The Single Files: over 50, over child-rearing and unattached
O’Donnell, calm and delicately beautiful, “trusted and adored” her former husband; she “loved being married” and was, for a time, shattered by the ending of the relationship.
Recently, however, she has begun to look for a new partner, encouraged both by her son, whom she describes as “a lovely, open, mature person who has had to grow up faster than other teenagers”, and by a sense that she doesn’t want to look back in 10 years and say, “I should have done this”.
Having joined an exclusive and expensive dating agency (the fee was almost €1,500), she has had a number of dinner dates with apparently eligible men. She describes, not without humour, arriving at the designated restaurant and being shown to her date by the maitre d’. She has met some interesting men, she says, but none of the dates have moved her beyond the restaurant door.
There are often “issues”, she adds cautiously. Some men are still living at home with their mothers; others are enmeshed in difficult situations with their children and former spouses.
O’Donnell has put her membership with the agency on hold for now. For her, mindfulness, living in the now and trying not to worry about the future are the keys to emotional wellbeing.
‘Every bill is yours’
Jayne Baird is 57, the mother of an adult daughter and co-owner of Little Fish Designs, a jewellery store in Blackrock Shopping Centre. Charismatic, funny and resourceful, she falls around laughing when I ask her whether, after being alone for almost 30 years, she would like to share her life with someone. “He’d want to be a bit of an oddball, someone slightly off-beam,” she says, adding with zest: “I may have been single for 30 years, but it was not without the odd romp.”
More seriously, she concedes that she wouldn’t mind someone “to share her dotage with”. She has some fears about growing old alone, but mainly, as with the other interviewees, she doesn’t want to become a burden on her only child.
For Baird, singlehood was all about single-parenting, having brought up her daughter almost entirely alone. It was tough in the early days, living in private rented accommodation in a middle-class Dublin suburb without central heating or a washing machine. All around her, families prospered.
“It wasn’t easy,” she says. “You make all the decisions, have all the responsibilities. Every bill is yours, nothing is shared.” Unable to afford a car, she and Kelly, her daughter, went everywhere together on her bike.
Unlike some of the other women, who at times find themselves excluded from family activities and suburban rituals, Baird experienced no discrimination at any stage in her life from neighbours or friends.
Invited to every drinks and dinner party going, and being a welcome addition to any table, she credits her dearly loved friends and neighbours with playing an active and vitally positive role in Kelly’s upbringing.
So singlehood is good, a positive state? “I’m not a tough old cookie,” she says. “As I get older and have more time for myself, I think, yes, I’d like someone around. But,” she adds, her brown eyes flashing, “if I’m in bed with my Dr Hauschka night cream on my face in my fluffy pyjamas, watching Mrs Brown’s Boys, I don’t necessarily want to be nudged.”