I became a single mother when my kids were 2 and 4 years old. The details of how it happened are irrelevant. It was 16 years ago. Suggestions made by therapists to seek out other single mothers for support were useless and unhelpful. There is nothing more ridiculous than expecting another single mother to be able to support and help you when you are also a single mother. Lots of advice is given to single moms. We are the 3 legged dogs of the world. We are the outcasts and the stigmatized. We are treated differently at work by our bosses and by our married friends once we become single again. We are raising our kids to the best of our ability. Doctors, teachers, school psychologists are judgmental and unaware of the level of strength and courage that it takes to survive as a single mother. There is no commonality between the single mom and the single dad. I’m sorry. Many will disagree with what I say, but this is not only my experience but the experience of several people I have known and countless clients I have worked with. The single mother is always seen as wrong, she can never be right, she can never do enough, she can never do it the best way as many married women can.
A single mother leaning on a single mother is like a blind person leading a blind person across the street. Both will get hit by cars. I learned in my friendships with other single moms that it was every woman for herself. ” Be strong or be gone”. The issue for us is always money. We never have enough of it. We need to make the household income while holding the household together. Single moms are in competition with each other for who has the worst deal. Who got screwed over in their child support and divorces more? Who has it harder? The friendships are never real, they are for survival purposes only.
All along the way we hear married women moaning about their burdens and responsibilities and we are silent. We quietly carry 4 times the burden that they do and yet we reach out and support them emotionally and in every way we can. We listen to their marital problems and are secretly thankful that we aren’t married anymore. We pity them even though they think they are in the envious position, they are not. We have overcome so much by living as a single mom. We have learned how to manage in the world when we were never taught how to. Our married friends aren’t forced to deal with cars and money and household repairs the way that we are. That is the only common link that we single moms have with each other. We learn the hard way how to manage a career the way a man does. We don’t know the rules, we never learned them as young girls. We only know how to be supportive to others and nurturing and kind. These qualities don’t help us in the workplace. Bosses feel threatened by our Independence and our lack of need for a spouse. We are secretly punished for our strength at work.
Single mothers cannot unite. It is impossible. Our children always come first. Their childcare is always an issue. We never have enough money to pay for all the help that we need and we cannot get the help we need from friends or family. Being a single mother is the most isolating and challenging event a human being can experience, because we are responsible not only for ourselves but for our children as well. We never look good in the eyes of others. We are always cutting corners to make things work. We can never give our kids all that we wanted to give them and we have never been enough or given enough to those who need us.
If you are a single mom and are reading this I want to say to you, you are the strongest person in your world. You are enough and you have done more than enough. Stop trying to be perfect and stop trying to be the kind of mother that you thought you would be. It’s impossible. If married mothers struggle, and they do, then your struggles are much much greater. Give yourself some credit for your immeasurable courage. Acknowledge your strength everyday. Look out for yourself and your children and stop taking care of others.
If you are reading this and you know a single mother, share this with her. If you are not a single mother and you are reading this I hope it has made you more aware and able to see the single mothers you know in a different light.
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