When I was a newly single parent trying to navigate how to handle life with kids, but without a partner, I remember getting really annoyed, and frankly hurt, when I would see women complaining on social media about being a “single parent” because their husband was on a fishing trip. Or a work trip. Or whatever. He was gone for a short time and suddenly they understood what it was like to be a “single mom”.
But they didn’t. Their situation was temporary. Their partner is coming back (eventually). As a single mom, your situation is forever.
Or maybe not.
Maybe, sometime in the future, you will find someone new to share your life with. And then what? Are you not a “single mom” anymore?
Once I found a new partner and things started getting serious (meeting the kids, living together, and eventually engaged) I had been told by a handful of people that I should stop defining myself as a “single parent” as if I’m alone. I’m not a single parent anymore. I have someone.
And I get it. I understand someone who is TRULY single being annoyed by someone like me. A not-actually-single-single-mom. I would venture to guess that had I come across this situation during my new singleton life, I probably would have been vexed by someone bickering about being a single mom with a partner to share their life with.
But I am here to say, just because you are not “single” anymore, doesn’t mean you’re not exactly living like a single mom anymore either. Maybe just a different breed of single mom.
And here’s why…
I spent the better part of a year alone with my kids, working on my marriage (but apart) and then realizing it was ending, and going from having my kids all the time to most of the time to all of the time again.
I did the daily grind of ALL.THINGS.KIDS. every day, all day.
And then I met someone.
And eventually it moved to the next level. And things are great.
(Side note: Blending families, especially when you have kids from divorce, kids who have experienced a parent’s addiction and mental illness, kids who are already annoyed with their blood siblings and now have more kids around A LOT, is really fucking hard. It’s almost (dare I say) harder than keeping a marriage together when you’ve built your life, your family, together. But the difference is, now you have had the experience of hell that goes with breaking up your family. And so you’re either going to put in the work to make it last and be beneficial for everyone involved. Or you’re not.)
But regardless of how much work you put in or how “normal” you try to make your family, it’s just not the same. And it never will be.
And here is where I say, being in a new relationship doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not a single mom anymore. In some situations you might be more comfortable, you might have help, but in almost all cases you will never share the same type of relationship you had before, especially when it comes to your kids.
You can love someone’s kids as much as your own and they can love yours just the same, but your experiences with your kids that started from the first positive pee-stick aren’t shared like they were with someone else.
Your history with this new person starts years later. And eventually, the goal would get to a point where all of those “before” experiences are water under the bridge. But it’s going to be awhile before you get there.
And despite their ability and desire to help, there are just some things that they simply can’t do (or your kids won’t allow them to) that your previous spouse was able to step in and be a part of.
My kids are young, their needs are still ever draining on a parent. I still wipe butts, give baths, cut food into little bite sized pieces, make snacks, tie shoes, get them dressed, open juice boxes, (etc, etc, etc….)
Some of these things, sure, my partner can help with. But so could one of my friends if I needed it that bad, when I was single. Other things? Even if he wanted to, he just can’t.
Any sort of major parenting decisions we weigh as a team, yet…. he’s not their dad. He wasn’t there from the beginning and so oftentimes I find myself doing more explaining than discussing.
He can’t give my kids baths, tuck them in, kiss their boo-boos or do my daughter’s hair. They won’t allow him to. It might be never that he is the someone they feel comfortable with confiding in, so the burden of all of the heavy stuff weighs solely on me. Maybe in time that will change, but for now, it’s mine to bear.
Financially, his job in this family wasn’t to come in and support me and my kids. That’s my job. And they have their own dad. But what if their dad is not contributing like an active and responsible parent? It’s not his responsibility to pick up the slack, that load falls on me too.
If my kid does something I find super quirky and cute, I’ll share it with him. But the reaction I get isn’t the same because he wasn’t there years ago when my older child did something similar and we laughed and laughed.
And the moments that my kids have that used to be endearing reminders of their father, now are terrifying indicators that his genes are still alive and strong within them.
If one of my kids gets sick I’m the one who has to call in to work, not him.
If there are conferences, meetings at school, doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, play dates to be made, birthday parties to plan… he will join in the fun, but he’s not taking care of those things for my children, and he shouldn’t have to. But that doesn’t mean having him around makes my life “easier” as I’ve been told it should.
The discipline is my job, and so is the explosive reaction I get if/when that discipline is met by an angry child. As much as he would like to step in and help sometimes, ultimately, it’s not his place.
So despite not technically being a “single mom” anymore, I find myself still feeling overwhelmed at times. Wishing I could get some help. Some support. And what’s strange is I have it, but it comes in a different form and not one I’m entirely used to (yet).
People don’t seem to understand that just because you have another adult in the house, all of your struggles and responsibilities as a single parent don’t vanish.
Everyone feels and experiences their situations differently. I am starting to think I shouldn’t have been so quick to feel stabby and wronged by the mom claiming to understand my life as a single mom because her husband was absent for a weekend on a business trip. Maybe she was feeling really alone.
Being a single mom, completely raising my kids ALONE was probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Having someone around definitely helps make the days go by faster. I feel less overwhelmed, less tired, less lonely than I did when I was doing this thing all by myself.
I refuse to be a sanctimonious mom that claims I have the same life as a true single mom that is raising her kids completely solo. I’m not. At least not anymore. But as a mom who has done that before and lived to tell about it, I gotta be honest… the way I’m living now with a new partner is (some days) not that far off. Not yet. Maybe not ever.