Rebranding the Single Mom℠: Sarah Netter
Sarah Netter and I met while I was a producer at ABC News. We would exchange brief hellos born out of a familiarity from working in the same place for years. And then a common friend asked me if I would be willing to have a candid and confidential conversation with a single woman who was considering adopting a child – and my friendship with Sarah was born. I recall one particular conversation when she asked me if she was crazy to be embarking on this journey, and I candidly shared my thoughts, which culminated with:
Single motherhood is difficult. Motherhood is difficult. From what I have been told, being a wife or a husband is difficult. Running a marathon is difficult, and the list goes on and on and on. Difficult does not equal bad – at least not in my book. And as long as you are prepared for the bumps in the road, and you have the resources you need to be the kind of mother you want to be, then my answer to that large, huge, question is, “Yes. But…”
Since that conversation, Sarah became the mother of a wonderful little boy.
Here is her story:
Name: Sarah Netter
Bio: Watching coverage of Desert Storm inspired me to spend my life telling other people’s stories. I spent several years as a newspaper reporter before transitioning to digital journalism as a producer for ABCNews.com, and then, switching to broadcast journalism as a producer for “World News with Diane Sawyer.”
Tell us a little about yourself.
I love dogs, disaster movies and Buzzfeed lists. Oh and screaming goat videos on YouTube. I can’t get enough of those. I am too Type A for most people’s tastes, but hopefully my sense of humor helps soften that at least a little bit.
How many children do you have?
One. I have a beautiful, 17-month-old son.
What has changed the most since you became a single mom?
My priorities. And not just the “my child comes first now” priorities. He, of course, does come first — I mean, yes, I sneak him into bed a little earlier on Thursdays so I can watch “Scandal” with a bowl of ice cream on my lap — but how I look at every single decision has changed. Nothing is untouched — every decision, no matter how big or small, is somehow a plan for the future.
The decisions could be major, like where do I want to settle down and how do I get there. Or minor — if I go to the grocery store now instead of doing laundry, does that leave me available to take my son to the zoo tomorrow? Every decision involves priorities and every decision seems to need meticulous planning to make all the puzzle pieces fit together.
When you have one of those days…you know the kind I am talking about…and you have to dig down deep…what is it exactly that helps you pull through?
I look at my son and think about how hard we had to work to become a family. He was born prematurely — a 29-weeker — and we faced a lot of trials and tough roads in the beginning. So when things get tough, I remember how I sat by his incubator and cried and wanted nothing more than to hold him. And whatever it is that made the day “one of those days” doesn’t seem so bad by comparison. Because at the end of the day, we did it and we are doing it.
And I’m not going to lie. It’s not always that profound. Sometimes you just need to zone out for five minutes and play some Candy Crush.
Who are your role models in life?
Everyone in my life who was a mother before me. I was one of the last of my friends and family to have children and I have an incredible resource in all these women who beat me to it. So thank you — mom, Sally, Eve, Melanie, Amanda, Andrea, Alice, Rachel, Enjoli, Cara and everyone else who has given me food for thought whether they realized it or not. I’ve been collecting your successes and your failures, your good ideas and your lessons learned.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about single mothers?
Oh wow, where to start. That we wound up single mothers through some fault of our own. I chose to be a single mother. Sought it out and went for it. And it was the best decision I have ever made.
The misconceptions are endless. That we are rich or that we are poor. That we are promiscuous. That we are all lesbians. That we are constantly looking for a husband or partner to pick up the slack.
Oh and it’s not a misconception, really, but please stop saying you are a single mother when your husband works late or goes out of town for the weekend. Please. Just stop.
And..ugh…what is the worst thing someone has said to you about being an unmarried parent?
Just the never ending stream of questions about whether I have a man in my life or when I’m going to find one. And questions about my son’s paternity. Dude, my son is right here. Did you really just ask me that?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about (single) motherhood?
To not worry about whether I can do it, but instead know that I am doing it.
What makes your heart sing?
My heart sings — melts, really — every time my son smiles at me. His whole face lights up and nothing else matters in that moment. You can’t help but smile back.
What perspective is missing in the broader single mom narrative that exists in this country?
It’s time “single mother” stop being a negative term. More and more women are choosing to be single mothers, including women under the age of 40. We are professionals, executives, PTA moms, writers, volunteers.
We find sex partners, sperm donors, surrogates. We adopt. We undergo in-vitro fertilization.
We aren’t hurting anyone by being single mothers — my child is happy and well-adjusted. I look just like anyone else. I have the right to complain at the end of a hard day just like anyone else. This constant stigma to the words “single mother” has got to stop.
And how are you #RebrandingTheSingleMom?
I like to think I am showing people that life can be great as a single mom. People still seem somewhat stunned when I share that I chose to be a single mother. They see a busy, high-strung, career-focused woman who is also a …. single mom? Those two images don’t always sit side-by-side in people’s minds. So I hope I’m changing that idea of what a single mom is, one person at a time.
If you are interested in sharing your single mom story – drop me a line!