The One Thing I Cannot Say

by Stephanie

I’m a single mom.

There it is in black and white. That black and white does not encompass the massive cloud of gray that goes along with those words: I am a single mom. Written so simply, those words do not do justice to all of the heartache, the sacrifice, the guilt, the shame, the bitterness, the loneliness, the 24/7, the uncertainty, the sadness, the madness, the confusion, the balancing act that goes along with my unique journey to single parenthood.

It’s like a dirty little secret I carry around with me, hiding it from the public. If you scrolled through any of my social media accounts, you would never know. Even our pediatrician does not know that the father is not active in my son’s life. Only my family and closest friends know. Emotionally, I am in denial, still in love with him and praying every day that we will be a family again one day soon. I want to turn those feelings off and go numb, but I also never want to stop loving the father of my child. It’s a weird place to be. I’m a well-educated, self-reliant, beautiful, funny woman, and I know this. I do. I don’t need him. I want him. I love him, with every fiber of my being. And they have the same smile.

When my relationship crumbled, I moved to a new town for family support. It was not my hometown; it was not a familiar town, or state for that matter. Being a work-at-home single mother in a new town leaves little to no outlet for much needed adult interaction, so I did something that I thought I would never do. I joined a local moms’ group. As an introverted person, my first meet-up was slightly terrifying. Getting ready was the anxiety equivalent to a blind date mixed with the first day at a new school where everyone already knows each other. I even texted my best friend my outfit.

Then, it happened. I had the perfect lead-in to share my single-mom status, and I choked. When asked if I had any family nearby, instead of explaining that I moved to be with my family to care for my infant son after a failed relationship, I awkwardly mumbled something about not being married but living with my boyfriend. Yep, I flat out lied to the other moms. They rightfully looked at me sideways because my completely false response was not even an appropriate response to the question. I just could not say those words out loud: “Nice to meet you. I’m kind of broken right now. I am a single mom.”

I know I should be proud that I am doing it all on my own and doing a damn good job. I should be proud that I know every single one of my son’s countless books by heart because I’ve read them over and over and over again. I should be proud that I answer every giggle, grunt, whine, whimper and cry and usually know exactly what each one means. I should be proud that my son grabs my face for kisses so frequently. I should be proud that I go to bed every night long after my son and wake up at the crack of dawn, more excited to watch his little fingers grab some scrambled eggs than I am exhausted. I should be proud that I continue to survive every insomnia-ridden, torturous teething night when my son decides nursing or chewing on my boob is the only way to stay asleep. I should be proud that I am so happy to be there through every joyful moment as well as all of the trying moments. I am there.

The day will come where my heart doesn’t break when I see traditional families playing together at the park. The day will come when I won’t feel like my son is missing out on something. The day will come that I don’t feel like I’m an outcast in the motherhood club. The day will come where my guilt will melt away. The day will come when I will stop questioning what could have been done differently. The day will come where I will be at peace again. I am getting there.

I am a better person for this experience. My son is lucky that he is not being raised around hateful language and arguing. Looking at his perfect face, staring into those bright inquisitive eyes gives me superhuman strength. It has been almost a year, and though it is getting easier, it is certainly not easy, and I am fairly certain that it never will be. I am a single mom, and one day, I’ll be able to tell the world.