Maybe your husband is out town for work. Maybe your partner works nights or weekends and you feel as though you are always on opposite schedules. The childcare, the household responsibilities, the schedules all start to pile up when you mutter that seemingly simple phrase:
“I feel like a single mom.”
Single moms everywhere cringe a little every time they hear that. As a single mom myself, it can feel as though our life situation is trivialized…especially if you’ve never been a single mom before. A friend once explained it like this: it’s like saying “This tastes like crap.” You don’t actually know what crap tastes like but if YOU had to imagine it…it would be that. Now, before you stop reading, let me explain.
Feeling vs Being
There is a distinction between married women with a spouse who is gone frequently (or works a lot) and single women raising children alone. It’s not to say one is harder than the other. It’s recognizing that they are very different life situations.
Generally speaking, having a spouse means having support. That support can come in a variety of ways: emotionally, financially, relationally, physically. You may be fortunate enough to receive all of those, or it may be a struggle to receive just one. At the end of the day, you know he’s out there and you know (a general timeframe of) when he’s coming home. You may still be the one managing majority of the household and parenting responsibilities, but there is a huge difference between doing most of the work and having to do all of the work.
Being a single mom means there’s no one coming home.
It all falls on you. All of the time. The routines, the meals, the fun times, the challenging times. There is no one at the end of the day to help, or even just to talk to, when you’re a single mom. Child support may or may not exist. Parenting time and custody may be mutually agreed upon or may be mandated by the state. The co-parenting relationships may be cordial or not. There are so many factors out of your control that it can be overwhelming. At the end of the day, in those moments where the weight just seems unbearable, being a single mom does feel different emotionally.
Your Struggle is Real
In 2011, TheBump.com and ForbesWomen.com made a joint effort to look at co-parenting by surveying 1,200 mothers, both working and stay-at-home. Majority of mothers surveyed reported feeling overwhelmed and without enough parenting breaks.
The study found that 24% of working and 28% of stay-at-home moms surveyed agreed that sometimes they feel like a “married single mom.”
Your struggle is real and your feelings matter. Your feelings are just that: yours. No one should discount that. It can be frustrating when the realities of parenting in a marriage don’t line up with your vision or expectations. You are not alone. You may or may not have help, but you can do this. And, always, you are the exact mama your kiddos need.
One of the biggest lessons I had to learn as a single mom was learning to let go of perfection. Let the dishes sit a little longer, let the laundry wait until tomorrow. The reality of single parenting is that you don’t know how you do it all either, but it all manages to get done one way or another. Looking too far ahead can increase your feelings of being overwhelmed or alone. Instead, focus on what you can do that day. And if that’s too much, break it down smaller into hours or even minutes.
Let’s Cut the Comparison.
Change the Adjective.
Instead of feeling like a single mom, let’s change the adjective. I feel like a superhero mom, a struggling mom. A lonely mom, a happy mom, an overwhelmed mom.
In this journey of motherhood, it’s not about being married, single, widowed or divorced. It’s about being a mom. And being a mom is tough…period.
Instead of comparing our trenches, let’s pull up a seat, lend an ear and let the other know they are not alone, no matter how alone they may feel. Empathy can go a long way. We all just want to feel seen. Let’s do what we can to support each other where we are no matter our marital status.