Being a mom without any support is hard. But when you’re a single mom without any support, it’ll damn near kill you. Because not getting a break is fucking hard. Single moms don’t get to do things for and by themselves very often. We devote our entire beings to keeping our families afloat. More often than not, we’re the ones doing all of the heavy lifting. ALL.
There is nothing easy about being a single mom. That’s why it’s important to stick together. So, to say single moms with support — whether it be physical, emotional or financial — are somehow less than single moms who don’t have that support, isn’t fair to any of us.
I have been a single mom since my son was three months old. Thankfully, I’ve had a great support system, but I’m doing 98 percent of the work raising my son, and 100 percent of the financial burden is mine. Even though we lived under my parents’ roof for the first few years, I was the one who did everything for him.
And yes, his dad has always been in the picture, but for almost four years, it was long distance. When we finally did move closer to him, he was all on board to be this great hands-on dad. I had grand dreams of the kind of co-parenting relationship we’d have, but the reality is much different.
By the time we moved, my son’s dad realized that the life he’s made for himself wasn’t really conducive to fatherhood. And instead of adapting it to better accommodate his son, he gradually cut back the amount of time they spent together.
I can vividly remember the night last summer when I sent him a text, begging him to step up and give me support. He had spent the entire school year either picking our son up or dropping him off a few days a week — but never spending time with him longer than the time it took to get home. And when summer came, he fell off the face of the earth. First of all, it wasn’t fair to our kiddo, but more importantly, I was drowning.
Fortunately, we came to an agreement where he took him a few hours a week, which was a relief.
Make no bones about it though, that time is rarely leisure time. I usually do things like go grocery shopping, run errands, clean the house, and work.
Recently, I had a fellow single mom say that because my son’s father is still in the picture and they spend time together, I’m not a “real” single mom. As if there are levels to being a single mom. We single moms with support are “real” single moms. We’re still out there taking care of our babies, making sure they have everything they need.
When my son spiked a fever of 105 and had to be rushed to the emergency room, you know where his dad was? On vacation in Asia. When he came home from his trip with a cold, he tried to shirk off, and I reminded him that I caught our son’s cold and had to not only take care of him and myself, but I also still had to work through all of that.
Being a single mom with support doesn’t mean you can just pick up and run off whenever you want. A few hours away for a work event or a date can take hours of back-and-forth planning. Plans made months in advance get forgotten, and then instead of him compromising his time, I’m the one who makes the sacrifice.
I may be one of the “lucky” single moms with support, but if my son has a doctor’s appointment, I’m the one who misses work for it. When he needs new pants, I’m the one who has to buy them. I’m the one who did all the research for preschool and kindergarten, who is busting her ass to try and make plans for the summer. His dad never even asks about any of it, let alone takes an interest.
Yes, there are many single moms who don’t have the luxury of alone time. Who have no choice but to drag their kids along with them to Target or the bank. They work really fucking hard, and it’s not fair that they don’t get to have a few minutes or hours to themselves. All of them deserve so much more than they’re getting.
But here’s the thing. Support always comes with a price. They say they can help and then they flake. Family and friends have lives too, and you can’t always rely on them to be there for you. For every one thing you get to do, there are a hundred things you don’t get to do. Our grass may seem greener, but trust that it isn’t as green as you may think it is.
Single moms are fucking heroes. All of us. We’re out there killing it every single day, even when we feel like we’re failing. It can be so hard to see just how amazing we are when you’re standing in the middle of a filthy house with a kid hanging off your hip whining or telling you at the last minute about an assignment due the next day. Or when you’re working overtime to make sure the electric bill gets paid and you barely get to do much more with your kids than put them to bed. We’ve all lived in those trenches together.
But to say that single moms with support aren’t real single moms because their ex pays them child support isn’t fair. Or those who have a custody agreement and get to be childfree for a few hours or a few days. When my son’s father volunteered to take him overnight, he ended up bringing him home early the next day because he wanted his mommy. Just because we may get a break from our kids doesn’t mean we ever get a break from being moms.
A “real” single mom is any mom who is parenting without a partner. A partner and a co-parent are two very different things. That’s why single moms get so upset when married moms try to claim single mom status. Because those women have partners, even if they aren’t always physically present. Single moms are just that — single. Most (if not all) of the time, we’re doing everything. Every-damn-thing.
Single moms with support and without it are already facing impossible societal judgment. We shouldn’t be making it worse by fighting with each other about who gets to claim the title of “true” single moms. We should be lifting each other up. Goodness knows we need it.