1. Everyone, seriously everyone, is going to judge you.
It’s just the way it is my friend. You’re now part of a statistic that has been teetering on the cusp of old school notions and new school ideals for the past decade or more, and on either side you’ll be met with disdain and judgment. The old thinking will perpetuate that there is no greater shame than a woman with a kid(s) and no man to support her, and the new way of thinking insists that you should have been smart enough to know better, that you’ve single handedly ruined your life and squandered your potential. Maybe they are right, maybe they are wrong. Personally I don’t think it matters either way. But, as is so often the case in life, it’s the way we handle the consequences of our choices that defines who we are more than the choices themselves. The best way to change the perceptions of other’s is to prove them wrong. You’re going to have to work twice as hard as just about anyone else and few people, if any, will praise you at the end of it. Do it (whatever it is) anyway.
2. Dating is going to be rough.
I used to rage and moan about all the men who’d stop dating me because I had a kid (okay, it was only like two). It seemed so unfair, so unkind, and it really messed with my self-worth. But the truth is that the last thing you want as a single mother is someone who doesn’t understand, want, or embrace the level of responsibility you carry. Not wanting to help raise someone else’s kid (and no matter how self efficient you might be, they will be a huge influence) doesn’t make them, or you, a bad person. It doesn’t make them weak or selfish. It’s a huge deal and the older I get the more I appreciate those men who were honest enough with themselves and me to know they weren’t ready or willing. It’s going to be very tempting to desperately throw yourself into a relationship in order to ease the load but don’t, I swear it doesn’t end well. You, your partner, and your children deserve better.
3. Taking care of yourself is often the best way to take care of your kid(s).
When I left my ex-husband I was a wreck. I hated him, I hated myself, and a part of me even hated my daughter. I hated the life I’d lived up until that point and it made me a terrible mother and a miserable person. So I got help. I learned to take myself and my happiness seriously. As a result, all of my anger and pain (which had never been at or for anyone by myself) disappeared. Take care of yourself, single mothers. You’ve got an incredibly important job to do, an important and very difficult job, and if you don’t feel good about yourself your children and your relationships will suffer. You matter, and if you don’t make yourself a priority you’re in for a painful journey.
4. You’re stronger, smarter and wiser than you know.
Don’t let shame and fear hold you back. Don’t let the perceptions of others tear you down and convince you that you shouldn’t try, that maybe you don’t deserve it. Have confidence, be strong and determined. If you want something in life, take it, embrace it and grow from it. Teach your children that having the conviction to achieve despite the difficulty of a situation is invaluable. Have courage and don’t give up. I don’t believe most single mothers ever planned on being single mothers, but life often sets us down paths we never meant to wander down and we have to make the best of the journey.
5. Motherhood doesn’t have to define you and neither does being a single mother.
Personally, I wear it like a badge of honor because I want to encourage other single mothers to be less ashamed of their situation and to be less ashamed of themselves. But just as I believe I am so much more than a mother, I believe I am also so much more than a single mother. It is an aspect of who I am, but it does not have to be the defining feature. So don’t let it be. Don’t carry it around like a cross on your back, throwing it at everyone as an excuse or curse at it like a demon to exercise. You haven’t lost your identity; you’re just building upon it.
6. You’re going to fuck up. You have to keep trying anyway.
The thing about raising a kid on your own is that you don’t really get to have ‘bad’ days or ‘off’ days. There is no one to pick up the slack if you’re running low on steam. Dinner still has to be made, laundry done, homework checked and dishes put away despite working overtime and lack of sleep. You’re the lone soldier on the battlements and sometimes that seriously sucks. You’re going to fall down, or want to give up, but I promise you that you can pick yourself up again. That you can do this and that you can do it well. I promise that things will get better and easier if you just keep trying every day to do better than you did the day before. This world isn’t going to feel sorry for you, but you don’t need their pity anyway.