I often get asked: “Mel, how can I be a single mom?”
What the question really means is: Girl, how can I be a kick-ass, successful, happy single mom?
And deep within that question is: “I'm pregnant and it looks like I'm doing this alone — how hard can I expect it to be??” or “I have to get out of this relationship — how hard is it to be a single mom after divorce?!!”
If this resonates with you, then let me help you out. What you are really, actually, truthfully asking me is:
o How do I make sure my kids won't be messed up — and are even successful, productive adults?
o How can I break the stereotype of the welfare, broke, angry single mom?
o Will I ever find love? Romance? Where do I even start?
o Can I even be a happy single mom?
o WTF, this is hard and scary and I don't know where to start?!!!
Maybe you are going through a divorce, got pregnant during a casual relationship, are considering becoming a single mom by choice, by adoption or fostering, or any of the other countless scenarios you can find yourself a single mom.
This can be terrifying. After all, all that responsibility of caring for and paying for a human will likely fall on you.
Single motherhood can also be exhilarating.
If at all possible, find ways to collaborate, forgive and move forward with some sort of co-parenting relationship with your kids’ dad. Studies find this is really what is best for kids, but it is also what is best for MOMS! You need a break, support, a second adult to share in the time, emotional, money and logistical responsibilities of raising a human!
Plus, all that free time when your kids are with their father, you can build a business or career, date, relax, exercise, volunteer or hang with your friends.
Like many single mothers, I enjoy the autonomy of parenting solo, I cherish my financial and sexual freedom, and I am really proud of what I have accomplished. Most of all, I realize how resilient I am — and how resilient we are as humans. Also, it is impossible to know what will make us happy.
You can do what you want as a single mom. Especially if you are a solo parent, you don’t have to negotiation about much at all.
You can date! Whoever you want.
You can have a great perception of life that you will model for your child. You’ve gone through it. You know that all those ‘perfect’ families are secretly quirky at best, probably disintegrating, and your friends all confide in you their messed-up marriages, dysfunctional sex lives and all the other perfectly normally messy human foibles.
You may find new and better ways to co-parent with your ex. So many women report being stunned by how much better of a father their kids’ dad is after divorce (unfortunately not in our case), and how they find new and improved ways to co-parent with their ex
You learn to talk to yourself, question yourself, your motives, your joys, what makes you happy, what makes you sad, you learn what works, what doesn’t – you know you need to make it work for you and your little one and in that process you go way out your comfort zone and you learn so much about yourself. You know your weak spots and how to handle them and you really get to know your strengths and how to handle them.
But honestly - it’s just fun. Single mom often carries the image of a downtrodden woman struggling to make ends meet. And while there are certainly shades of that sometimes, it is FUN. Now that he’s older, we can take off when we want and go to the zoo, the children’s museum or just do whatever. We aren’t accountable to anyone but us.
And although there have been times where I’ve felt overwhelmed, he is so wonderfully awesome that he reminds me every day of my very important job as his mama. I have a tattoo with his name. He’s the thing that has always motivated me to stay grounded, make the hard choices, and even if i slip up, knowing he needs me brings me back to reality to keep pushing on. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
Well – not to forget - you certainly become a master at time management and this skill migrates to all areas of life.
Ultimately, you are now a single mom for as long as you choose — why not lean into it, embrace this new life for all that it is, and then assess your next move?
I was recently speaking with a recently-separated friend. She had been with her boyfriend for more than 15 years, and the prospect of spending so much alone time was daunting. Taking care of the car, the yard and the taxes were new to her. She craved a vacation, but the thought of traveling alone scared the shit out of her. All of that perfectly normal.
Especially in a world that promotes coupledom as the highest goal, and constant-companionship of a romantic partner / family / friends / pets / happy hour acquaintances as an inferior, but acceptable substitute.
Meanwhile, as the economy, social norms, and gender equality progress, we collectively chose more solitary lives.
So, remember! No matter what, you are always stronger than you think you are. You will be amazed at what you can do.