Being a single mom has made me kind of a badass, as it has done for almost every single mother I’ve ever met. But in a lot of ways, being a single parent messes with your mind and causes you to be more than a little bit of a pain to the next person who steps into partnership with you. Here are three ways I’m learning that my badassery is also kind of a thorn in the side of the people I love.
1. If I’m not running myself into the ground I feel like a failure
To be fair, this little bit of my neuroses started decades before I had my child, but being a single mother certainly didn’t improve upon the situation.
Single moms intimately understand the reality of being overworked, overbooked, and overwrought 99% of the time. We are the breadwinners and the homemakers. The stay at home parent and the working parent. The disciplinarian and the friend. The good cop and the bad cop.
So on the occasions when I find rest and margin in my life, it’s pretty easy for me to feel like I’m dropping the ball. Remember when finals week ended and school went on break and for the next 48 hours you had random panic moments wondering what you were supposed to be doing? That’s my life every time I get a chance to take a breath.
This is not always a bad thing. My stamina is pretty high. I’m pretty productive most of the time. But at least three or four times a week my boyfriend asks me to turn off my phone, close my planner, and just relax with him, and shutting it all down for an hour feels like an impossibility. I’ll get there.
2. I have zero patience for people who can’t get the job done
“Failure is not an option” never feels so real as when you become a single parent. There are a number of plates that have to keep spinning, no matter what. Your kid has to eat, has to make it to doctors appointments, has to wear clothes that (mostly) fit. There are a handful of things that can be put on the back burner, but not many. Single moms know how to get shit done, because we don’t have any other option.
So when I encounter someone who thinks that working part time is a lot, or who complains about how exhausted they are as a mom, despite having free grandma daycare on a regular basis, my hackles automatically go up.
That’s not cool. It’s not fair to other parents for me to judge them based on my own standards of productivity. It’s not fair for me to compare my life to someone else’s, because I truly don’t know what their life looks like from the inside. It sucks, and it’s something I’m working on killing in myself.
3. Transitioning out of being a single mother sometimes feels horrible
I was a single parent of my daughter for the first two years of her life. Even long after I started seriously dating my boyfriend, it took a while for me to make the transition from dating-single-mother to being someone’s partner again. Nowadays, I don’t identify as a single mother anymore, because I know my boyfriend is here to stay, and he does a great job of coparenting my daughter with me.
Our home dynamic has changed with the addition of my boyfriend. He is truly an equal partner with me in our home. He plays with Molly, keeps the house, cooks, does the grocery runs, and makes sure Molly is well socialized. All of this “should” make me feel really good and happy. But it doesn’t always.
When we bought a new car seat, he made the case that it should go in his car, because with me in school and working two jobs, she was more likely to be driven around in his car than in mine. The realization stopped me in my tracks. Relinquishing tight control of my daughter (and my status as her only full-time parent) was a much harder transition then I expected.
I had built my identity so much on being independent and single that stepping back into a partnership almost felt wrong. Hilariously, I started to feel like less of a person for no longer being a single parent.
There are a lot of things about my stint as a single parent that I am grateful for. It forced me to grow in areas like asking for help, speaking truthfully, and prioritizing my health. But it also instilled some not-so-great tendencies in me that I will continue to work through as my life evolves. It’s all a process.
So here’s to patient partners and understanding children who put up with the badass pains-in-the-ass that are formerly single mothers. Cheers.