People often ask me what it is like to be a single mom. It is an innocent enough question but is not one that can be answered in a few sentences. I usually tell people that it’s really hard but really rewarding because it is the simplest way to sum it up.
Being a single mom is so much more than what you see on the surface. It’s hard being the only parent and there really isn’t a standard answer to properly address the question. What does being a single mom mean? Well, it means a lot.
It means that I am the only parent who is present every single day. I am the one who gets up with her when she is hungry, scared, not feeling well or wants comfort. It means that I don’t sleep through the night and haven’t in a very long time. It means that I often go to work with less than five hours of sleep because there isn’t anyone else to take a turn or give me a break.
It also means that my income is how we survive. I budget, plan, coupon and shop sales so that we never have to go without. I am lucky; I have a good job which allows me to adequately provide. But lots of single parent families don’t and have to pick and choose between wants and needs.
Being a single mom also means that I don’t experience much alone time. My daughter is always with me when I am not at work. There are evenings when I would love to go to the gym, or read a book or go on coffee dates with friends, but often it just isn’t possible. Yes I could get a babysitter, but after being at work all day the last thing I want to do is spend more time away from her.
Then there’s the inevitable fact that my daughter will start to ask questions as she gets older. She’ll wonder why her family doesn’t have a mom and a dad. And it will be me who has to explain it to her. I will do my very best to be open and honest but no matter how I say it or explain it, it won’t be easy.
And the sickness. That’s all on me. Literally. A few nights ago my daughter wasn’t feeling well. I was holding her in my arms and trying to make her feel better when suddenly she vomited all over the two of us. It was awful. It was on me, on her, on my clothes, in my hair, and all over the floor. Being a single mom meant that it was me and me alone who dealt with that. I cleaned her and got her comfy, then cleaned the floor and finally myself. I often come last in this equation.
Being a single mom also means that I need to think long and hard about every decision I make. I don’t spend money without checking my budget; I don’t plan a night out with friends till I am sure my parents can babysit. I don’t go on dates or introduce new people into my daughter’s life because I don’t want people just walking in and out on her. It’s sometimes lonely but her best interests are always in my heart and I could never imagine making any type of decision without factoring in how it might affect the two of us.
I don’t think there’s any quick way to sum up what being a single parent is truly like. It’s exhausting, in every sense of the word. I think back to my single days and how my exhaustion then and my exhaustion now are so different. My exhaustion back then came from working two jobs and having a busy social life. And it truly was exhausting. But my exhaustion now is so much harder and much more chronic. And even though I sometimes wish I could go back to the exhaustion I used to know, I actually wouldn’t. Because those days didn’t involve my daughter.
So now matter how tired, overwhelmed, stressed, lonely or frustrated I can be it’s still all worth it. Yes, it is really really hard. It’s the hardest job I have ever had. But it is also extremely rewarding. Unless you’ve been a single parent, there’s not really a way for me to explain it to you. What I can tell you though is that being a single mom has made me realize I am stronger than I ever thought possible. And that feeling, the feeling of being strong and fierce and independent and fabulous (yes fabulous!), that is what keeps me going. That and my daughter, because when it comes to her, I will NEVER give up ❤