There are many things that are hard about being a single mom. That’s not news to anyone. The obvious “I will be tired for the rest of my life” and “there’s no one there to hold the kid while I pee” parts are brutal. I knew that was going to suck. Financial struggles and lack of support are a reality for many. But beyond that, the hardest parts about being a single mom for me have been the emotional battles and realizations that I’ve had to face.
Accepting That Society Isn’t Designed for You
It started the moment I found out I was pregnant. After the initial “oh, shit” reaction, my first instinct was to learn as much as I could about growing a life inside of me. That’s when I discovered it: The wes and threes. As I read about the wonders of pregnancy and what fruit my fetus resembled that week, there it was: The constant reminder that I was flying solo on a two-person affair. It stung — a lot.
I faced a choice: Either I ignored all mentions of the loving partner or push the kid out without knowing what was going on inside my body. As if being pregnant, hormonal, and single was not enough, for the following nine months I felt like I was joining a club without meeting all the requisites. The Bump and Baby Center wouldn’t let me forget that I didn’t have anyone to give me that foot rub.
I’m not proud to admit it, but I let it get to me. I was uncertain about how much I was allowed to celebrate, this being an “incomplete” experience and all. I dished out extra cash for private birthing classes. I would have rather sat for a root canal than go baby shopping. I considered not having a baby shower. The waiting room of my OB-GYN’s office became hell on earth.
The Single Mom Persona
Once the baby is born things don’t get any better. There are forms to fill out, comments, and judgmental looks to ignore, fathers who won’t talk to you because their wives don’t want them near the single mom. We only recently got our own emoji, in all her blonde glory, and even though over 26% of U.S. households are run by a single parent, industries haven’t caught on.
Have schools, the one place that is keenly aware of modern family dynamics, considered how father-child events make kids without a dad feel?
Not even the travel industry, always quick to identify a profitable demographic (The Meow Meow Cruise, really?!) has a clue. In her article, “Why Does the $7.6T Travel Industry Discriminate Against Single Moms?, single mother and writer Emma Johnson di
It saddens me to realize that industries don’t value single mothers as a key demographic even though we are a significant segment with unique needs and (at least half of us) disposable income.
The poor single mom marketing persona is in desperate need of a makeover.
Loss of Independence
All parents lose a certain degree of independence. Long gone are the days of staying out until 3 a.m. and nursing a hangover with pizza and bad TV. Aside from being tired, I think that the one thing most parents struggle with is: Your life doesn’t belong to you anymore.
Every time you want to do something you have to ask yourself: Can I do this with the kids, can I get someone to watch them, or do I just forget about doing this? Seeking a balance between these options becomes an intrinsic part of any parent’s life. Achieving that balance between your new responsibilities and the things you want to do is crucial for a new parent.
Now add this to the equation: Do the above while being a single adult. And by single adult, I’m not only talking about finding time to date and having a love life. Although that is important, it goes beyond that. Being a single adult, quite plainly, means that there is no one else there to share this experience with — the good and the bad.
So guess what happens when you have a milkshake craving past the baby’s bedtime. Or you want to go for a walk to clear your head. Maybe there’s a painting class every Saturday morning that you would love to sign up for. Don’t even get me started about grocery shopping.
Do all new parents lose a certain degree of independence? Of course. The biggest difference is that a single parent doesn’t have anyone to watch movies with when they can’t find a babysitter. There’s no masquerading the loss of independence with a fun night in.
Letting Go of Your Family Fantasy
I never expected to have a traditional family. A child of divorce, I grew up understanding that family is what you make of it, not a preconditioned connection formed by DNA. When asked how they envisioned my life in 10 years, my high school classmates said that I would have a great career and be independent. Maybe I’d have a boyfriend and a kid, but I definitely wouldn’t be married. It took me a bit longer than 10 years, but their prophesy came true.
Letting go of the traditional family fantasy was not something that I thought would affect me. But it has, for an obvious but different reason — because of my son. Let’s face it, leading a single-parent household is not something anyone yearns for. There’s no single mom Barbie. But when you stand at that crossroads and decide to embark on your parenting journey solo, you put your big girl panties on and deal with it.
But what about your child? You can create a healthy and loving environment. Every day I am thankful that I am able to provide for my son on my own. I can find other men to serve as male role models and teach him to play sports or dig for worms or whatever it is that boys do. But there are certain things that my son will lose out on because his dad isn’t around. And those are the things that I mourn.
Does it make a difference if it’s Uncle Tom kicking the ball around instead of his dad? I don’t know if it will make a difference to him because that’s all he will know. But I it does to me.
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