Loving myself as a single parent has been a topic that has been on my mind for some time. I’m quite sure that there are many other single mothers who feel as I do, but who don’t feel comfortable articulating how they feel for fear they will be judged. How dare a single mother, who is supposed to be self-sacrificing, feel that at some point in her life she should come first?
Most people want you to feel guilty for even thinking it.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, out of 12 million single parent families in 2013, more than 83% were headed by a single mother. This is compared to 17% headed by a single father. The median income for a family headed by a single mother was $26,000, compared to $84,000 for a married couple.
If those are the figures for 2013, I can just imagine what the median income was when I was raising all of my children. Currently, I am a 47-year-old graduate with a professional job. Things haven’t always been that way, and it’s been through much sacrifice, hard work, and many ups and downs that I’ve achieved those goals. You might think there really isn’t anything different about me compared to other 47-year-old women with similar accomplishments. Yet there is a major difference.
I have been a single mom since I was 18. By the time I was 25, I had all four of my children. Let’s make this clear: I made the choice to bring my kids into this world.
Yes, I was married at one time, but I have to be honest: even when I was married (which seems very foreign to me and not the person I am today), I always felt single. Just because there is another body there doesn’t mean you’re actually living the life of a married person.
Needless to say, I raised my children on my own, with very little support from anyone, not even their father. The only thing I received from him was a monthly check that went directly into my account, and the only reason I even received that was because of a court order. Otherwise, I’m 100% sure that not even the check would have come from him freely.
I have struggled, and I’ve made things work the best I’ve been able to. Many times, I put aside what I wanted because my kids had to come first. There were all the expected sacrifices a mother makes. I have tried my best to be an example to them, especially to my daughters, and I have tried my best to raise two young men. I’ve always tried to pick myself up, even during the worst of moments of my life, and yes, I’ve been through my share of those.
Being a mother was a choice and, even with my imperfections and my ups and downs, I managed to do my job well. I can honestly and truly say that, regardless of the roads taken, the decisions made, and the situations I chose to be in, I’ve done an excellent job as a mother. I have been an example of what to do and not to do. I’ve been an honest and open mother. I’ve been real and – sometimes — too blunt.
So I say all this to come to this point: I knew nothing other than being a mom, and I have struggled to find who I am as a woman. People tend to forget that you never stop being a woman, and that you feel you must suppress your innermost desires and wants because you are a mother. Most people forget that you are first and foremost a woman.
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Now that my children are adults, it took them some time to see who I am because single parents tend to coddle their children more than usual. It also took me some time to let go and let them be adults. Mothers have to realize that you will never stop being their parent, but there comes a time you just have to let go and trust that you equipped them with the skills to be able to make their own choices on their own path.
I have to say I am extremely happy and eager to find myself once again. You get so used to the daily routine of worrying and having to do things that you forget yourself. You get consumed with what is going on in your kids’ lives, especially if your children live with you. Now that they are adults, there is time for me. It’s refreshing to see everyone finding their own way and making their own choices. It’s refreshing to have them visit, and I look forward to the days of going out with my daughters to do girlie things and catch up on their lives. I look forward to being invited to dinners at their house and having to do nothing but contribute a dish.
It has not been an easy journey to get to this point of taking care of myself, but I have to say that it’s been a worthwhile life lesson for everyone. Being a single parent is tough. You’re always second guessing yourself, and you’re always overcompensating. It’s wonderful to stop overcompensating. I wish I’d done it sooner.
These past few years have been ones of personal growth, looking at myself deeper than deep, being honest with myself and, more than ever, taking true ownership of my actions -– and my lack of action -– in areas I’d been ignoring or just didn’t want to face.
Being a single mother is no joke. You will go through many emotions and you will feel alone because you’re doing the job of two people. You feel left out because everyone at family events has their husbands there, while you walk in with your four kids. You’re looked at as a failure because you’re divorced or you have decided to stay alone.
Trying to have a relationship is never easy when you have to pay attention to four kids growing up, going through adolescence, and dealing with attitudes, arguments, doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher conferences, and school meetings, all while trying to keep food on the table, having a full-time job, and still, somehow, having a life of your own.
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Be encouraged, my single moms. Be who you are and never second-guess your accomplishments. Always give yourself credit for the job you do, and remember: never lose yourself in the process. Practice radical self-love every day, because at the end of the day, the kids will leave and you will find yourself lost if you’ve made your children your one and only focus.
Remember: You are first and foremost a person.
[Feature image: The photograph shows a Black woman and a young Black girl. The woman is on the left. She has brown hair, her head is tilted to the left, and she is smiling with her eyes closed. The child is to the right. She has shoulder-length black hair and is wearing a gray top. She is kissing the woman on the cheek. There is blurred foliage in the background.]