I’ve let this post roll around in my head for the past 5 years. As many of you know, I raised my first daughter alone for the first 5 years of her life. Maybe it’s because now that I’m not a single parent any longer or maybe I want to share my story with other women who are raising kids alone or somewhere in between… but this post is coming now.
I had my first daughter at 29. At the age of 30 I found myself a single mother with a 9 month old baby, no job, no child support and moving back into my parents house. 3 months prior, I had made a decision to leave my job and move with my then long-term boyfriend and daughter’s father across the country. When the relationship quickly ended, I got on a red-eye with the baby back to Connecticut. Not having any answers for myself, I started again. Now before you think this is a sob story, it’s quite the opposite.
I had kept in touch with my boss from my most recent job as well as my peers. She had heard I was back on the East Coast. One day I got a call. “Do you want your job back?”. YES YES YES, I had never been so eager in my life. I was interviewing at other companies and even got larger job offers but I went back for my current company because of the people and that has made all the difference. I lived with my parents for another month and as soon as I had saved enough up for a deposit and rent, I got my own place. Ahhh, freedom. I say this not because I’m ungrateful but after being on your own, you need to be on your own. I had a need to support myself and my daughter, one that grew deeper and more prideful with every day of being a single mother. “I can do this”. “I don’t need anyone”.
I became the walking epitome of a Beyonce song. Strong. Determined. Independent. Turn on the radio, that was me. My past had taught me, I was loyal to a default. I gave up my financial ability to take care of my daughter in turn for couponing for groceries. I thought it was the right thing for her which was being at home with her as an infant and being with both of her parents. While it may be the right path for many women and families, it wasn’t for me. I depended on someone else, and when it sharply did not work out, I ran as far and as deep as I could back to my independence.
I came home and refused to feel sorry for myself. I couldn’t cry, I didn’t have time. It wasn’t just me anymore. I needed to get my career back and raise a little girl. I put the damage to the side. I stayed diligent in my work and in my child rearing. I did every single right thing I could by my daughter. I wrestled my mind to shut up and keep moving. I had to keep moving. I earned, my stability grew, my strength grew and my independence exploded. However, is there a thing as being ‘too independent’? I didn’t think so.
What could be the problem with being self reliant?
I struggled to allow others to help me. Not that there were many offers but I felt such guilt. It bothered me like no other when I had to rely on anyone else, even my family and close friends. I didn’t rely on others often and I was very selective on who I could trust. After all, when you raise a child on your own, you are protective of that. I was continuing on my path of independence and then I tried to date.
Now in a happy relationship with a true partner and a beautiful family of four, here I am sharing some of the things I’ve learned about being a single mom. I’ve raised a smart, beautiful, funny and kind little girl and my god I am so proud of not only who she is, but myself. I want you to know, nothing is impossible. Many others have been where you are. No matter where you are in your journey eventually you will see that life is what you make it. Here are a few things I’ve learned about being a single mom.
Dating while being a single mom is a whole other blog post, but I started by going on what felt like a million first dates. There were never really any second dates. Great guys but the interest was never there. The lack of interest was really combined with covertly hiding my fear. I tried with some, maybe a C level effort at best and it wouldn’t work. I’d say ‘oh well’ and keep moving. The walls I built up brick by brick were sky high. It was like I took a sharpie to each brick and labeled each one with the word ‘independent’ and as I got to the top of my walls the word started change to ‘alone’.
This was my choice. I took my abandonment and hurt and decided subconsciously that I didn’t need anyone. Unlike every other 30 year old woman, I put the idea of marriage out of my mind. When the right person finally did come around, I had no idea how to move down from my sky high walls of protection. I pushed away, I kicked away, I tried to run. What took me a while to realize is that I didn’t need to move down or backwards, I needed to move forward. I needed to elevate myself and open back up, petal by petal after a harsh winter. When someone really wants to be in your life, they will show you again and again that they do. Nearly 5 years later, I’ve raised an amazing child on my own. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s those who want to help will be there. Let them. Let them in.
I wanted to share my story and my learnings from one facet of the emotional side of being a single parent. There is such a thing as being too independent and I worked my ass off to become that only followed being trapped inside of my own independence. It took a lot of self work, and a lot of patience and unconditional love from my significant other to make change. Not to mention, a bit of tolerance and a lot of resilience in which I am very grateful for.
So to my fellow women, stay open. I know you are hurt and damaged. Stay open. You will make mistakes but have no regrets as you are exactly where you need to be in life. Don’t build up walls without knowing how to take them down.
Learn to celebrate on your own and cry on your own
One of the toughest parts of raising a child on your own is to watch the amazing milestones and have no one to share them with. Eventually, as our relationship grew, I had my now boyfriend as my partner and through raising our second daughter together realize just how special it is to share raising a child with someone else is. However in the early years, things would happen and I would look around and just find myself. Baby milestones would be surpassed. The first steps, the first words, the proud moments – those were just me. So I wrote them down, I took pictures and we celebrated just her and I.
If you’re reading this I am sure you know by now that raising an infant through toddler and intro adolescence is no walk in the park. The hard times were hard. Sleep deprivation, tantrums and bad days were just on me. My daughter for almost three years had Febrile Seizures. I would stay up all night watching her and working to bring down her fever. Hospital visits and doctor visits for months at a time every time her fever would strike. No matter what the circumstances a sick child on your own is draining, stressful and hard. I did it. Every flu, fever and cold and I would remind myself how lucky I was to have a healthy child overall. I was lucky to have a job and lucky to have health insurance. You have to keep finding gratitude even when life is not how you pictured it to be.
Around the time my daughter was 2, she would refuse to get into her car seat. My god why was my child so strong!? You could routinely see a mom chasing her toddler in heels around the condo complex we lived in trying to bribe her to get into the car. We would be late for work and school. There was lots of crying. The crying was me.
Learn to stop asking why
All the things that you don’t understand about the previous relationship with your child’s father, just stop. It really doesn’t matter. It took me some time but I finally found a place where I was at peace with my situation. I still to this day don’t know the “why’s”. But they don’t matter to me anymore. You can’t let anyone or anything else control your inner peace.
Despite how much you may hate your ex, two is still better than one
I’ve had girlfriends say to me as they argue with their ex that I’m so lucky. It must be so much easier to be a solo parent. I can assure you that regardless of how much you may hate the other person, two is still better than one. Rotating weekends and pick ups might be hard, you may have to bear and grin the encounters with your child’s other parent but when it’s just one parent – there are no breaks. There is no time for you. No nights out. Heck not even a run to the store by yourself. There are two things only that you can do: parent and work. I can tell you having just got through the first year of my second daughter how grateful I have been for the moments where I’m able to hand her over to my partner and say “here you take her”. I’ve never had that before, someone unconditionally there for both me and my daughters.
A kid also truly needs both parents. Two are better than one.
Someone else will need to fulfill the role of “the other parent”
I hope you are reading this right now as a single mom with the other parent still in the picture. But if you’re not, understand that someone may have to fill the role of the other parent. This may be a grandparent, aunt, best friend or other care taker but your child will find someone to fill the void. For my daughter it was her grandmother. It doesn’t matter the technicality of the other person; male, female, relative or friend. What matters is that your child has positive caretakers that they are nurtured by and trust. I was lucky enough to have my parents, close friends and my significant other who has treated Bailey like his own.
And the last thing I’ve learned…
Love shows up
Love shows up on game day, for practice, for the big wins and for the rainouts. Love shows up. Love doesn’t make false promises or excuses. Love shows up. Love finds a way.
Being a mother of any kind isn’t easy. It’s easy to let the responsibility overwhelm you but motherhood is a teacher. It will teach you things you never knew about yourself and will teach you resilience that you never knew you had. No matter what you may be going through or challenges you may face as a mother, you are exactly enough and your best is good enough.