What I've Learned In Two Years As A Single Mom
The last weekend in February marks an anniversary for me. Almost exactly two years ago, I ended my relationship with Phi's dad. Although the end of any relationship brings on a wide variety of often-conflicting feelings, especially when there's a six-month-old baby involved, in the midst of all of them one stood out: relief. After months hurtling towards a foregone conclusion, the day I'd been dreading was over. I could begin imagining life without him.
Here's what I've learned in the two years since then.
Being a single mom is what you make it
At first, I had difficulty coming to grips with the "single mom" label. No matter how unsupported and alone I felt towards the end of my relationship with Phi's dad, I'd think "at least I'm not a single mom." It carries negative connotations. I won't list them; I'm sure you can think of your own. I had my own ideas about what being a single mom meant, and none of them were great.
I didn't want a life that matched up with these negative ideas. I started googling things like "thriving as a single mom" and "successful single mom." These search terms literally always brought me to Emma Johnson's blog WealthySingleMommy.com, where I found possibly the only content that explicitly, unabashedly, encourages single moms to dream big. Eventually, I joined Emma's Facebook group, where I found a community of single moms that encourage each other to live our best lives.
Magic happens in that group. Somewhere along the way, it happened for me. I believe that seeing past labels is the spark that ignites the magic. Aside from the fact that all of the women in the group identify as single moms, there is not one way every woman in the group is the same. Some women arrived at single motherhood by choice, most through divorce or by accident. There are multimillionaires and women living in shelters. There are city moms and suburban moms. Anyone who's ever become a single mom can tell you labels change, over time or in an instant. What doesn't change is the fact that we can all create the lives we want. There's no label that makes that more or less true.
I'm capable of so much more than I realize
Of course, the idea of the struggling single mom is not the stuff of pure fiction. Some newly-single moms know they can expect their ex to pull some of the weight, but that doesn't always happen. When I broke up with Phi's dad, I knew I couldn't expect anything from him. Even if it's not "fair," I knew Phi's financial and emotional needs would all fall to me. Although I'm grateful that I was realistic with myself about this from the beginning, to say it felt overwhelming (and still, sometimes, feels overwhelming) would be a massive understatement.
One of the first nights at home alone, the weight of that burden began to sink in. I wondered how I'd do it. I had plenty of ideas and a work ethic that's become even stronger with motherhood, but I also had a baby to take care of and healing to do. I didn't ignore feelings like anxiety, fatigue, and hopelessness; they were all there occasionally. Operating around these, I began with doing what I could with the time and energy I had. I often worked while Phi slept at night. I wrote as much as I could and made taking care of myself a priority. I began seeking out opportunities that aligned with my best feelings and my passion for innovation, spiritual growth, social justice, and creativity.
Following those good feelings has led me to interesting projects with people I'll be forever grateful to. They gave me a shot. Gratitude gives me the energy I need to do what I need to do: stay present to the work at hand. Discovering that I'm more capable than I ever dreamed of didn't happen in big, sudden ways. It happened while I was busy working on whatever was in front of me, enjoying time with Phi, or cultivating my interests.
I know that my entire world could fall apart tomorrow and I'd still be okay, because what I am isn't dependent on a relationship, a label, or a job title. We're all so much bigger than that; we're all infinitely creative. If necessity is the mother of invention, my obligations to Phi have helped me tap into my own infinite creativity more than ever before.
No single mom is an island
Back when I was still grappling with the idea of becoming a single mom, one of by biggest fears was needing to rely on my parents. I thought that accepting help from my parents was a sign of weakness, or that I wasn't really ready to be a mom. Saying "yes" to their help has been a game changer for me. My mom watches Phi two days a week. I can work or socialize later than I would if it wasn't my own mom putting Phi to bed on especially late nights. My parents are a huge part of Phi's life; there are so many reasons I am grateful for that.
Other working moms have been another wellspring of support for me. One of my friends' kids are grown and she's much further along in her career than I am. She's helped me make game-changing connections in my career and she's given me plenty of valuable advice about navigating the business world as a working mom. Another friend has made introductions that have brought my career to a new level. I'm lucky to be friends with these women who understand that when one of us thrives, we all thrive.
Of course, life-changing career connections can only be made so often. On a day to day level, we all need mom friends to share the many joys and pains of raising little humans. We commiserate over toddlers that make messes and don't sleep, but also appreciate how freakishly adorable these little humans we made are, often all in one conversation. We're there to blast away the fog of mom guilt for each other, reminding our friends of how awesome they really are.
Single moms, especially, need this. I know I can't be the only one who has some trouble letting people in. The urge to keep walls up is based in fear. We don't need to live like that. I've found that the more I really allow people to really be part of my life, the happier I am. The happier I am, the more I'm able to build a better and better life for myself and Phi.
It's probably no coincidence that the past two years have been the most challenging years of my life, but also the two years I'm the most proud of. If you landed here because you're new to the single mom thing, I hope you found this helpful. I'd love to hear from other single moms about your experiences. Share in the comments or on insta, or email me.