I’m a Single Mom, Not a Stereotype.

It took me a long time to accept, and figure out what the label single mom, meant for me after my husband left. I knew what it meant to be a “wife” and a “mother”, but I had no idea how to be a “single mom.”  And to my shock, I realized quickly that the perception of a single mom is totally different than that of a married mom.

Suddenly it was like I was no longer part of the “mom” club, somehow overnight I’d become less of a parent and a less qualified mother.  But my married mom friends would say things like “Oh I totally understand, my husband travels all the time and never helps around the house, I’m basically a single mom too.” And I’d think; I pray you are never in my shoes, because you’d not last a day. The two are in no way comparable.   Slowly they’d stop calling because they couldn’t relate to me anymore, we were no longer the same. I was on my own, in more ways than one.

And when I’d meet friends and mom’s who never knew me when I was married, I was still not “one of them,” because even though I’d been married eight years, it was somehow no longer relevant. I  felt like the girl on the outside who “just doesn’t get what it’s like to be married with kids.” Being a single mom is more isolating than anyone can imagine. The isolation is deep and intense, and no one gets it, or understands, and so you just move forward… alone.  And that’s not self-pity talking, that is cold reality, and one that takes a lot of time to adjust to.

In the beginning I figured out pretty quickly how negatively society views the term single mom, it comes with so much judgment and stereotypes, something I never would have expected.  I noticed people treated me differently when I was out and about with three very small kids and no longer wearing a wedding ring. Suddenly there was shame and embarrassment as if I needed to explain to strangers why I had three babies and no wedding ring.  I even went so far as to buy a fake ring because I couldn’t deal with the humiliating way I felt people perceived me.  And when I would tell people my husband left, I’d get that pity look, like “oh no wonder.”  I hated that even more because it separated me from everyone else in a negative way.

Society, and the media have continued to portray single moms as; “baby mama’s” who will sleep with anyone, and have kids with different fathers.  In fact I was, and still am so shocked when I meet a man for the first time, and tell him I have three children, how often he asks “do your kids have different dad’s?”  It’s like, what??  It’s crazy. People also assume we are
“a hotmess”, not dependable, always making excuses, and are never home with our kids because we are always working or parting. And those are the more positive terms, others that come to mind based on the image society gives single moms, is: unstable, unfit, stressed-out, bitter, dependent, whore, needy, desperate, flaky, unmotivated, always feeling sorry for
themselves… and the list goes on. 

It took a few years for me to come to terms with this title, this label that I live with every day. But the only way I’ve been able to do that is to try and redefine it for not only myself, but my children. I refused to fall into the stereotypes that said I was “less than,”so I worked harder than everyone else I knew.  I was more dependable, more motivated.  To this day have never introduced my kids to a guy I’ve dated, in fact they have never even been around any men outside of my friends husbands, family and a few pro-athletes I’ve coached, at games.  I’ve gone above and beyond to break through these negative associations people have already in their mind about me, based on this title. I’m fiercely independent (to the point I have even paid for dates, and taken care of who I was dating instead of allowing them to do that for me). I’ve fraught hard to break the mold. And I’ve taught my children to do the same, to never think that they are “less than” because they are growing up with one parent.  Or to think that their life is not complete or their future inhibited in any way.

I’m not remotely perfect in any way, in fact I’m beautifully scared and flawed, but I won’t let anyone put labels on me that don’t belong. I won’t own and carry the mistakes of others.  Instead I hope to help clear a new path, one that shows single mom’s in a positive light. That I can help be a role-model for other newly single moms to realize they can be anything they want to be, regardless of the negative baggage that comes with this label.  You can have a successful career (and not feel ashamed of that), and just because you do, doesn’t mean you are a shitty mom or raising “latch-key-kids”.  You can still be there for your kids, take them to school, and activities, and do homework with them at night, and cook a real meal at dinner, and sing their song at bedtime.  You can keep a clean house, and take care of yourself, look good and do the 300 other things we do, alone.  Outside the view of the people who would judge us. They don’t know until they walk in our shoes, and at some point along the way I stopped caring what they thought of me. I had to instead put my energy on making my life the best it could be and redefining what that was. So now the term single mom means this to me… anything is possible.

PS. I would REALLY like to see a show on TV (reality or otherwise) that featured a successful, independent single mom with multiple kids, doing it all. Raising good, well rounded happy kids, having a successful career, pursuing her passion and finding a way to have a social life. That would make some good TV. Instead of “teen mom’s” and all that negative messy drama, show me a single mom who’s a boss! Who’s holding it down, making it happen but is still a devoted loving mom… Who’s with me on that?

 

 

3 Comments

  • March 31, 2014 - 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I’m a single mom too. Successful raising well rounded children. I get the idea of a reality TV with someone like us, but people wouldn’t watch it because it’s not what they want to see. I’ve been a single mom now for ten years.

  • April 25, 2014 - 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I really admire single moms. They’re my personal heroes. Being a mom is probably the hardest full-time vocation in the world, and that’s with the support of a husband. But when that support is cut off, that’s when mothers are faced with a burden few normal-humans shy away from. I’ve seen a few who were about to give up, but they soldier on, braving the future with their kid/s. And I agree with your meaning of a single mom. More power to you!

    Christine @ West Green Family Law

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