Rebranding the Single Mom: : Kathy A. Gambrell

I virtually met Kathy on a Facebook group for single moms and after she watched my Tedx Talk: Rebranding the Single Mom, she realized we both started our careers as interns at Good Morning America – which is an interesting coincidence. She also shared her path to single motherhood with me, explaining that Sept. 11, 2001 changed her view of how things should be and made her re-prioritize. At age 42, it was no longer about meeting the right person to start a family with, but instead was about starting her own family and having the honor and pleasure of nurturing a life. She became a single mom by choice and never looked back and says it has forced her to challenge herself, be a decision maker, become an advocate and learn the art of time management origami.

I hope you enjoy her insight into how she is Rebranding the Single Mom as much as I do!

Age: 54
Occupation: Journalist. Editor. Chief Success Officer for Social Intensity Media
Bio: I am a mom, journalist, editor and business owner living in Maryland. I’ve discovered Cross Fit, a passion for journaling, and digital photography.
Website: Social Intensity Media

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in Maryland. I was drawn to journalism early after watching reporters like Walter Cronkite and Frank Reynolds cover the Vietnam War and other life-changing events. I graduated from the University of Maryland College of Journalism, then worked for a variety of newspapers. I spent five years covering the White House and another 10 covering Congress. I worked with a lot of really smart journalists as we sat and witnessed history in 2001 after which I decided it was time to start my family.

2. How many children do you have?

I have one amazing son, Dakota. He’s 13.

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

My focus has changed. My life isn’t just about me anymore. Every decision I make starts with how it will affect him. I became a better decision maker and advocate for him. I also found that connection and engagement with other parents was really crucial for us. He is an only child and having strong ties and friendships is important for both of us. I also drew on the lessons I learned from my parents about parenting: that you are there no matter what; that you support them in all things; and you say the words “I love you” so there is no doubt ever that you do.

4. 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?

Actually Dakota pulls me through. He is so optimistic. On one particularly awful night when the car had died on a remote road after his late track meet – and the public transit had also stopped….and it was clear we would have to walk home, he looked at me and said, “If Jesus can walk 40 days in the desert, we can do this.” Then he sang to me all the way on that one hour walk. When I get upset and want to really tear into someone, he says, “Mom…just put on your exit shoes..,and walk away.”

5. Who are your role models in life?

My mother. She’s gone now, but I think about her every day. She ran a family business with my dad, with five kids at her knee and never missed a beat at home or work. I am also inspired by my dad who created a business that he ran with integrity and passion for 55 years.

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

The biggest misconception about single mothers is that we’re all poverty stricken welfare queens with no education. We’re some of the toughest, most organized women on the planet. Our kids are our passion and we’re doing just fine, thank you.

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

“If you only had a man to help you…….” Every time I hear that I want to smack someone.

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

The best piece of advice about motherhood in particular was (I think) Oprah said that when your child walks in the room, you should always smile like you’ve just had the best moment in your life. So I try to do that every time I see him. I think it applies more when you’re a single mom. It resonates with my son because even when things don’t go great, he says, “As long as you love me, it’s awesome.”

9. What makes your heart sing?

As Dakota does well in school bringing home all “A”s, is passionate about learning and when he demonstrates he can be independent when I need him to be, I do a little dance.
It means I’ve done something right and that he will have a great life.

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

When it comes to single parents, we’re left out of the conversation about nearly everything – especially work/life balance. Because we need it, it is viewed as an inconvenience to employers rather than the perk it is considered to be for married parents and singles with no kids. We don’t get to weigh in on affordable housing, or health care or pretty much anything. We’re considered invisible – not ‘real’ families.