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Single Mom Night Out

Photograph by Getty Images

One of the defining characteristics of being a single mother by choice is the fact that virtually all the parenting duties fall to me. I am the one changing the diapers, handling the feedings and getting up with my girl day after day. We have an amazing group of friends and family supporting us, and there are always extra hands to help, but the reality is ... the vast majority of the work that parenting involves winds up being done by me.

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I don’t say that to complain. I chose this path, after all. And the reality is, most of the time, I actually like it. I like that I am able to parent the way I want to. I like that I don’t have to consult with anyone else, or share the snuggles that up until now have been mostly mine. I like being my daughter’s sole parent, and the occasions when I have really felt like I needed help have been few and far between. We have a good system, my little girl and I, and we get through most days just fine the two of us.

Of course, my social life has certainly suffered. Unlike my friends, I don’t have a spouse I can leave the baby with while I get a much-needed night out with the girls. I haven’t been to the movies since she was about 2 months old—the last time I felt like I could get away with bringing her with me—and dining out is an even rarer treat. Glasses of wine are consumed on my own couch, with little miss snoozing in the next room, and unless an event is kid-friendly, you can pretty much count on me RSVPing with regrets.

This is my life now, so ridiculously different from the life I was living even just a year ago, back when I was a bar-hopping social butterfly who had no idea her baby was currently gestating in another woman. Had I known then what I know now, I probably would have partied even harder.

It turns out I’m more replaceable than I thought.

Still, when the opportunity came up for me to have an overnighter away from my little girl, I literally cringed at the thought. My parents were happy to watch her, and my best friend was committed to getting us a hotel two hours north to ensure I had some baby-free fun, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t want to go. At 9 months old, no one else had ever woken up with my girl. No one else had soothed her when she was hurt, or given her a bath before bed.

Those were my duties.

And the idea of relinquishing them to anyone else literally made me ill.

Those who love me most weren’t taking “no” for an answer, though. “You need this,” they said. “It will be good for you both,” they promised. And the next thing I knew, I was kissing my baby goodbye and fighting back the tears as my bags were being loaded into a car.

The irony of that night away is that it was nowhere near as exciting as you might have expected it to be. I had one margarita and got heartburn, like the old lady I have now apparently become. When told we could do whatever I wanted, we wound up in a movie theater to see The Hunger Games with a bunch of fanatic 12-year-olds. This was the height of grown-up entertainment to me, not because of the movie itself, but purely because we were at the movies. By 11:30, we were back at our hotel watching Friends reruns in the room. And before I knew it, the next morning had arrived and it was time to get back to my girl.

My girl who never cried once while I was gone, seemingly adjusting just fine, even when her grandpa was the one standing over her crib in the morning instead of mommy.

It turns out I’m more replaceable than I thought.

Or maybe the real lesson is that it’s OK to relinquish some of my control every once in awhile—to allow some of our amazing friends and family to step in and pick up the slack, so that I don’t wind up feeling like I have to do it all on my own.

She can handle it, and so can I.

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Of course, even in saying that, I can also admit that I will be just fine if we don’t have another overnighter again. Not anytime soon, anyway. Because while going to the movies and landing in a hotel bed is fun, it all felt kind of anti-climactic compared to the life I have now.

I may not be closing out bars or dancing until dawn, but I would take being able to wake up with my girl over any of the excitement I once had.

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