I wrote this post last year and am publishing it now in honor of Unmarried and Single Americans Week.
In a recent issue of a popular national women’s magazine, a woman wrote a piece about how (in my words) she was not exactly in love with being a mother. The article was met with negative letters to the editor in the following month’s issue that denounced her sentiments and regarded her daughter as “a poor child” to have to deal with such a woman as his mother.
Well, I can’t hate because I relate to that writer. I have been struggling with parenting my strong-willed daughter for most of her life. It’s not because she’s “bad” (although she is VERY strong-willed and defiant), and it’s not entirely because my ex-husband is not in our lives (I think that actually reduces some of the stress). It’s because I’ve just never thought of myself as “Mommy.”
I Am Not Alone
I’ve been independent and enjoying it for a decent amount of time before having my daughter at age 26 (I left my parent’s house for good at age 22 and got married the following year). I liked going where I wanted, when I wanted, without having to take so many things into consideration. I liked to take part in several kinds of activities after my regular J-O-B, including part-time gigs and side hustles here and there.
I only have one child, but she is a handful. Her personality is one that you can’t ignore, and she is clingy and demanding regardless of her age and stage of development. Many times when people give their unsolicited opinions, I feel like asking them to take care of her for a while and then call me. They don’t see what I have to deal with every day, alone. Then I laugh to myself when they suggest that I have another child so my daughter has someone to play with. Never mind that I don’t have a husband or anyone close to being one. And how would that ease my challenges with HER? Two times the patience, two times the childcare, with the same income? I’ll pass.
I was so relieved when I read the book I Was a Really Great Mom Before I Had Kids. I chuckled at the interspersed “dirty little secrets” interspersed throughout the book because I finally had validation that I wasn’t the only mom who felt some not-so-maternal feelings toward her precious little one.
Are You Propelled or Paralyzed?
I’m a single mom doing my thing in a couples world. Even if kids slow you down temporarily, your life doesn’t have to come to a stop.
As my speaking career progresses, when I travel, I may have to take lil mama with me sometimes. Had you asked me a year or two ago, I’d be concerned about how I could make my dreams come true while still be attached to this needy kid; but now I have accepted that she’s here, and embraced her presence so I can be an example of success and happiness. I refuse to use her as an excuse to my postpone speaking/writing career. How can she aspire to her dreams if I put off mine?
A miserable parent influences misery in a kid. My misery is not justified because I’m doing something (or not doing something–e.g., sacrificing) for someone else. Whatever you’re denying yourself, realize that your circumstances will change with a new season. I will not wait until I have an empty nest and then have to struggle with who I am as a person.
As my friend says, you can either let situations in life either propel you or paralyze you. It’s not like my life stopped because of her although I used to think it would. You don’t being stop being an individual because you have kids. You get a new title, and with all new titles come responsibilities–but it’s only in addition to the ones you already hold. One title does not have to define you.
So what personal titles do I define myself by? A single parent? A divorcee? I usually mention the former if the situation calls for it. And for some reason (maybe because of societal perception), I don’t want people to assume that I had a child out of wedlock, so instead of using the terms “baby daddy” or “daughter’s father,” I will say “ex-husband” so there’s no confusion. People are judgmental, and I guess so am I since I care whether I look like a sinning fornicator or a recovering, heartbroken ex-wife. Go figure. I’m so much more than that.
All of these sentiments are subject to change. Maybe after baby girl is grown and on her own, I’ll look back and see all of this differently. I’m still growing, and God continues to use my single parenting experience to show me more about who I am and who He is as my father.