By Dena Landon
Single mom. Who knew it was such a loaded term? Beyond, that is, the stereotypes about us that abound. While I’ve always found that claiming the term has led to solidarity and support from other moms some people don’t think that I, as a divorced mom, should use the term. I’ve been thinking about their points–that a divorced woman isn’t the same as a woman who got pregnant and did it on her own from the beginning, or that a woman who shares custody isn’t the same as a woman has no break–and while I can see why people would make those arguments I’ve come to a different conclusion. It all comes down to how you view the phrase “single mom.”
You can view it as a single, defining phrase. Or you can view it as a banner under which falls different categories. Divorced mom. Widowed Mom. Done-it-alone-since-day-one mom. It’s a catch-all that contains multitudes of variations.
Maybe I’m predisposed to see it that way because a blanket phrase that encompasses many subsets has been a part of my life since I was young. I still remember walking into the changing rooms at Pacific Northwest Ballet, five years old, wearing pink tights and a leotard. The corps de ballet practiced before my class and I’d crowd into the studio’s doorway with other little girls, watching in awe. More than anything, I wanted to be a ballerina. But as I grew older life, and turnout, told me that wasn’t a likely dream. I discovered the world of jazz dance and eventually ended up teaching jazz, tap and ballet to little girls like I’d once been. But because I’d never performed professionally, despite the years I’d put into the artform, I sometimes felt like a fraud. Imposter syndrome strikes all of us at times, but there is no governing body who gets to call themselves what.
Like the phrase single mom, dancer encompasses jazz, ballet, tap, modern, Irish Dance, hip-hop, and more. They are all different forms of expressing oneself to music–and all are beautiful.
So, too, are single moms: variations on a theme. I’ve seen these divisions before, arguments over who gets to call themselves what. There can be a hierarchy in the dance world, with ballerinas on top, modern dance second and jazz and tap competing for third place. They often argue amongst themselves over who is best, who has the right to call themselves a dancer, which art form is purest.
But I’ve also seen them band together to help. Studios donating costumes to another studio who lost all their costumes in a fire or flood. Ballerinas performing a guest spot in a modern show to help a new company raise funds. Collecting tights for Hurricane Katrina. When it mattered, the dance world put aside its petty differences and showed kindness, helpfulness, and compassion. Virtues that any parent, single or not, wants to demonstrate and instill in their child.
As moms we can help each other out, too. Another divorced mom watched my kid one day when he didn’t have school and she had the day off. Trading babysitting, picking up and dropping off, carpooling kids to soccer games, there is immense goodness in community.
We as the worthy community can waste time policing who can call themselves a ‘single mom’ or we can embrace the widowed mom, the divorced mom, the single mom by choice, and stand together under that banner with pride.
About the Author
Dena Landon is a single mom who eats raw cookie dough, passionately debates intersectional feminism and frequently tangles herself in yarn. Her work has appeared on The Washington Post, Narrative.ly, Salon, bust.com, and in Dance Teacher and Dance Spirit magazines. Her first novel was published by Dutton Children’s Publishing in 2005. She blogs at femmefeminism.com, and can be found on Instagram and Facebook.