Rebranding the Single Mom℠: Holly Zazo

I had the pleasure of meeting Holly in Ohio when I gave my TedX talk on Rebranding the Single Mom. She candidly shared her single mom experience with me our conversation was seriously the highlight of the whole trip.

Here is her story…

Name: Holly Zazo

Age: 34

Occupation: Substitute Teacher/Artist/Art therapist/counselor

Bio: I grew up in Akron, Ohio. Lived in Albuquerque, NM and Miami, FL and eventually found my way back to Ohio. I graduated from Ursuline College with my MA in Art Therapy and Counseling this past December and am job hunting, while I continue to work part time. I hope to find a job working with children in a school setting so I can have a schedule that allows lots of time with my son. I love to do art and photography, travel when I can. Love being outside, yoga. Love and recently rediscovered running. 

Tell us a little about yourself…

I grew up in Akron, Ohio. I lived in Albuquerque, NM and Miami, FL and eventually found my way back to Ohio. I studied photography, art, interior design and ended up with a BA in sociology. I just graduated from Ursuline College with my MA in Art Therapy and Counseling this past December and am job hunting, while I work part time. I hope to find a job, very soon, doing art therapy with children in a school setting. I love to do art, especially photography, travel when I can, run, be outside, do yoga.

How many children do you have?

One son, Jasper, 2 years, 4 months

What has changed the most since you became a single mom?

Haha, Everything! Im happier, my perspective- I’m more grateful, more focused, spend my time more wisely and in more fulfilling ways, more resilient, stronger, more self-confident, I’ve realized what I am actually capable of and that is a great feeling!

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 don’t know honestly I am not sure sometimes how I have done and do what I am doing! Some unknown force I didn’t formerly know I possessed! Haha… sheer determination of making sure this kid has a great life, the extreme love I have for him, once I saw his face I knew I would do anything to keep him safe and make him happy. One smile or hysterical laugh from him and I just have to do the same.  The love you have for your child is indescribable and makes you capable of extreme things I guess. Other times I just cry and that helps in its own way too HAHA Or I just I pray for strength!

Who are your role models in life?

My family, especially my mom- when my Dad passed away unexpectedly, I was in high school and she was left alone, suddenly a “brand new” single mom with 3 teenagers. We were difficult to control to say the least, all trying to cope with our loss. But she somehow went back to work to keep our house and our lifestyle as unchanged as possible, and did the best she could. She continued to love and support us unconditionally and we all made it through those really difficult years.  Honestly I don’t know how she did it! What she did had to have been waaaay harder then what I am doing. Now our family is stronger and closer than ever. She continues to help and support me everyday in so many ways. I owe everything to my Mom…tears on my computer lol

What do you think is the biggest misconception about single mothers?

So many maybe: trashy or stupid, uneducated, poor… Such nasty words and unfair but we’ve heard it all…However in many cases untrue: I personally grew up in a nice neighborhood, with great parents, but unplanned circumstances- life – can happen to anyone. I have a college degree and was in grad school when I got pregnant. My mom was a teacher and my Dad and engineer, growing up I wouldn’t have thought I would be on welfare in my life!!! But when I got pregnant, I needed help. I am fortunate to have a great government who supports single mothers. It was set up, I believe, for people going through a hard time, to help them get through it – like me. So, college educated, grad student, from an upper middle class neighborhood, I went to job and family services, got health care, food and daycare subsidies for myself and son. That humbling experience of asking for government assistance allowed me to continue to work part-time and finish grad school and get to a place where I don’t need it anymore.

And…ugh…what is the worst thing someone has said to you about being an unmarried parent?

I have been really lucky that I have supportive people in my life, so I don’t hear too much negativity. I actually get tons of praise for what a great job I am doing, so that’s awesome!

Recently though on an online dating site this jerk didn’t read my profile and said something like “ Luckily you don’t have any baggage like kids.” And on another date a guy said he really liked me EVEN THOUGH I was a single mom, like despite this flaw I was dateable…as if it was a negative he was willing to overlook. I am a way better person in every way since I had a child, so it’s actually a huge positive.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about (single) motherhood?

Just to do what works for you, don’t read parenting advice.  Great parenting, but also life advice, came from the therapist I saw for my first year of motherhood, which really helped. She told me: “Life is a movie, not a snapshot….” So if you make a mistake one day correct it the next, it’s the overall picture that counts… so if I feed Jasper french fries one day out of the week or lose my temper and scream once in a while, I try not to be too hard on myself because it’s not the norm, I just try to do it better the next day… and in the end it will be a great movie 🙂

What makes your heart sing?

My sons face, his smile, his laugh, getting messy in paint or the dirt, getting outside and running (I often run with him in the stroller, so when I get a chance to go alone, I feel like I am flying haha)

What perspective is missing in the broader single mom narrative that exists in this country?

I don’t know…maybe that single moms like me, are educated, working, with a great, smart happy kid, just doing it on their own and doing a great job. I’ve heard stats that kids of single parents fare worse but that is due to so many factors and it paints a bad picture.

And how are you #RebrandingTheSingleMom?

By not giving up on my goal and finishing grad school, showing that its ok to ask for help when you need it, whether it be using public assistance when you really need it or going to counseling to help gain some perspective…by giving my son an amazing life, by not being too hung up on finding a man, knowing that would just be an extra at this point, the icing on the cake of the already amazing, hysterical, fun life I have.

What is the single biggest surprise you learned about being a single mom AFTER you became one yourself?

That I could do it!!!! And do it well!

If you are interested in sharing how you are Rebranding the Single Mom – drop me a line!