Single Motherhood in America
Vulnerability alert. I have started and stopped this post more times than I can count since 2016. For the most part, I’ve grieved silently the past year and 9 months since my then-boyfriend walked out the door and seemingly never looked back. I’ve kept quiet because pregnancy is supposed to be a happy time and my son has brought so much joy to the world, but I’m also realizing how important it is to share about my experience as a single mom. I am learning there are so many stigmas, and so many burdens, as a single mom in our country. I could keep quiet and go about life, or I can start to use my voice. I’m choosing the latter because when I was pregnant, and single, I was amazed at how little resources or community was available to me.
As a single mom, life has felt unbearable at times with an immense pressure I feel to be it all - a present mommy, a successful bread winner, and somehow an asset to society as well. (HA!) Some days I feel my immense strength, and like I can really do it all, but other days….sheesh, I wonder how the heck this pace / this stress is sustainable. How can I be going a million miles a minute between taking care of my son, earning a viable living, putting healthy food on the table, keeping the house clean, and somewhere in there -not losing my mind and finding even 15 minutes for just me?
Don’t get me wrong, I am so fortunate to have family and friends nearby, but truth be told, the moments I really feel alone on this parenting journey are in the middle of the night and Ollie has been up for 3 hours, at the end of the day when I’ve been working and just want 15 minutes to myself, or at night when I’d love nothing more than someone to hold me and tell me I’m doing a great job, and everything will be OK. Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of being a single mom is every time my son does something for the first time, or makes me smile and laugh, and I wish ‘Dad’ was there to share in the amazement of this incredible life we created. Ah, yes. There is much sadness wrapped up in this beautiful and magical world of new motherhood.
I know that being a single mother can mean a lot of different things, but what I have learned first hand is that the majority of single moms are so because their husband, boyfriend, lover chose to walk away; and they are left trying to do it all with zero support from the father - emotionally, physically and financially.
In 2017 there were over 9 million single mothers in America with children under 18 (according to the US Census). I was one of them.
I know this post might elicit a multitude of reactions, whether spoken or not. To be fully transparent before I was one myself, I had a belief that single mothers somehow chose that path. I think I actually thought that they were somehow in the wrong ... hard to admit, but I wonder if a lot of people in our country have this subconscious belief that somehow the woman must be at fault? Don't get me wrong, I do believe that on a subconscious level, I chose my ex fully knowing who he was, and that my son came in to the perfect situation for both of us. With that said, I am certain the majority of single mothers, including myself, do not consciously choose to raise their children without a father. I think this is a real issue that needs to be brought to the surface in our country.
If we are to fix what is broken with our country then we need to look at the children we are raising. I am learning firsthand that if the Mom is not well then that makes it challenging to raise well children. I was talking with a friend from Berlin this week and she was telling me how mothers receive up to 2 years maternity leave in Germany. TWO YEARS! In our country, the average paid leave is 6 weeks. Six, freaking, weeks. If you are a mother then you know that at 6 weeks you are just barely starting to catch glimpses of the pre-mom you, you are just starting to feel like your feet are on planet earth, and you are just beginning to understand the enormity of your role as a Mother. It is not a time to be going back to work and somehow fitting 8 hours at the office in the mix. But millions of women in our country do it every day. I didn’t even get a paid maternity leave, and found myself working 2 weeks postpartum. Where are our priorities? The value we place on mothering, and the support we provide to mothers is severely lacking in our country. I’m talking about for all mothers here, but what about for the single mom who doesn’t have any support from the father?
I get now why so many single mothers have multiple jobs, and are some level of government aid. There’s no way around it unless they happen to have a healthy savings account. It’s a conundrum because childcare is an expensive cost, but as I’ve learned, it is really (really) hard to work with a 1yo running around. Parenting is not meant to be a solo job and yet where is the community in our country rallying behind all the single moms out there just trying to survive? I am very fortunate that I have had family and friends help with childcare, clothes, nappies, toys etc. but what about all the single moms out there who don't have people that can help? Honestly being a single mom is an impossible job. How are we supposed to raise our children if we are also to work full-time, put food on the table, keep the house clean, and somehow take care of ourselves in the mix??
I don’t yet know the answers to these questions, but I can tell you that I am on a quest to change the way we view families and priorities in our country. How can I earn a living while still being Mommy first? How can I create a business that supports me as a single Mom, instead of works against me? I am figuring out a new way of doing life - and business - as a single mom, and my greatest wish is to help other women on this path do the same.
More from the heart soon.