You Can't 'Single Mom It' If You're Not A Single Mom

by Liane Cole
Originally Published: 
A single mom holding her baby boy while he is smiling to the camera.

Dear friends,

There’s something I need to get off my chest. When your loving partner is working late, out of town, sick, or otherwise temporarily unavailable, you are not “Single Momming It.” Please, for the love of God, stop saying this. I know you mean no harm, but it’s just not right. Here’s what “Single Momming” actually means.

Today, and 98 percent of the days, I am the only one on duty for night, 6 am, potty training, breakfast, lunch, play, soccer practice, dentist appointment, dinner, fever, vomit, laundry, dishes, tantrum, car seat buckling, supply shopping, grocery hauling, bath time, tooth brushing, bedtime story, and singing to sleep. I recognize that this means I also get all of the good stuff, and I love that.

I am the only one putting money in the college fund. I pay all the bills. The responsibility of my child’s future, schooling, friendships, activities, social skills, emotional adjustment, health, self-esteem, happiness, ability to trust, confidence, resilience, behavior, and needs is all on me, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, forever. I’m blessed to have a loving boyfriend who is helpful and adores my child, but none of these things are actually his responsibility at this stage of our relationship, and they may never be.

I work full time and take care of my son during the day. After he’s asleep I shower with both ears and the door open just in case he wakes up and needs me. I worry that while I’m in the shower there will be a disaster and I will not have been there for him. From 9 pm to midnight I work some more, trying to build a better career and potential future income because I am wholly responsible for putting a roof over our heads, food on the table, and those $65 soccer cleats on his feet.

When I pass out around midnight, it is with a heavy and worried heart. Am I giving my child enough? Am I getting it all wrong? Did I laugh enough with him today? Will having one present and doting parent be enough to make him feel that he is worthy of love and commitment? There’s no one there each night to tell me I did all right today and that our child is amazing. There’s no one beside me to laugh about that funny thing he said after nap time. There will be no one there every morning to remind me that it’s a new day with no mistakes in it yet.

When I get a haircut, go for dinner, see the doctor, or do anything else, I pay a sitter—if I can find one. Childless time with friends is expensive. Please, I beg you, don’t spend that time telling me that you totally get what it feels like to be a single parent because your husband worked late this week. I do sympathize with you about those few hours or days of extra work. I care about you and see that you are exhausted. Even the best of partners drop the ball sometimes. Even great marriages have lonely moments. I know there is always a default parent and that you are it. That is tough, I get it. If I could take some of that load off you, I would.

But your extra workload is temporary. Mine is permanent, as far as I can see. Believe me, I didn’t choose this road. More than anything, I wanted to raise my child with two loving and available parents. I dreamed about it my whole life and thought that I had it. It didn’t work out that way. I did everything I could to make it happen but life threw me a huge curve ball. I’m not looking for sympathy. It is what it is. We all have our battles. I know you have yours too, and I’m amazed at how you handle them.

I love my child so intensely. I’m thankful every day for him. I do what I have to do each day and night because I adore him and he deserves it. This is our life right now. I smile through it no matter how worn out (and yes, sometimes bitter) I feel. All I ask of you, my friends, is that you please honor the difference between us. We are all kick-ass moms. We all have beautiful and bright children. We all have moments of parenting glory. We all work ourselves ragged. We all fall down and pick ourselves up and wish that things were easier.

But please, can we save the phrase “Single Momming It” for those of us who really are?

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