On “Single-Mommin’ It” … But Not Really



My husband is a surgeon. Which means he’s not around much. When he is, he’s the greatest partner and daddy ever. There’s Tickle Monster, Lego creations, and freshly baked muffins. But often, my boys and I “go it alone.”

I take a lot of pride in carting my three kids around town by myself. I got a triple stroller (and then, just as quickly, got rid of that awful monstrosity). I invest in scooters and balance bikes and two-wheelers so my older two can transport themselves to the nearest playground while I push the baby. And when they’re melting down, I strap on the baby carrier, even though my youngest weighs nearly 25 pounds, and push those big boys in the double.

Sometimes I rely on the kindness of strangers—to help me through a doorway, lift that hefty double stroller up the three steps to my front door, or keep an eye on a kid while I settle a restaurant bill. My morning showers are routinely punctuated with the shrieking sound of boys waking up well before they should (“Mooooooommmmmm!!!! Is it morning yet?!?!”). I fix things, pump air into tires, replace batteries, parallel park, shovel snow, take out the trash—and splinters, cook, clean…

I say I’m “single-mommin’ it.” But I’m not.

No matter how often I’m on my own with my kids, no matter what percentage of their daily care and well-being is my responsibility, no matter how overwhelmed I may feel on any given day, I will never understand what it means to be a single mom. Because those women are really going it alone.

We flock to the playgrounds as often as weather permits—sure, partly to get our little Tasmanian devils out of the house, and definitely to tire them out before naps, but also (maybe more so?) for the companionship of other neighborhood mamas.

We sign up for parenting classes and breastfeeding support groups and make play dates and join teams and arrange carpools and create chat rooms and websites and blogs—all to connect.

We’ve all realized—we can’t do this parenting thing alone.

When I’m pushing that triple stroller, or loading and unloading three little guys in and out of our minivan, when I’m throwing food at my kids during dinner hour, struggling to keep up with their needs, when Saturday mornings are spent trying to think of ways to engage my kids that won’t drive me crazy, when I feel trapped in the house because there is ALWAYS someone napping (but never all at the same time), when it all just feels too damn hard…when I’m feeling most sorry for myself…I stop. And remember that at the end of the day—or maybe not until the end of the week—my darling husband will resurface to tell me how awesome I am. To praise me for “doing it all.” To give me that critical emotional support, even if he can’t always be there to lend a hand.

It must be so lonely to know not just that your partner may come home late—and long after the kids are already in bed—but that he’s not coming home AT ALL. That being “on your own” is not just a temporary state while you anxiously await the high-pitched sound of a text message from Daddy that he’s finished rounding at the hospital and on his way home. That you’re all your kids have. And oh yeah, you have to support your family financially, too.

So no, I’m not single-mommin’ it. Not even close. But here’s a shout-out to those of you who are. You may be younger. Or older. Your kids may resemble someone you loved and lost. Or maybe someone you never loved, or even met, at all. You have to have all the answers—not just to questions from your kids, but from strangers—some well-meaning, some downright nosy. You don’t get the luxury of saying, “That’s Daddy’s job…” about whatever task or project you don’t feel like doing. You never get to sleep in while someone else makes pancakes for breakfast. You change every diaper; you comfort every night terror. You don’t get a sick day.

Who gives you relief? Who do you vent to? Who do you instinctively call when you crush another car’s bumper as you pull out of your parking spot (like I did just this morning)? How do you have the energy to give your kids everything they need? Who loves your children as much as you do? Who tells you you’re beautiful? Even in your sweatpants?

This is my ode to you, Single Mother. If you’re smiling, if your hair is washed, if you made it to the end of another day—hell, if your kids are clothed…you deserve a medal.

And I’ll meet you at the playground anytime.


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  1. 1


    Thank you for your honesty in this post and for honoring those single parents (some are of course Single Dads) for getting through each day, when it can’t possibly be easy.

    My friend is the blogger Sassy Single Mom, and although her ex-husband is still in the picture, while her daughter is at her house, she really has no one to give her a break. They live in a one-bedroom apartment, so she doesn’t even have a room to get away for a few minutes.

    Thankfully we’re part of a mommy group, so we set up play dates and watch each other’s kids, but especially from dinner time to bed time, it’s a real struggle to keep it together. Kudos to all the parents who get through the tough times and keep taking care of their kids.

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  2. 3

    Ashley says

    This is me. It’s so tough sometimes, but the thank you I got last night from my husband made me feel like its not all unnoticed and under appreciated.
    I get sick of tantrums in the grocery store (almost every single time lately!) and hauling babies places when its below zero and pushing carts through this slush that’s impossible. I’d love a hand sometimes. Or a break. I give single parents so much credit.

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  3. 5

    Katy says

    Thank you for this! I used to refer to myself as “single momin it” when my husband changed shifts, worked late, or did overtime….now since he lost a 2 year battle with cancer I am truly a single mom of 4 small girls….is it rough? Very! Totally puts things into perspective when you are the sole provider of EVERYTHING!! :) thank you! I love this blog!

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  4. 7

    Anastasia says

    As a single mom I would like to thank you for that beautiful post. It made me tear up. I’ve often had to stop other mothers when they say that they may as will be a single mother, I kindly tell them they have no idea, and thank God everyday. My boy is now 10 and I’m acustom to it by now, but reading that post reminded me of a lot and u thank you.

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  5. 8

    Kristen says

    What a well written article. It is very hard as a single mom, you hit the nail on the head. While it is a struggle I am one single mom that wouldn’t change a thing.

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  6. 9


    Yep. I’ve been solo with four kids for almost 8 years now. I wouldn’t give up the chance to raise them for all the martinis in the world, but I’d be a big fat liar if I said it’s been easy.

    The irony is, before my ex walked out, I was a stay at home mom. And I used to complain, loudly, when he’d leave me for days to go on golf trips or conferences. If I’d only known what was around the corner….

    Thanks for this!

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  7. 11

    Becky says

    Thank you for saying this!! My friends often use the phrase “single momming it” when their husbands are away for a few days, and I confess that it drives me nuts. I am a widow, raising my son alone. I’m a great mom and we have a wonderful life…..however, 24/7 childcare, every single household chore, the full weight of our financial state, and fun tasks like making a will because there is no other back-up parent if something happens to me constitute my everyday reality. I fully recognize that having the day-to-day tasks of interacting with kids and running a household are much more complicated when a partner is away for a bit, but there is indeed a vast chasm between those frustrations and being a single parent.

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  8. 12

    Miranda Beltz Davidson says

    Thank you so much for this. It made me tear up. I'm a completely single mommy of two and I appreciate you realizing just how hard it is……but SO SO WORTH IT. <3

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  9. 13

    Mary Stollenwerk says

    I am a SAHM. Not even when my husband travels for the whole week have I uttered the phrase that “I am single parenting it”, because even when he is gone, a very important thing shows up in our bank called a paycheck. If I were a single parent, I would have to be responsible for that, too. That is something that I can’t relate to, and is more than half the battle of surviving!

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  10. 15

    Stephanie says

    Thank you. As the widowed mom of two boys under six I am not a single parent, I am an only parent. While it would be nice to pass off the responsibility to someone once in awhile, often times it is the morale support I miss the most- a shoulder to cry on or a pat on the back. It is also overwhelming to consider that you are the one solely responsible for building the foundation for the type of men they will become.

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  11. 16

    H DeRaps says

    Thank you for this. When I first started reading it, I thought it was going to say what I am completely EXHAUSTED of hearing. Something along the lines of “I was married while raising children, but I might as well have been doing it alone.” Because, that is utter nonsense and only serves as another blow against those of us who are absolutely alone every day, every night, through every illness and tantrum, and amazing moment. Truly, it’s the times when my toddler son is so cute and adorable and doing something incredible that I feel the most alone. Yes, it sucks to parent alone when the boy is screaming and dinner’s not ready and the snow is not shoveled and the bills are overdue. But, when I realize that I have no one to tell how beautiful and inventive and down-right impressive my son is? That’s sad to me.

    Yes, I have facebook. But I don’t use it to share these moments with virtual strangers. Or even close friends. That is not what I need, what I crave as a single mom. I’m talking about that shared look between two people who created a life, who see parts of themselves in that new life. That’s what I wish I had.

    So, thanks for this. I am finished crying and will go back to work. My boy is about to wake from his morning nap, and I don’t want to miss a single second of his preciousness.

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  12. 17

    Olives in BA says

    That is so true, Dina. I was just writing this morning about spending two weeks without my husband over the holidays and while it was a challenge, it is nothing like going at it alone every single day of the year. Kudos to the ladies who are managing to raise their children alone, to every tantrum they must weather and every triumph that they cannot share with a partner, they are doing all the stuff we all must and on their own. My hat goes off to you, ladies, and to you, Dina for reminding us of how much harder they must work for their children.

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  13. 18

    Kimberly says

    I read your post with appreciation. I still wince when I hear a neighbor or friend say they’re tired of being a “single parent” and can’t wait til their spouse gets home 3 days later. I know inside that they have no idea what they’re saying.

    You never really get it until you do it. I’ve been doing it with now 2 teenagers for 7+ years. And, really doing it alone. With. almost. never. any. break. Not a day. Not an hour. (Now that they’re older, they’re gone more so I am reclaiming a bit of alone time.)
    It’s hard. You learn lessons you never wanted to learn but you learn them anyway. You ask for help when you need it from a good friend or neighbor. You have to come to peace with the aloneness of it.

    But, trust me, single parenting has its rewards, too. Sometimes in very small ways. And, once in a while, in big ways, too.
    I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I knew. And my kids are too.
    And my heart has grown in appreciation for all the great kids out there who are being raised by a single parent. We’re sort of a growing private club. And we speak the same unspoken language full of understanding for the journey.

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  14. 19

    Amanda says

    Thank you! It is crazy hard. I have been single since 3 months pregnant. I’m so blessed to have a family that has been so helpful. Still some days are harder than others. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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  15. 20

    Jamie says

    This was overwhelmingly appreciated. Thank you.
    Kimberly, my own sister would say things like that. How she felt like a single parent, etc. She has a husband, who works two jobs to support her compulsive shopping habits, as well as our mother who lives with her and pays room & board, not to mention acts as a third parent, driving the kids to their insanely expensive activities!
    I know she was just expressing feelings of overwhelm with being a mom in general, but I could never figure out how she could vent to me without appreciating what she had…at all!
    I was left with three young ones. My youngest was only a month old and, being 5 weeks early, was technically not even due yet when his dad decided he wasn’t up for the job of being a Dad!

    Food banks, subsidized housing, if those things didn’t exist, we would have been homeless and my kids would likely have been taken from me. My sister has no idea what she is saying when she says she feels like a single mom. Even after I confided in her about what I went through…Gotta love her though… sisters! lol :P

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