I have been a single mom for many years. And when I look back at those years I see the reasons for my pain as being somewhat self-inflicted. My self-centered me always asked, why was it hard for those around me to understand me as a single mom? And why did that hurt?
I have had a lot of time to think about this. I recently took a deeper dive into the memory of this and really looked at it from a three dimensional…Monday morning quarterback standpoint. I had to ask myself the hard questions.
Single mom pain
Did I suffer from FOMO?
Was I always just trying to keep up with everyone?
Was it just my insecurity?
Was I just jealous?
Or was it really me who didn’t understand them?
Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal. Albert Camus
I had to excavate the origins of where my so-called pain points were coming from. I am a single mom. And I am single. Those words were like a new coat that I was forced to wear. A coat that didn’t fit so well and in a color, I didn’t quite like on me.
I’m great, and you?
What seemed like minutes after my marriage was no more, I was forced to say:
I am divorced. I am a single mom. When someone asked me how I was, and I told them I was divorced with two kids, it was always met with a slight tilt of the head, a sad face frown, and an I’m sorry. So was this the new response I would get every time someone asked me how I was? A response that was always meant with the best of intentions, but one that I just hated. As a result, I started to completely water down my response to avoid the pain of their pity. “I’m great, and you?”
Sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.
Did I suffer from FOMO? I suppose I did really. I had a fear of missing out on being a family based on the old picture in my head of what a family was. I had a fear of missing out on being in a relationship. I was alone and I didn’t like it. My FOMO was what I felt was missing in my life. And what I had once had. My FOMO was actually an experience of loss.
Was I always trying to keep up with everyone? The answer to that was yes. You see in order to give the appearance that the train that just hit your life didn’t really faze you, forces you to be in a state of always keeping up. “No, I wasn’t fazed by that baseball bat that just hit my life! I’m fine! We are all just fine!” And in my attempts to create this fictional version of myself, I felt the sting of pain. Because the reality was that I wasn’t fine and everything in my life at that time was really hard.
Was it just my insecurities?
Of course, it was! I have never been introduced to the concept of insecurity as fast as I was minutes after my husband left me… left us. And of course, this ties into the notion of trying to keep up with everyone and everything. And the fear of missing out. After all, the core definition of insecurity means uncertainty or anxiety about oneself. There is nothing that can thrust that feeling on you more than a divorce no matter who initiated it. The unknowns are overwhelming and so you work hard to minimize them and pretend everything is alright. But that’s hard when it’s really not.
Was I just jealous?
Did that green-eyed monster just get inside me and make me feel jealous of everyone around me? Yes, it did. And on some days it just took me over. I was jealous of anyone who resembled a more secure life than I was experiencing. I was jealous of seeing couples supporting each other. I was jealous of seeing fathers parenting their children. I was jealous of mothers having the support of their husbands in raising their kids. I was jealous of seeing husbands being faithful to their families. And I saw and felt what was missing in my life.
But I realize all these years later that it may just have been on me. What I didn’t understand then but do see now, was that it was really all my own self-inflicted issues that were causing me pain. Oh don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of tone-deaf people that made sure that they illustrated how secure they were by reminding me that I was single and that I was a single mom and that I was raising a family on one income. People who made sure that I was fully aware of how much money they had and how secure they were. Always greeting me with that sad face.
But what I now think, is that they too were feeling insecure. They too were afraid that what happened to my life, could happen to theirs. By telling me how wonderful their lives were was their way of reconfirming to themselves that they were okay. But maybe they weren’t. Or maybe they just didn’t know what to say to me. Maybe that was their way of saying everything was going to be alright.
Stop and take a breath
Before you go down any rabbit holes where you are feeling exhausted by the pain you have been inflicting on yourself, take a moment and just stop and breath.
You don’t need to keep up with anyone. Just you and your kids. That’s enough already. Save your energy dollars for them and for what is really important. Be authentic and honor your accomplishments as you go along. Yeah, being a single parent can really suck. It’s hard, but it’s also beautiful too. I no longer look at anyone around me with a sense of FOMO or jealousy.
I wish this older self could have counseled my younger self at the silliness of wasting time on all that stuff. What I have learned is that if you have people in your life that make it their mission to make you feel less because you are single and a single mom, which in turn causes you pain then gently remove them from your life. Stop missing out on any day of your life by giving those feelings oxygen. Focus on all that good in your life and celebrate yourself and your children every day.
You are extraordinary and everyone who really and truly cares about you sees only that! And for those who can’t see you that way, well just smile, wish them well, and do not offer them any further access to your self-esteem. You are a proud woman in your own right. You are a single mother who is rocking a lot and doing a brilliant job! Your role has never been to keep up with anyone.
Your role is to be the fabulous person you always knew you were! So go on now…you got a lot of wonderful things yet to do! You have children that are looking up to you for their own sense of security. That is the most important thing you should focus on. And in the end, you will all be happy being a wonderful family in your own right! Single moms rock! Never forget that!
My mother was the single most important influence in my life. I saw her struggles as a single mom. She taught me the values of hard work and responsibility and also of compassion and empathy- also being able to look at the world through somebody else’s eye and stand in their shoes. Barack Obama 44th President of the United States