnant with the man she was having a relationship with. He was younger, a wild boy, a free spirit, not to be pinned down. Elsa was head over heels in love. The relationship broke down shortly after Lucien’s birth and the separation was drawn out over five years. There were attempts at reconciliation, arguments, periods of intense contact followed by long absences and emotionally loaded legal procedures. Today, Elsa has sole parental custody of Lucien. His father is nowhere to be seen, she is therefore completely alone. Her own father lives in Paris and her mother in the South of France, where she remarried.

Elsa has a very demanding job as a journalist, she often has to go to events and take trips abroad and with her salary as a single person, she can barely afford babysitters. Luckily, she can sometimes rely on friends, on her half-brothers and on a few mums she knows from Lucien’s school. Her life is one big juggling act however. As chaotic as she is, it causes her a lot of stress.

‘Aunty Night Club’, as Elsa’s goddaughter calls her. For her friends she always has fun with, she is the ‘clown of the gang’. She has a slight Peter Pan syndrome: she is scared by the idea that she has to grow up because she is a mum. She would actually like to live her life as she feels fit. When Lucien isn’t around, she behaves like a sixteen-year-old girl who goes out and has fun until the sun comes up. She used to be able to go and do as she pleased, but since becoming a mother she suffers from a lack of freedom and spontaneity. She admits that even after four years she has still not got used to her role as a mother. Elsa feels trapped at home. Being home alone is a very different feeling to being alone with a sleeping child.

Her colleagues consider her to be the ultimate cool mum who has everything under control. That is all make-believe.

Elsa is surviving. She does not see herself as the perfect mum. ‘I try to make the best of it with lots of cuddling, chatting and by putting things into context. I never thought it would be like this when I was pregnant. Financially, it is difficult to make ends meet. Things were a lot easier a few years ago when I lived in a flat with a friend who was also single and had a son. We took turns, everything was shared. It was like Lucien had a big brother. There was room to breathe. Nowadays, I yearn too much for when Lucien is in bed so I have time to catch my breath.’

Elsa is convinced she will get out of this dip, however. In her job she is surrounded by people who do not necessarily embrace adulthood but follow their passions. And that inspires her. She will develop gradually, she is sure of that.

 

Picture by Zaza Bertrand

This portrait is part of the book ‘Framily. How Millennials redesign family.’ (Rombauts & Lemaitre / Trendwolves) A nuanced portrait of a generation of young parents who are looking for distinctive and positive solutions for a better work-life balance. It also appeared in Belgian newspaper De Morgen Magazine on March 4th, 2016.

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