What I Wish I Had Known About Single Motherhood
My daughter’s 5th birthday is tomorrow, which means I have nearly five years of single motherhood under my belt.
I am not going to sugar coat this. For me, becoming a single mom sort of felt like being hit in the back of the head with a 2×4. Back then, when they put that tiny screaming human into my arms, I sort of felt stunned and I really had NO IDEA what today would look like and what to expect. NO. IDEA. I am not entirely sure how much would have gotten through, but I really do wish that I had someone who had been through the motions to give me a heads up on what to expect.
It always feels so strange for me to give “advice” on anything…I can’t find my car keys most days of the week and I pretend that my jeans somehow shrunk in my closet when I put on weight…but I do have a little insight into what it’s like to be a single mom. So, in honor of the ½ decade I have spent solo parenting, here are my tiny tidbits of, let’s call them guidance and encouragement, for everyone who is at the beginning of their journey…
- It’s gonna be a mess…it’s gonna be a mess. What, you ask? Oh…everything. Your body, your house, your relationships…they are all going to be messier than they were before you became a single mom. And you will come to a place where you see beauty in the mess and appreciate the days that things aren’t particularly chaotic. I know this sounds like complete and total bullsh*t, but I promise, you will. And you will grow a lot in the process.
- The days that are an absolute sh*t show, you will want to scream and yell…aaaand sometimes you will. And then you’ll beat yourself up about it. The beating yourself up is useless. Once the kid(s) are in bed, put yourself to bed and start over in the morning. After a bad day, do not, I repeat DO NOT TRY TO CLEAN UP THE MESS – GO. TO. BED. The dishes in the sink will still be there in the morning and sleep deprivation only makes a crazy person crazier.
- Cry. Oh just cry. Let. It. Out. Don’t hold back, go for it, do the ugly cry. Then pick yourself up, wash your smeared mascara off, drink an ice cold glass of water, take 3 big deep breaths and continue on. It’s not so much that it gets easier, you just get better at managing it. And you’ll get there.
- There will be days that despite the fact that you are in a room full of people, you will feel entirely alone. Take solace in the fact that, at the very least, you are not alone in your feelings. I can pretty much guarantee nearly every single mother on this planet has felt that wave of loneliness wash over them regardless, or sometimes because, they are in a room full of people.
- When that feeling washes over you, pick up the phone, send a text, send a Facebook message…whatever you do – reach out and get out of your lonely head. Talk to someone who gets you, who makes you laugh, who knew you before you were a mom or who is in the mom trenches with you. It really doesn’t matter, but do it. Say what’s up out loud. About 80% of the time, that is all you need to start to feel better.
- Stop trying to compensate for something that is not there. Just stop…nothing good ever comes out of guilt, desperation or fear, and compensating for the something that is not there is basically all of those feelings wrapped into one misguided action. Regardless of what the construct of your family is and what the talking heads on television say, you are Mom. You are enough.
- Speaking of fear and guilt, don’t be afraid to or feel guilty about enjoying your motherhood. Take it all in enjoy everything that comes with it. You deserve it. And the moments, whether you enjoy them or not, are fleeting.
- People will often say to you, “Oh (head tilt) I don’t know how you do it.” 50% of them mean it as a compliment and 50% think they’ve found a creative way to say, “Holy sh*t, I am so happy I am not you!!!” For that second group, f*ck them. Seriously, just f*ck ‘em.
- Find your people. I am not saying other single moms, although they could be it, I mean your people…the people who make you feel like the wind is at your back, the ones you know want you to do well and be your best self. Those are the people whose opinions matter. Pay attention to what they have to say and discard all of the other noise.
- When you say you are a single mom, shrug off the shame, and say it with your head held high. Single motherhood is a privilege, not a curse. Embrace the fact that your family is a family.
- Whether you believe it or not, in small tiny increments, you are actually getting stronger and your heart is getting bigger, day by day, week by week, year by year. And that is because you are doing it. You are getting up before the sun rises, you are making lunches, managing calendars, taking temperatures, giving presentations, getting the job, nailing the project, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and helping with homework. You are redefining success for yourself and your family, which means you have had to let go of the life you thought you would have so that you could fall in love with the one you do have. It’s a process, and you are going to be okay.
Listen…I know none of this is easy. But difficult isn’t necessarily bad. I had to Rebrand the Single Mom, in my heart and in my head, while learning how to believe in myself again. Letting go of the life I thought I should have so that I could fall in love with the one I do have has been a process…a sometimes bumpy one, but one I wouldn’t trade for the world. Listen to my Tedx Talk: Rebranding the Single Mom to hear how I got from where I was, to where I am today.