My experiences aren’t less valuable because I put the word “single” in front of it.
Upon seeing my first article published, I was ecstatic. My first piece of art was out there for the world to see and I couldn’t be happier. Then, I looked at the tags and saw the words “single mom” and immediately felt awkward.
Those two little words bothered me so much. I could not deny, by definition that yes, I am a single mother. I am neither married to nor even dating the father of my child. However, I did not identify myself as a single mother. To me, I wanted to be thought of as simply as a mother. Why did my parenthood have to be defined by whether or not I was with the father? Did that lessen the quality of my take on parenting? Am I less qualified to give advice to mothers who are married?
I struggled with this for awhile. I had to look inward. Why do I reject this title so vehemently? What’s wrong with being a single mom?
Growing up, the dream was to have children after marriage. I thought I was doing good. I had made it to 27 with no pregnancies. But life has a funny way of making a fool of you. I found myself exactly where I didn’t want to be; raising a child in a home alone. Now, let me be clear, her father and I co-parent very well. And I think that’s part of what stopped me from identifying as a single mother. Every decision that’s been made for my daughter from conception has been a joint one, she lives between both homes, and he provides for her. So, because I felt like I had a partner in this parenting thing, I did not see my position being the same as what I’ve seen other single mothers go through. I couldn’t identify with their struggles, or so I thought.
Think of how the media and even people in our own community characterize single moms — bitter, using babies as pawns, money hungry for child support, etc. From the strong single mothers I’ve been blessed to know, I know that these generalizations are far from the truth. Most of the women in my family and my friends are single mothers. I’ve witnessed the passion and drive with which they support their families not by choice, but by circumstance. They each took pride in their abilities to raise well rounded children, some without any help at all from the fathers. Yet and still, my internal struggle with this new identity was between the truth I knew and how I felt I would be perceived.
What I had to come to realize is that although I became a mother under circumstances different than I had hoped for; I can not dwell on that. My present reality is the one in which I have to reside and so that means that I can no longer reject the title of single mother. No matter how well her father and I co-parent, we aren’t together under the same roof. My child is still being raised between two homes and as primary caregiver, there are some liberties that I just don’t have. But what I’ve also come to understand is that I can’t live my truth worried about what society thinks. I know who I am and what I am. I am a mom, a single mom. As a single mother, my experiences will be different than a mother with the father in the home. But, different doesn’t mean any better or worse. My experiences aren’t less valuable because I put the word “single” in front of it.
Looking at my daughter, I am proud. I feel that over these past 18 months, I’ve grown and hit milestones right along with her. Part of this growth is acknowledging the strength and resilience I’ve gained from being a single mother. Lastly, I’ve gained a new appreciation and admiration for other single mothers. I’ve always known that raising a child on your own couldn’t be easy, but you can never know to what extent until you are in that position yourself. For this experience, I am grateful.