Being a parent is hard, that’s probably a universally accepted fact by now. My theory is that it’s so difficult because it forces you to confront your personal weaknesses and shortcomings so abruptly, and all at once. Being a single parent is a challenge that I can’t even begin to fathom, as I am not in that situation personally, but when my husband travels for even a few days I find it hard. Can I imagine being on my own, all the time with a baby? No, I can’t, and to be quite honest, the thought terrifies me. However there are many incredible, strong people around us that do this every day, and they, quite frankly, deserve a medal. And a vacation, a really long vacation.
Anyway, all of this is a lead-in to my review of the memoir by Camilla Gibb, titled This is Happy. I was afraid to read it, because I knew it was a story about being a single mother, so I assumed it would be excruciatingly painful to get through. I was wrong, it was actually a delight. Yes, it was difficult reading about the painful first few weeks with a baby (I just did that myself and didn’t really want to be reminded about how emotional it can be) but it was cathartic to read about someone else’s experiences, and Gibb was able to find the beauty and humour within these trying times, which is of course what a good writer should be able to do!
Another reason I was able to enjoy this book was because mine and Gibb’s experiences were actually very different. A large part of her story deals with grief; her partner of 10 years leaves her during her pregnancy, so Gibb is faced with the prospect of single motherhood when just weeks before she was in the throes of the very life she had been dreaming of for years. Now I’m normally a very understanding person, and I try really hard to see each side of the story before judging someone, but for the record, I HATE Gibb’s partner (nicknamed “Anne”) for leaving at this time. This wasn’t Gibb’s intention, she didn’t paint her as a villain, but I have no respect or understanding for someone who leaves their significant other when they are pregnant. Feel free to leave angry comments below about this viewpoint of mine, I don’t care. Anne is a selfish person, and even though she ‘co-parents’ at various times in this book, this by no means makes up for what she did. Anne and Camilla had been trying for a few years at that point to get pregnant, so I just can’t get over how terribly Anne acted, but I digress.
This is Happy also focuses on Camilla’s family, who thankfully, seem to be on the upswing by the last few pages. Mental illness plagued her Father, her brother suffers from a drug addiction, and depression rears its head every so often in Gibb’s life, so nothing is easy for anyone in this book. But surprisingly, optimism comes in the strangest ways to her; she plants beautiful gardens in her new home when her baby is still small, her live-in nanny becomes a close friend and ally, and she rekindles a relationship with her Mother (who has a super cool background, she worked for MI5 in England!!!). Much like parenting, this book has its ups and downs, but in the end, it’s always worth it. And with an accomplished writer like Gibb, it’s no surprise that the writing was a pure joy to read.