What do you picture when you hear “single mom”? Do you imagine a woman more worried about her next drink than her son’s baseball game? Maybe you picture a woman smoking a Virginia Slim on the rickety porch of a beat up old trailer while her kids play down the road without any shoes on.
To me, “single mom” means so much more.
It’s the woman who sits at her desk worrying about how she’s going to turn her lights back on before she picks her kids up from school. The woman who has maxed out every credit card she owns to make sure her kids have presents to open Christmas morning wrapped neatly under the dollar store Christmas tree.
You know that woman who was just a little too snippy with her kids in the checkout lane at Walmart? She was just called every curse word under the sun by her ex-husband because she wouldn’t let him take the kids on her weekend.
She’s the woman who hides in her bathroom and prays to God for a break. Tears roll down her face while she simultaneously tries to muffle the sound of her guttural sobbing so the kids won’t hear her and worry. She prays for someone to hold her. To gently tuck her salty, wet, hair behind her ears and kiss her on the forehead.
That woman, the one you silently judge, she has been through more hell than you can ever imagine.
She spends her nights soothing a teething baby, and gently tucking her preschooler back in bed. She’s fallen asleep on the couch because the bed just feels too empty.
Between juggling work, school, dance, groceries and bills, her house seems to have suffered through a category five hurricane. The sheer thought of cleaning is enough to provoke a panic attack because she just isn’t sure where to start. So she pushes more trash into the trash bag, and prays it doesn’t bust open when she tries to take it out.
Here’s the thing. You likely have no clue. These women, their armor is so strong you have no idea what really lies beneath it.
If they were a man, they would be given a hearty pat on the back and an “atta-boy” for paying their child support on time. Women would tilt their heads and smile when they walk by them in the grocery store as they’re trying to figure out what snacks to buy for the kids’ lunch boxes for school the next week.
When dad sends the kids to school in clothes that don’t match and hair that hasn’t been brushed, teachers might snicker and say “Well, he tried.” But God forbid a single mother forgets to dress their child up for spirit week with fancy braids and coordinating outfits to boot. “Does she care at all?”, “ She must not be well”, “Those poor children.”
Why is it that a woman should be chastised for the end of a marriage, while the man remains somehow blameless and excused from their shortcomings? Why is it more reasonable to expect a woman to do the job of two so seamlessly, while a man is only expected to remember to bathe occasionally?
Have you ever had to choose between losing your job, or taking care of your sick child? Looking your baby in her teary eyes and explaining that mommy can’t snuggle, because she has to go to work.
We aren’t allowed to expect child support, because then we are money hungry and bitter. Yet we are berated for not providing our children with a beautiful two-story Victorian home with a big yard in a safe neighborhood.
This single mother, she’s me. She’s also that cranky lady at the bank, and the waitress who forgot to get your drink refill for the second time. Sometimes, her children forget to turn in their homework. Or they go to school without an extra snack.
She loves her children with every fiber of her being, but she is tired.
Sympathy will only add more layers to her armor. This path was not one she would have chosen. Maybe the white picket fence and Joanna Gaines’ home décor aren’t part of God’s plan for her life. But I can tell you this. She will continue to make lemonade out of lemons, and drink the shit out of it … even if it is a little too bitter.