Loving myself as a single parent has been a topic that has been on my mind for some time. Now, before you continue to read, let me warn you I am going to be super honest about how I feel and where I am with this. You might agree, and you might not, and that’s okay; we all have our own thoughts and our feelings. 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 that they will be judged. How dare a single mother — who is supposed to be self sacrificing – feel that, at some point of 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, 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, much hard work, and many ups and downs that I have achieved some of those goals. You might think there really isn’t anything different about me than about any other 47-year-old woman who has accomplished those same goals. Yet there is a major difference.
I have been a single mom since I was 18. Yes, 18. By the time I was 25, I had all four of my children, and let’s make this clear: I made the choice to bring them 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 that I was single. Just because there is another body there doesn’t mean you are 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 from their father. The only thing that 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 that would have come from him freely.
I have struggled, and I have made things work the best I have been able to. Many times, I have put aside what I have wanted because my kids had to come first. There were all the normal 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 have always tried to pick myself up, even during the most worst of moments of my life, and yes, I have 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 have 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, but that you feel you have to stop your innermost desires and wants because you are a mother. Most people forget that you are first and foremost a woman.
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 be sure that you equipped them with the skills to be able to make their own choices and 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 over compensating. It’s wonderful to stop overcompensating. I wish I’d done it sooner.
These past few years have been one 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 that I had 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 go through many a moment where you feel alone because you are 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, in some way, having a life of your own.
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. Love yourself and love yourself a lot. 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 have made your children your one and only focus. Remember: You are first and foremost a person.