I spent most of my pre-parenthood life striving to advance my education, and my career.
I fantasized about power suits, comfortable heels, and escaping from cubicle hell into my own private office. I was in my early 30s before I felt any stirring desires for offspring. I was single, and began to look into medically facilitated reproduction. I went, brave, lonely, and intimidated, to meetings with groups of courageous women, mothers, who chose to fulfill their desire to be parents with sperm banks and doctors. Then, by accident, I fell in love. We made plans, dreamed of a future together, and got married. I was pregnant immediately, and spent a gloriously nauseated pregnancy enjoying breakfasts in bed, outings with my stepsons, and the inability to even think about eating chicken.
Time passed, my sweet daughter was born, and my husband suddenly and unexpectedly decided he didn’t want anything else to do with either of us. That is how I became a single mom.
When I decided to write about my experience as a single mom, I didn’t know where to begin, because there is so much that I want to express. I am, by and large, not represented in society. Hallmark doesn’t make a special card for me, or my fellow single moms. We are moms, obviously, and we share a lot with our married and partnered sisters, but we also have a unique “single mom” experience, and rarely see ourselves represented in media. Frequently, partnered parents compare their night, week, or month of solo- parenting to our single parent reality, and we feel minimized and misunderstood. It is important to me to write about my own experience as a single mom, and to also give voice to my sister single moms and their experiences.
But to understand us, you have to know us.
Let me tell you about the single moms I know. We are of all ages, all races, and all sexual orientations. We are Harvard graduates, high school drop outs, and PHD candidates. We work odd jobs, waitress, teach, lobby for policy change, and are self-employed. We’re making your coffee, and we’re your boss. Or we aren’t currently employed. We share custody, or we don’t, and we sometimes have to manage delicate and difficult co-parenting relationships with exes, and their new partners. We have our children all day, every day, or we go periods where our children are away from us. Having time away from our children doesn’t feel like a vacation, although it can be nice to have a night out. Mostly though, we spend child-free time catching up with work, and the more mundane aspects of life. We would love to have a ladies night with you, but babysitters are expensive, and we need advance notice to be able to secure one.
Sometimes, we need to choose sleep over our diminished social lives. We have lots of support, or very little. We are single, and we date, and we have remarried.
We are often exhausted, and sometimes we can’t even figure out a way to schedule anything to recharge our hearts and spirits. We can get depleted by making every appointment, attending every meeting, worrying, and planning every facet of our children’s lives alone. Playing good cop and bad cop, often at the same time, can be very tricky. We are behind in something- usually laundry, personal correspondence, paying bills, and getting the oil in our cars changed. We have had to learn to ask for help, and sometimes we hate having to ask. We enjoy hanging out with couples, but we don’t want to steal your husband (or wife). Money can be really tight, and we don’t have the financial security of a two-income household. Child support, when we get it, doesn’t allow for luxuries, and often doesn’t even cover the basics for our children.
We left abusive marriages, and marriages where the spark was gone. False partners abandoned us. We chose to keep the pregnancy instead of the partner. Some of us chose single parenthood.
At the end of the day, we are moms. We have hopes and dreams and plans for the future. We love our children and do everything in our power to help them be happy and healthy. We love and respect our community of moms, both single and married.
And we are grateful for the opportunity to be heard and represented.
Written by Jemima
Jemima is a single mom to an August, 2010 firecracker of a daughter. She has a Master’s degree in Public Health, loves to cook, and is constantly inspired by the kindness, generosity, and strength of other parents.