I am learning that being a single mom is a SUPER POWER. It is not tidy, it is not organized, it is not usually pretty, but it’s always powerful. So, if you are new to this game, please join me in donning that cape sweet sister. We’ve got this.
I have a confession to make: I hate the term “single mom.” Ironic, as I am one. I write for a site that is built for them, and I typically join bandwagons with wild abandon and girl power for days. Got a cause that needs taking up? I’m your gal!
It took me many months before I could even refer to myself as a “single mom.” At first, I thought, “Well their dad participates, we have a regular schedule of visits and weekends, I have friends who help out, and now I am even dating someone who is very willing to take care of the boys when needed. I am not a single mom, I am a separated mom with a really big support system.”
Without even realizing it, I had bought into some sort of negative stereotype of what a single mom is and brought my own unconscious bias into every single interaction I had on the topic. I was all that is not me; we are the new divorce generation (thank you, Gwyneth Paltrow, for your “conscious uncoupling“). I thought somehow I was better, cooler, and more together than whatever image was planted in my head of what single moms actually are. I am very good at covering discomfort with loud, sparkly stories, successfully distracting myself and those around me from the actual truth. I’m the David Copperfield of perfectionist rhetoric. And this was my latest trick.
Now, zoom in on my life as I slog through the daily grind of lunches, school conferences, doctor appointments, sibling rivalry, birthday parties, and playdates alone. Ahem. Perhaps time to reconsider my eschewing of the “single mom” label? Likely.
Therefore, now that it’s been a year or so, I am attempting to embrace this title with more gusto and not feel so awkward when saying, “Nope, just me, single mom. Table for three please.”
This leaves me asking, how did I get there? I so readily accepted the titles of “wife,” “working mom,” and “mom of boys” with all the highs and lows that come with each of those. So how and why was “single mom” so very hard? What gives?
First of all, check out the examples out there for us single moms in the pop culture of our generation. In most Disney movies, moms are either dead or evil stepwitches; not a whole lot to go on there.
Jerry Maguire brought us the cutest kid ever and fulfilled every teenager’s 80s fantasy that the Top Gun guy would fall madly in love with her, yet the whole dynamic on how he actually loved the kid and maybe not so much her? Also, not what I’d like to hang my hopes on.
Take my very favorite childhood movie (and likely the start of my lifelong musical theater obsession) Annie. That Miss Hannigan couldn’t make it through the day with all those kids without drinking, and really she was just trying to swindle them and get a smooch from the laundry guy.
Those three dads in Three Men and a Baby sure stepped up to the plate to rescue the little mama who just simply couldn’t do it on her own. Their shenanigans were lovable and sold me even further on the fact that yes, kids need many, many parents to make it all work. Further, none of these look like the reality I found myself facing when their dad moved out and I became sole proprietor of a life built for two now managed by one. It seemed desolate.
Being a single mom means taking on more than you ever realized possible. Even when you have help, a tribe, a boyfriend, and a participatory bio dad — the buck stops with you. There’s nothing cute or fun about worrying alone in the dark corners of the night about your son’s progress report, never sleeping in, or always paying a babysitter when it’s just mundane stuff like running group — or big stuff like the theater gig you finally got. Dad, boyfriend, grandparents, and friends all get to give them back at the end of the day or weekend; they are never not mine, and I am never not on call. I am not complaining; I am stating fact — which, in turn, is making me realize that by shirking the title, I lost some of my power.