The term “single mom” has always bothered me. The word “single” in and of itself brings up feelings of aloneness and isolation. It feels like there you are, a single person in a field of other mothers that are “double?” Okay, I know I’m belaboring this point! I will move on…
Aside from coming up with a new term for single moms (lol!), I want to look at the inner experience of being a single mom and share some mindset shifts I’ve learned that helped me to view the experience in a very positive way.
On a personal note, I was a single mom for 15 years. Becoming a single mom wasn’t planned but was the result of an unexpected divorce. I’m sure that’s the same for many of you. I just found myself there one day. Together, my daughter and I went through many twists and turns over the years, but now I look at that time as precious. It was also full of challenges, heartache, excitement, growth, and a whole lot of love and laughter. Here are some ideas to consider:
1- What is the story you tell yourself about being a single mom?
Are you telling yourself that you got duped in some way? Are you saying things to yourself like, “There must be something terribly wrong with me! All of these other women are married. Why did this happen to me?” Or, are you telling yourself that being a single mom is in the highest possible alignment for you and your children right now? And that you are being divinely guided in every moment, especially this one.
I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe we are all exactly where we are for greater reasons than we can imagine. Regardless of how or why you got here, becoming a single mom is part of the highest plan for all of your lives.
Because you aren’t in a committed relationship, you’ve been given the opportunity to question and redefine what you really want for your life. There are so many outcomes at your fingertips. You can take this pause to wipe the slate clean and to reinvent yourself.
Not to mention, you are strong! You capably manage everything. Every day may not be perfect- but you are doing it all by yourself! You have been given all of these responsibilities- because you can handle them.
2- Don’t allow your story to separate you from other moms.
Like me, probably many of you have been a single mom at one point and married at another. My experience is that all moms have their struggles. We can sometimes push others away, thinking they will never understand our challenges. But, I’ve found they understand way more than we think.
Maybe that’s because being a mom is universal. As moms and women, we all go through similar phases of parenting. The core experiences are so similar; we just have different external circumstances. Focusing on the similarities we share can bring us closer to the women in our lives.
One other side note is to try not to assume things about other women and create a gap. Just because a woman is married and everything seems perfect in her life doesn’t mean that she wouldn’t really love a friend to have coffee with and share what’s on her heart and mind. The single/married status doesn’t mean we are separate. We all need connection and friends, especially while in the hectic and busy parenting years.
3 – Remember that you are not alone as a single mom. You are part of a much larger community.
Sometimes I can remember feeling very alone. I would lose sight of my part in a much bigger community. Think for a minute about all of the communities that you are connected to. Within each one, there are endless ways to feel supported. Sometimes we walk around blind to the opportunities right in front of us.
There is the school community, which usually has many ways to get involved. There is the playgroup/ friend community. Also, going to soccer games and talking to the other families on the sidelines was always a great way to connect with other parents. Then, your neighborhood, workplace community, old friends, new friends, family, etc., are all right there, too.
Not only do you belong to these communities, but you are also an important part of them. That’s one thing my husband and I notice now that we are empty-nesters; having children in local schools is an inroad to many fulfilling social and personal connections.
4. Connect with others. Share your story.
I don’t know if you are like me, but I built some pretty big walls around myself when I was a single mom and didn’t always feel comfortable sharing. Maybe part of it was because I actually felt so vulnerable. Some days I was struggling behind the scenes to work through a brutal visitation schedule with my ex; others, I was feeling sad thinking about the upcoming Christmas holiday that we would be spending apart. Often I was trying to protect myself and my daughter.
But the goal is to share with the right people to feel seen and understood. Nurturing relationships can flourish through sharing our true stories and opening up to others who are worthy of hearing them. The irony is that these emotional support systems actually allow us to feel less vulnerable because we have people in our lives who really know us. They can be there for us when we need them.
Sharing our stories lets other people in. This can change our energy for the better. We can feel supported, fulfilled, and connected.
5 – Learn to indulge in self-care when you can.
This can’t be said loudly enough! No one on earth deserves more self-care than you. This is hard work, no matter how you break it down. Building an adaptable self-care mindset into your life can make a huge difference.
I think adaptable is a good word because sometimes we can’t get that break precisely when we want it. But, we can find 20 minutes later in the weekend that will work. We can place self-care at the top of our to-do list.
So, be sure to read that book. Take more breaks. Remember that those dishes can wait! Discovering things you love to do can be exciting and fun! Make time to play the piano and binge Netflix. Learning to enjoy our own company is a lifelong process. You deserve this.
6 – Remember that this is a season in your life – cherish it.
The years we have at home with our children are very fleeting. My daughter is about the turn 19, and I truly can’t believe how fast it has all flown by.
Embrace these years as they are right now. Some days are overwhelming, but there is so much joy and happiness sprinkled throughout them. My 65-year-old friend recently said, “without a doubt, the happiest years of my life were when I had young children at home.”
Time truly does fly, so we can choose to stay grounded in the moment, appreciating and accepting each day exactly as it is.
Years ago, I read a book called why you’re not married..yet by Tracy McMillan. This quote stood out to me:
“You’re just going to need to get rid of the idea that marriage will make you happy. It won’t. Once the initial high wears off, you’ll just be you, except with twice as much laundry. Because ultimately, marriage is not about getting something — it’s about giving it.”
So enjoy exactly where you are right now in your single mom journey. Be prepared for more adventures to come your way in time because they will! There are so many exciting things to look forward to! But for now, don’t wish this beautiful time away. You are in the throes of it all, living life so fully. And it’s a pretty amazing journey.
This piece is also featured on Thrive Global.
Check out my conversation with Dr. Barbara Green on the importance of self-compassion for mothers.
Also, see tips on sharing your story here.