“Single Mom”: Dirty (and Inadequate) Words

Single mom. A phrase that carries with it so many stereotypes and mixed connotations. It is alternately used as praise and condemnation. If a child gets into trouble, the fact that he or she is raised by a single mom will surely be pointed out, and more than likely pointed to, as the reason for his or her behavior. And there is always an extra note of triumph in the success stories of adults who were raised by a single mom, as if their achievements are even more remarkable because of it. Admittedly, there is also often a sense of awe that being a single mom inspires. I sometimes feel this is unwarranted, after all, being a mom is awe-inspiring whether you are single or not. However, being praised and acknowledged is obviously better than being treated as a scourge on society, so I’ll accept the compliments uttered in wonder that I “do it all” on my own.

Either way, being a single mom is more than being a statistic, more than the left-handed (or right-handed) compliments, and more than media and political hype. It is more than the news stories and small-town gossip. It is more than the scarlet letter people tend to pin on us and more than what people assume about us. Being a single mom is more than the label itself.

Being a single mom is having double the love and half of the money.

Being a single mom means having to make all the hard decisions and living with doubt that you are making the right ones.

Being a single mom means saying “no” to things when you really wish you could say “yes”.

Being a single mom means saying “yes” when you shouldn’t because you are so tired of saying “no”.

Being a single mom is holding your child in the middle of the night when they are scared or sick and knowing that you wouldn’t trade places with another human for anything.

Being a single mom means feeling guilty for ordering pizza when you just can’t cook a meal after a long day of work or serving peanut butter and jelly because you can’t afford pizza.

Being a single mom means accepting money and hand-me-downs from people and letting gratitude and pride duke it out in your head. (Spoiler alert: gratitude wins)

Being a single mom is having a heart full to bursting as you watch your child grow and learn and succeed and you know that you are doing everything right.

Being a single mom is also having a heavy heart as you watch your child struggle and fail and you are sure you are doing everything wrong.

Being a single mom means Father’s Day could comfortably fall off the calendar.

Being a single mom means that every person you date will be seen through highly discriminating eyes.

Being a single mom means that those same eyes are going to be even more scrutinous toward the dates of your children.

Being a single mom is simultaneously feeling like you have something and nothing to prove to the world.

Being a single mom means that church can be painful.

Being a single mom is feeling like a failure and a rock star within the same day, sometimes within the same hour.

Being a single mom means cringing when someone mentions discussing a family decision over with “your husband”.

Being a single mom means double cringing when someone asks your children about their father.

Being a single mom means that there are going to be some very lonely, difficult, and dark nights of the soul.

Being a single mom also means you will experience fulfillment and satisfaction you didn’t know was possible.

Being a single mom means being resourceful, outspoken, independent, tired, upbeat, and hopeful.

Being a single mom means eating the food left over on your child’s plate and maybe nothing else.

Being a single mom is wearing the same shoes until they fall apart so that your kids can have new sneakers.

Being a single mom means sometimes a clean house is not a priority.

Being a single mom means haircuts, manicures, and new outfits for you are luxuries.

Being a single mom is sometimes breaking down and admitting how hard this life can be.

Being a single mom means thinking about your kids when you are at work and work when you are with your kids and feeling pulled in a million different directions.

Being a single mom is not the life you once envisioned.

Being a single mom is finding strength you didn’t know you had, humor in the chaos, and a fierce, protective love for the family you have devoted yourself to.

Being a single mom is being the MVP in your child’s life.

God bless all the single moms doing the best they can despite being bombarded by ignorant remarks and attitudes. Like the Peace Corps, this is the toughest job you’ll ever love. Too many women get stuck believing in the bullshit that we hear about single moms and their kids, as if our futures are practically a foregone conclusion. Do not believe it.

Single moms are strong and capable and our children have inherited these traits from us. They will live what they learn and when they learn that determination and hard work pay off because they watch as their parent tirelessly gives and does and advocates and provides for them, they will know that they too can take on the world. Someday, they will thank you. And maybe, just maybe, the world will stop blaming and shaming single moms for everything from gun violence to poverty and instead start encouraging and helping the women who show up every day to do the hard work of raising kids on their own.

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