You Call Yourself a ‘Single Mom’?

Photo: Figurines of Mama and Baby BearWhere’s that damn soapbox? Oh yeah, there it is. Now… Ahem.

Pardon me while I go off on a tangent for 300 (or 1,200) words about something that irks me to no end. There’s not one reason in particular why today’s topic burns my biscuits as much as it does; nonetheless, my bum is aflame and I feel compelled to rant; or, if you prefer, to pontificate in the least pompous way possible. It is what it is, I s’pose.

Here are my picks for the top three offenders, in no particular order or level of goat-getting ability:

If you’re formerly known as Mrs. Surname Here, a single Mama Bear you are not.

Yeah, I said it. But read my explanation before you prepare a roast in my honor.

When I decided to browse the WordPress tag “single moms” it was in an effort to connect with women floating along in the same boat as myself. What I discovered was blog after blog by women who are divorced and claiming single mom status. They weren’t simply attesting to their residence in singlemomdom. No, they are “true” single moms; down in the same trenches as every other single mom and facing the same issues.

What?!? I heard myself asking myself.

How are these women “single moms” when they: (a) have an ex-husband to hand the kids off to every other weekend and sometimes throughout the week; (b) have financial and/or emotional support from the other half of their kids’ DNA; and/or (c), have the often overlooked, and severely underrated, advantage of not having to play every major role in their kids’ lives? The majority of the internal struggles I face as a single parent stem from the latter.

If you’re a MOM (mother outside of marriage) and you (a) live with your parents or (b) live with your significant other, you don’t make the cut either.

Please see my reasoning in the above “Mrs. Surname Here” section.

If you have someone living in the home with you, who offers financial and/or emotional support, then you don’t know the enormous pressure single moms are under. Before you go to bed at night and are able to talk about the difficult day you had to another adult who shared in that day’s events, you get to unload some of that pressure and feel some sort of relief before sleepy time.

My fears, doubts, and questions remain stored inside until I am able to address them one by one. That is not a complaint, just a statement of fact: I am the sole caregiver with 100% of the parental responsibilities and rewards.

If you live with a significant other then you get to offer your child the most coveted asset of all: a positive male role model to help fill the void left by the child’s absent father. And single moms, don’t be fooled, no matter how great we are at our “jobs,” the void is canyon-sized and always will be. That’s just a fact of life.

Photo: Baby's Hand on Daddy's HandWe can do our best to shovel in as much good times, moral support, positive reinforcement, and self-esteem boosters as possible. Alas, in the end, your child will still yearn for a “daddy.” It took me years to accept that and it’s taken me years to figure out how to eliminate the guilt associated with it. But there are coping skills for you and your child, so if you haven’t started, please learn those skills and teach them to your child as soon as you can.

What? You chose to go it alone? Close, but “no soup for you.”

Yes, you are definitely a helluva lot closer to my definition of a single mom than any of these other ladies. I actually have a great deal of respect for women (and men) who decide their desire (and ability) to be a parent outweighs society’s (and a child’s) necessity for a two-parent family unit.

However, if you chose to go the artificial insemination route, I might have a rant brewed just for you. Or if your choice to fly solo leaves you in a situation similar to that of the divorced woman and/or MOM, then please see their respective sections above.

But if you’re one of those special people who gave an orphaned child a loving, supportive, and much-needed home, then kudos to you! Just please don’t post on your blog about how great you are or whine incessantly about how hard single parenting is or how much you deserve this or that. Praise and rewards are bestowed on those who are truly deserving — those who sacrifice without expectations.

Photo: Child Standing Beside MotherHow do I define a “true” single mom?

Simple: A mother who provides more than 60% of her child’s – or children’s – financial and emotional support, whose father abandoned her during or directly after pregnancy, and the father is not involved at all – or on very rare occasions (less than once a year) – in her child’s life. And she does all of that while living alone without the in-house support of another adult.

So what’s the big deal? Who cares if someone labels themselves as a single mom?

Fair enough.

With each subsequent blog written by ladies in the above situations, my blood boiled. Not because I think these women don’t deserve the respect, empathy, and compassion normally earned by dropping the phrase “single mom.” But because their blogs had an air of entitlement.

I’m sorry but no one, not even single moms as defined by yours truly, is entitled to automatic respect or outs just because they say five words: “I am a single mom.” And they’re also not immediately deserving of every financial gain there is to be had.

So don’t expect me to respect you or empathize with your hardships or give you my hard-earned money simply because you’re a single mom by your own loose interpretation of the word. I would award all three of those things to any parent who toils daily with minimal complaints, let’s slip an occasional “Life is hard,” but more often rambles on with “Man am I lucky to have this kid!”

Okay, I’m off the soapbox and it’s once again tucked under my bed.

WEB RESOURCES

Single Mothers Online: For Single Moms by Choice or Chance – The official site of the National Organization of Single Mothers.

Single Mom Financial Help – The budgeting tips and blog posts are particularly useful.

Single Mommyhood – An uber blog co-authored by two single moms – maybe not by my definition – with great advice on dating and sex.

SingleMom.com: Resources for Single Moms – This site is jam-packed with information, so if you can wade through the crowded pages, there’s gold in them there hills.


DISCLAIMER: The above rant is not meant to dismiss or diminish the difficulties faced by any woman who deems herself a “single mother.” It is merely my response to the, uh, fluid use of said term. I also acknowledge that not every situation is as black and white as I’ve described.

Yes, I realize this entire debate may be rendered moot after the above disclaimer but it’s my blog and I can rant if I want to, rant if I want to. You would rant to if it happened to you. Sorry, I guess I had Lesley Gore’s song in my head just then. 60s music is cool, no matter what you say.

And, as always, you’re welcome to retort via the wee comment box at the bottom of this page, but remember to play nice* or else I’ll be forced to exert my immense blogly powers and hit the “delete” key on your meanness.

*Play nice is defined as not resorting to name calling, hair pulling, rock throwing, or any other forms of idiocy. Responses written in an intelligent voice with evidence to support your viewpoint are much appreciated.

5 Comments:

  1. Hi Leah- Wow. I have only read one blog of yours, the one defining the term “single mom”. I fit your definition, as I parent my 2 teenagers 24/7 12 months of the year and have done so for years at a time. I do get child support, which might rule me out of your club. But it seems like your rant is all about getting mad at moms who are asking for society to “see” them.

    I agree that some single moms seem to milk the system, their friends, and their support systems. BUT-
    I have a lot of sympathy for parents of children who did not plan to have their babies and rasie their children alone. For parents (I will include men here too)who honestly hooked up and planned to have thir children in 2-parent homes, I think the reality of going it alone is really quite hard. Their dreams are broken, their trust is crushed, and they are working really hard to make ends meet and make sense of it all. I want to give them support wherever they are with it rather than compare my circumstances to theirs and tell them how easy they have it.

    Someone always has it harder, and someone always has it easier, Leah.

    I don’t have a partner at home to talk over the day with either, as no boyfriend at this time. But when I have in the past, it has not made it all THAT much easier on me, as it added in a whole new dimension of complicated emotions for everyone.

    Had to react, thanks for the venue.
    Anne

  2. Anne,

    Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your feedback.

    Warmest wishes,
    Leah

  3. I never thought of it that way, Leah. It’s certainly food for thought.

    I haven’t seen the blogs your talking about, but I can certainly imagine them, based on what I see and hear out in the world. Whining has become a sport, I think. But then I pick up the newspaper or talk to someone and hear about things like a 2-year-old with brain cancer or the father of three kids under the age of 10 who’s been left paralyzed because he was hit by a car while riding his bike, well, all I can think is: I have NOTHING to complain about. My problems are small potatoes compared to them.

    I think some people get so wrapped up in their own little worlds they just don’t see the difference. Or they’re just selfish whiners. I’m sorry, but when I feel like complaining like that – my handwritten journal is where I go. I don’t want the world knowing all the lurid, unflattering details.

    You are doing a fantastic job, Leah. You are taking care of your daughter and yourself with class and dignity. That is quite an accomplishment as far as I’m concerned.

    • I think that’s what I wanted to convey in my rant, but, well, a rant is a rant. I hope I didn’t come across as a whiny complainer though. Snarky, okay. But please not whiny 🙂

      It just ruffled my feathers and I wrote about it. There’d be no use in complaining about such an arbitrary thing – words and/or labels – because I see those women’s type of behavior in other areas of life and across both genders. No amount of complaining ever changed another person’s beliefs or viewpoints.

      I guess their “But I’m a single mom” excuses and complaints just got on my last nerve because they weren’t even at the bottom rung of the singlemomdom ladder. In other words, they could have it so much worse and yet they…I better stop.

      It’s one of those topics that could go on and on and on because there’s really no “right” or “wrong” answer.

      P.S. When I look up and see a little gray cloud sneaking up on me, I tell myself, “Hey! Stop that! Your daughter is healthy. You’re healthy. You don’t have to walk around naked (unless you want to and you want to scare your cats). You have a roof over your head. Food in your fridge. Electricity. And a propane tank full of gas. That’s all you need in life; the rest is just for shits ‘n giggles.”

      But if you ever see me blog with complaints about the hardships in my life, please call me on it, really! Because I know from personal experience that things could always be worse than the current situation.

  4. Wow, you actually stated what I’ve been feeling for some time! I am in a single parents group and actually feel – much as I hate to say it – a bit jealous of the other parents for exactly the reasons you so eloquently stated.

    I tried a single mothers by choice group for a while. But I don’t really fit there either as this was anything but a choice for me or my son.

    Hey, thanks for the rant and the links. I’ll check them out.

Leave a Comment