Recently, former reality star, entrepreneur, and mom of three, Kristin Cavallari said that she feels like a single mom while her football player husband is out of town for training camp.
Then, single moms everywhere rolled their eyes.
As an actual single mom (like there is no partner on a work trip coming home to us), I was not angered by Cavallari’s actual comments, but the fact that this is still something partnered moms say. Like, all the time. It’s not just Kristin.
Hey moms with partners, guess what? You’re not a single mom, and if you could just stop comparing yourselves to us that would be great. When your partner goes away for the weekend, or is on a business trip, or is working extra late all week, that doesn’t mean you get to romanticize our struggle. You still don’t understand what it means to be the sole provider for all of your child’s needs, at all hours of the day, every day.
I have been a single mom since my son was 3 months old. He’s 4 now. But I will tell you that when he was a newborn and his dad and I were still together, I would make the same mistake as Kristin. I would assume that I felt like a single parent because my son’s dad worked so much.
I was in for a rude awakening, of course. Because now I am a single parent, and I want to go back and tell myself to STFU.
When you’re a single parent, you are responsible for everything. Making sure that the bills get paid, making sure that your kid is being taken care of, making sure you’re being taken care of, making sure that your house is livable, that your fridge is stocked, that you have reliable child care, that you are sticking to your budget — every single aspect of parenthood is on your shoulders. Partnered mothers who say they feel like single mothers have no idea what it means to have those concerns long-term.
Sure, you may be responsible for everything for a certain amount of time, but you also know that your full-time load has an end date. Your partner may even be gone for extended periods of time, and while that is difficult for many reasons, they are likely still contributing to the household financially and offering their emotional support. You know that being a solo parent is a temporary situation, and that the upheaval it brings to your life (while difficult) is finite.
In the interview, Cavallari while claiming her “single mom” status, also admitted she had a nanny and her mother-in-law helping her. Most single moms, like 99.99%, do not have the luxury of having all hands on deck whenever they want. It’s wonderful that she has the support system and the financial means to uphold it, but that is not the reality for most of us. The rest of us are out here doing the math to make sure we can afford new shoes and a winter coat while still putting food on the table.
Moms with co-parents don’t know the weeks, months, and years of stressing over getting everything that has to be completed each day done in a mere 24 hours. Single moms need extra hours in the day, for real. You don’t know what it’s like to have absolutely no help indefinitely.
Now, before you start with the “we don’t have anyone else in the area to help when my partner isn’t around!” just stop yourself. Again, your time alone is finite. Your partner will be back to resume their position at some point.
I was lucky enough to live with my parents for a while, and when I really needed a break they were able to help out, as most grandparents will do. But they are busy people, who still work and have other commitments, and they were not my daycare provider. I didn’t want to make my kid their burden. That is a big concern for single moms: not being a burden. You learn how to be as self-sufficient as possible, shouldering all of your burdens and keeping silent about what those burdens are doing to you.
You moms with partners don’t know the sleepless nights worrying about your kid feeling like they’re missing out on something because they don’t have a dad around. Of looking at them when they’re sleeping and hoping that they know everything you’re doing is for them. Praying that they think you’re a good mom, even when you are pretty sure you are totally failing.
You don’t understand what it’s like to have to always be the strong one because there’s no one to let you be weak. To sit alone in the middle of the night silently crying because you’re just so tired of shouldering all the responsibility and not having anyone else who truly understands. When your kid has just pushed you beyond the brink, and you have to be the one who bears the entire force of their extreme emotions. All the time. You’ll never feel your child hug you while you cry and tell you that you’ll “work together” to get through the hard times, something a 3-year-old should never have to say to their mommy.
You don’t know the lonely nights wondering if someone will ever love you and your child the way you both deserve to be loved.
You, mothers with partners know that the person you love is coming back. You have a person to love you. Your children have someone who loves them. You’ll never get the pity looks and heads cocked in sympathy by well-meaning women with partners.
While you may live in our shoes for a period of time, you get to take them off. Your position in our ranks is limited, and you can go back to your regular life. You can take time to yourself when your partner returns. You can go on girls’ trips and bachelorette weekends. It’s likely that you’ll turn to the single mom you know and say with a dramatic sigh, “I don’t know how you do it all the time!” And that mom will simply shrug and say, “I have to. Who else is going to do it for me?”
So before you go and proclaim your temporary single mom status, think about that answer: “Who else is going to do it for me?” No one. And that in and of itself is why you’re not a single mom; you’re just parenting solo for a while. There is a difference.