Single moms come in all shapes and sizes with a plethora of stories—I would never dream to speak for all of us. Despite that, we do share some common experiences. A key one is that the emotional and physical demands of single motherhood can challenge our friendships to the very core. If your friend is a single mom, then listen very carefully and you might just hear her say these things:
1. I’m isolated and alone.
While I find the sleepless nights, diaper blowouts, and relentless tasks challenging, it’s no worse than for any other mom. What I really hate is that I’m doing it alone; I have no one to giggle with about the silly moments and no one to lament with about the hard parts. As my friend, you are my only sounding board. I need empathy, empathy, and did I mention empathy? It might sound like we single mothers whine a lot, but we don’t have someone to speak to when we get through the door after a long day at work or someone to look forward to unloading on when the door opens after a long day alone with the baby. So if you give us a chance, we would love to seriously unload.
2. I’m sorry for being a crap friend.
But also, I’m not sorry. I know I rarely call, but that’s because I spend most of the evening trying to get my little one to sleep. Once I’ve achieved that near impossible feat, if I don’t instantly join him, I spend the time being alone. The biggest irony of single parenting: I’m lonely, yet never alone. I crave companionship but can hardly function unless I have some me time at the end of the day. I’m sorry I’ve become a near recluse. It’s not because I don’t want to hang out with you. I do, but there are so many emotional and physical barriers in the way—energy, child care, self-confidence. I often prioritize calling or seeing you, my friends, over my own mental well-being, so while it might seem like I’ve changed or that I’m putting my child or myself first, often it’s the exact opposite.
3. It’s hard to be honest about the challenges of single parenting.
Interactions are so quick—a scrambled phone call before bedtime, a brief text message, a coffee date with a crazed toddler (or two) interrupting every three seconds. None of this allows time to string a full sentence together, let alone get to the reality of my situation. Single moms often have a lot to contend with—relationship failure, money worries, parenting challenges, isolation, loneliness, the list goes on. If you want to know about the reality of my life as a single mom, then it will take a whole lot of time and effort.
4. I don’t know how to ask for help.
I’ve never been an asker, and since becoming a single mom, I’ve become even worse at it. I don’t want to admit I’m struggling. Who does? As a single mom, I’ve grown used to doing everything alone. I’ve been let down by the one person who was supposed to be there for me and mine, and that makes it hard to trust others. Whether you help or not, I have no choice but to keep going, so I might as well just keep at it, right?
5. I feel like I don’t belong.
Not belonging is a challenge many of us face, and the isolation of single motherhood can exacerbate this. I don’t fit in with my childless friends; I don’t fit in with my co-parenting friends. It’s easy to feel let down by friends who regularly cancel or can’t make things. After all, you’re my lifeline to companionship; without you, I’m lost. Sometimes I think about moving, but it’s about more than the physical presence of a place. It’s about thinking you’ve found a partner for life and then realizing, with some dire consequences, that you haven’t. It’s about old friends no longer having space in their lives for the new (slightly damaged) you. It’s about spending so much time alone that you forget how to interact with adults, and fun becomes a faded memory.
6. I’m being as positive as I can be.
It might be hard to believe when you look at what seems like a list of negative emotions, but it’s true. I know my son is amazing, and many times a day he brings a smile to my face. But often, other emotions, paired with exhaustion, bring my feelings crashing down upon me. Personally, knowing exactly what I’ve experienced over the last few years, I think I’m doing pretty well just like all the single parents I’ve had the fortune to meet. Every time I’ve been knocked down, I’ve got up again. I’ve done many things to get my life back on track, and I’m still trying. Being a single parent isn’t something you get over quickly when it wasn’t in the plan.
7. I am sorry for being boring.
From the fun-loving friend to the toddler-chained one, I’m sure I’ve become a bit of a bore. It’s rare I get any time alone with you anymore. It turns out that exhausted, isolated single moms don’t have much exciting gossip. Perhaps that’s why you don’t call anymore. Perhaps you don’t want to talk about your fun times or your man troubles with me. I know I don’t have current comparisons to make, but I can still empathize. I’ve almost given up suggesting meet-ups because I fear friends won’t enjoy what I can offer—a messy house or a playdate in the park. If I’m not boring you, please tell me because I’d love to hang out. Our friendship might look slightly different, but I still have time for it and for you.
8. I love my son.
Just because I struggle with being a single mom does not mean that I don’t think my son is the best person to have happened to me. If the single bit is the worst part of single parenting, then the parenting bit is the best.
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