I’m a single mom, but I don’t do it alone

Guest post by Amanda
Single Mum mug by Etsy seller Mugglespeak

I’ve been doing this single mom thing for nearly two years now. Truth be told, I got used to doing a lot of the parenting on my own well before I was separated/divorced because my ex-husband was on second shift and I worked a typical 9-5. Since he worked late, I’d bring the kids to daycare in the morning so he could sleep and I’d pick them up in the evening while he was at work. He worked a lot of overtime on the weekends, so often it was left to me to entertain the kiddos. It always came pretty easy for me to do it all myself and once I was officially separated, nothing really changed except the law now mandated that I was the one primarily responsible for the care and well-being of our children.

I honestly have never minded that much. As we’re all painfully aware, there are a lot of choices that need to be made when it comes to raising kids and frankly, making those decisions is a lot easier when you can do it unilaterally. Compromising is a huge pain in the ass and the type-A personality side of me likes having all the control.

I’ve had many friends and family and acquaintances exclaim, “I don’t know how you do it!” when I mention the kids and work and school and all my various activities. I have a LOT on my plate, but in the throes of it, I just… do it. I manage. Somehow. Here’s the thing, though. I think the term “single mom” is kind of misleading.

Yes, I am single. “Single” in the strictly relationship-status-definition of the word. I do not have a boyfriend or significant other who helps me with housework and rubs my feet at night and shares the day-to-day responsibility of caring for my children. But I think the term “single mom” conjures up this idea of a woman who is doing everything alone. And I’m not alone.

I have a huge network of people who I rely on to get me through every single day. And when I say “rely on” I mean I would probably have a complete nervous breakdown if I was left to actually fend for myself for any significant length of time. Hell, I was stuck in the house alone with my kids for only a few days this winter during a storm and by the end of it I was ready to punt them both out the window and then curl up in my bed with a bottle of Pinot.

So it’s always kind of awkward for me to fully accept all the praise and the compliments because I don’t feel like I truly deserve them. To me, it’s kind of like how the producer of a movie accepts the Oscar for Best Picture when you know that movie couldn’t have been made without the enormous support of cast and crew.

So just as a producer stands up and thanks a bunch of people for helping him make his movie, I feel like I need to extend some thanks to a few key players in my production:

My parents live relatively close by and help me out whenever they can. For example, when I have symphony rehearsal, my mom drives an hour each way one night a week to sit with the kids just so I can go to practice for two hours (kind of insane when you think about it…) My kids love their Mema and Beba and I use that to my full advantage.

My three sisters all live within a reasonable driving distance and we help keep each other sane as only sisters can.

I have a spectacular daycare provider who I am lucky enough to also consider a dear friend of mine. You know the whole, “it takes a village” concept? Well, D definitely lives in my village and is pretty much a second mom to my kids. In keeping with my movie analogy, she’d be the Executive Assistant; I’m not getting shit done without her. Sometimes I get a little teary thinking about the fact that my kids actually spend more time with her during the week than they do with me. But then, one of them usually starts acting like an asshole and suddenly I’m totally ok with it.

While my ex and I have our differences and we’re never going to be those divorced spouses who have joint birthday parties or vacations together, he has become reliable in his weekend visitation with the kids and for that I am grateful. Initially I thought giving up the kids every weekend (as opposed to every other which seems to be the standard) would be tough. But it’s not. Really, it’s SO not. Related: my ex’s parents are spectacular grandparents, so my kids are super lucky there.

There are a lot of other players in my raising-my-kids movie who deserve recognition like all my friends who would step in at a moment’s notice to babysit or help out in any way. Or the adorable ladies at the gym who run the gym daycare and allow me my hour or so a day to run and sweat and feel good about myself. And my nice neighbors who don’t mind keeping an eye on the hellions while they play outside while I try and slap together something resembling dinner. Or the girl who frequently babysits for me who my kids absolutely adore.

There you have it. Yeah, I’m a single mom, but I can’t and don’t do this shit by myself. And I know I’m super lucky, because there are single moms and dads out there who don’t have family and friends close by — who really DO manage to do everything alone.

So to them I send out a huge “I don’t know how the hell you do it.”

Single parents without family in town, how do you cultivate a supportive community?

Comments on I’m a single mom, but I don’t do it alone

  1. I get this. I am a single mom too, and without my parents, my grandparents, my aunts, and uncles, I would fall apart. My child’s father isn’t in the picture, but the males in my family have really stepped up and helped me as needed, which is wonderful.

    It truly does take a village.

  2. My stepdaughter is 2.5 and she comes over every Tuesday/Thursday evening and every other weekend and its a very comfortable relationship with everyone most of the time… we spend as much time with her as we can and respect her mom as the ultimate “Mom”.

    On Father’s day her mom posted on facebook saying “Happy Father’s day to me for being both mother and father to my daughter” which was a huge blow to both of us. My husband is hugely involved in his daughter’s life and is extremely supportive, loving, and always there for her.

    Posts like this help me remember what it’s like on the “other” side of the relationship & keep everything into perspective. Thank you for that!

    • I have to say, it bothers me when I see all the father-bashing that goes on on FB around Father’s Day. It seems inappropriate and immature to me. Even if the claims are true, I don’t think social media is the place to air those grievances.

      That being said, your stepdaughter is extremely lucky that she has both parents and you in her life. Honestly, I think the bigger the village, the better 🙂

    • 🙁 That’s a hurtful thing to read, and I’m sorry for you and your husband. I can promise you, though – your stepdaughter wouldn’t consider her mother as a father replacement – she knows your husband is her father, and is a loving and involved one. Never fear. 🙂

  3. Great article, I can definitely agree with “making those decisions is a lot easier when you can do it unilaterally. Compromising is a huge pain in the ass and the type-A personality side of me likes having all the control.” I envy that you have so many close family members living nearby- I wish! Still, we do have incredible daycare providers – can’t say enough about the value of insightful, experienced early childhood educators for all children and their parents – single or not. Good luck with all your personal and family goals – I am confident you will achieve them. 🙂

  4. Well said. Learning to accept help graciously and gratefully has not only been the most humbling lesson of parenting for me, but also the most valuable. I started learning it when my twins were born and we were so bewildered and overwhelmed. But I sure was grateful that I had practice in accepting and asking for help when my husband and I separated. In some ways, I think my kids are luckier, because they’ve grown up with an extended network of people who love and care for them and their well being, a network I might not have felt the need to form and maintain in a 2-parent household. Looking at my teens now, I know that there is no way they would be the well-adjusted, awesome kids they are if they had only had ME to rely on all those years. How much richer our lives have turned out to be!

    • Oh, I totally agree! Even though my kids are still very young, I can already see the benefits of having such a wide network of people in their lives. They’re relatively comfortable in new social situations, they’re confident and outgoing, they play well with others – all personality traits that I believe would have been stunted had I not relied on so many other people (not to mention the fact that *I* probably would have lost my mind!)

  5. This soooo totally describes my situation. Sometimes I feel bad even claiming the “single mom” badge because I have so many people who help with my son.

  6. I can so relate to this as I have been on the other side of it with absolutely no one and a (then) husband who came home from work one weekend the entire year. I ended up in a very bad place mentally. I agree that any sole parent should look for that external support, the village to assist them. Better for the parent and the child(ren).

  7. I totally get this. On another hand. I wish it were possible to convey that I’m a single- but-not-single mom. By that, I mean that while I don’t have a partner in parenting or someone to take my son for five minutes or help make dinner or give me back rubs, I’m not technically single. I do have a partner, and I couldn’t manage without him (Yay emotional support!) but we don’t live together and aren’t married yet. Oh well.

  8. My husband is a great dad, but sometimes I envy single moms who get to make all of the decisions. I am very controlling (where it comes to parenting and other important things) and my choices are either to give up that control -or- explain each of my choices to my husband and basically enforce it. Kind of a lose-lose.

    One of my best friends is a single mom with NO support from her child’s dad… and yet, that little girl is raised by a VILLAGE. Sometimes I’m jealous because they have so much community and we’re such a nuclear family.

  9. My mom was a single mom in the same essence. But I never felt alone, or that my mom didn’t do an amazing job. The people in our “village” included her parents, friends of my moms, our neighbours, the local Boys and Girls Club, the parents of people on our sports teams… there was never a time where I felt my mom was completely on her own. And I am so thankful that not only was my mom an amazing mom, but she set up a great system for us to have to support us too.

  10. As the grown-up daughter of a single mom and an entire village of parental figures, I have to say it’s encouraging to see that there are some single moms out there who acknowledge and feel grateful toward the other people that help raise their children. My mother actively resents the fact that I have anything like a parent-child relationship with anyone but her and her new husband. She gets jealous of every minute I spend with my grandmother, my aunts, and my uncles unless I have spent a proportional amount of time with her or I have her explicit approval to spend time with them. I’m a grown woman who has to hide the fact that she has a relationship with her aunt and uncle from her mother. We *lived with* this aunt and uncle for a time when I was growing up. They were always my extra parents, but now it’s suddenly not okay for me to see a play with my aunt or go see my uncle in the hospital. (I really, really wish I were exaggerating.)
    Unfortunately for my mother, my family was full of people who were parents to me growing up and influenced me just as much, if not more, than she did. My mother and I have never gotten along, and one particular uncle embraced all the things about me that my mother has never been able to stand. He taught me self-confidence and self-respect while my mother tried to teach me to hide the parts of myself that she found objectionable.
    Please, single parents, if there is one thing you can do for your kids — if you’re lucky enough to have *anyone* to help you raise them — please do not make your children feel guilty for the simple act of loving and wanting a relationship with their family members. It will hurt everyone in the end, especially your children.
    Sorry for the mega-comment. This just hits really close to home.

    • I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this. But at least as an adult, you’re able to recognize those other figures in your life and foster your relationships with them (even though you have to hide them from your mother… so sad).

      It can be hard to let go sometimes, to allow your children to grow close to other adults because you can’t help but feel that you’re missing out on that little part of them. But it’s really better to recognize that everyone is better off if your children are allowed to interact with a wide array of people in order to learn from them and to grow their village and develop a wide safety net of people who can help mold them into well-rounded, happy adults.

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