By Laura Lifshitz
One is the loneliest number, so says the pop song, and as a single parent it can certainly feel like you’re living on a lonely little island at times. It’s not unusual to feel upset or even ashamed that your marriage or partnership didn’t work out and that here you are, living life on Plan B. And by lexical definition, “Plan B,” just sounds bad…like a default you resorted to because you were visibly forced. And for many of us, divorce and/or raising our kids alone was and is a Plan B, but that doesn’t mean it has to be viewed as a shameful, last-resort alternative.
If you change your perspective, you can see this in a whole new light:
Instead of living on a lonely island of one, you can see it as way more pleasant than the horror show of your former marriage…the island of torture
Instead of seeing Plan B as some crappy default, you can view it as if you have hit the reset button, and that your life gets to start over again
When you’ve grown up a good majority of your life envisioning that raising children exists in a family with two parents though, being hit with the reality that you will be doing it on your own is a pretty tough pill to swallow. It’s normal to feel a sense of shame over the fact that perhaps, you are not doing things as you hoped you would be, but truly this feeling isn’t a fact. It’s not a reality. You are not a source of embarrassment or shame to anyone, most especially to your kids, because you are a single parent.
If anything, deep down inside, your kids want you to be happy and have things be good for you, the same way you wish for them to be happy and have it good.
I’m not sure exactly why so many single parents grapple with this feeling of embarrassment or shame, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that parenting with four hands instead of two, is easier, as long as both parents get along. That many of us grew up with the idea that families need two parents. So, then we have this intellectual disconnect between how we defined parenthood, and how parenthood turned out for us.
And then, we can’t forget the ever-pervasive sentiment of feeling like we are not enough when we parent alone. That we never have enough money, energy or time to be exactly how we would like to be. We then go to bed at night wondering if we would have been better had we just had extra hands. Truly, when you consider it…it’s not that you need another parent around, but that all of us—single parent or married parent—need a village to raise our kids. We need helping hands and support, no matter what our marital status is.
There is no shame in your status. There is only shame if you allow yourself to be obsessed and controlled by definitions of marriage and parenthood.
And so, many times when I go to bed at night, I wish I had those extra hands. That extra paycheck. That extra hour to breathe so I could be more refreshed for my child. That I could worry less, and be more “me.”
It can feel very discouraging when we consider how helpful it would be to have extra hands and be a “team” again as a parent, versus how it is in reality: making decisions and living the daily life, alone as a parent.
What comforts me when I am feeling very guilty, not strong or not “enough” is the fact that all moms feel this way, at some point or the other.
It doesn’t matter whether they’re wealthy married moms, poor married moms, rich single moms, moms with a tribe of helpers or moms with no helpers: we all feel inadequate at times. We all sit there, shake our heads and want to smack ourselves for our mistakes and flaws.
When we made our babies, there was no promise that we could do this completely right, but there was a guarantee that at times, we’d be completely right as mothers…and completely wrong.
So, when you’re feeling bad because you are feeling limited either emotionally or financially due to being a single mom, just remember that even if you were married or well off…you’d have these moments.
There is no shame in your status. There is only shame if you allow yourself to be obsessed and controlled by definitions of marriage and parenthood, or if you set expectations of yourself that are not realistic.
Being a single parent is simply a part of who you are and only one part. You can’t let one failed relationship be the final grade of your life. In the long run, your kids wouldn’t put that F on you in the first place, so don’t do it to yourself.
About the Author
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated writer, comedienne, single mother and chocolate fanatic. A former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate, you can find her work in many places, like the New York Times, DivorceForce, Mom.Me, Women’s Health, Worthy, Working Mother and numerous other sites. Follow her on Facebook and her own website, frommtvtomommy.com.