People are funny. They go through life with all
these preconceived notions—judgments about others based on small
details, rather than complete pictures. To an extent, we are all guilty of
this. We create narratives for others in our head and start to think we know
and understand individual situations based on generalities.
The woman on welfare.
The cheating husband.
The busy exec.
And the single mom.
We convince ourselves we know them all, enough
to comment on their situations and to make assumptions about their choices.
I see this a lot as a single mother myself, maybe even more so as a single mother by choice, a choice a lot of people seem
to struggle to comprehend. And I try to remember that when people say stupid
things about my situation, it’s because they don’t understand, not necessarily
because they are intentionally trying to be rude or nosy.
But still a modicum of common sense should
keep you from saying any of these things to a single mother.
1. "You know, you have to be careful who you date."
It has actually been suggested to me that “good” mothers shouldn’t date until their children are safely out of the house.
For the longest time, I had people
encouraging me to get back into the dating world. “It will be good for you,”
they said. “You can’t make your entire life about your daughter,” they warned.
Ironically, as soon as I did start dating again, I began to hear other opinions.
I can’t even tell you how many people
have warned me about all the bad characters in this world, imploring me to
protect my daughter if I’m going to insist on dating. It has actually been
suggested to me that “good” mothers shouldn’t date until their children are
safely out of the house, and that I might not be the best judge of character in
terms of who I allow around my child. And while I agree that protecting my
daughter is absolutely a top priority, it baffles me to learn anyone would
assume that just because I’m dating, it might be a priority I’m willing to let
For the record, I have yet to introduce a single man to my
daughter. And I don’t plan on changing that anytime soon. But I do have hopes
of finding the right man, in part because I firmly believe that out of the many
lessons I have to teach my little girl, showing her a loving, healthy
relationship is absolutely one of them. So don’t worry, you don’t have to
warn me to be cautious. But I’m not going to spend the next 18 years of my life
in a chastity belt, either.
2. “If you want to escape your kid … ”
Speaking of which, I recently had a man approach me with the line
of, “I don’t really like kids, but you seem like you could use an adventure. So
why don’t you get a babysitter sometime and we can go out and have some fun! If
you want to escape your kid … I’m totally your guy.”
Wait, what? Yes, that was his actual line. And no, I did not take
him up on his offer. Not only because I have zero interest in “escaping my
kid,” but also because, what a douche. See? I’m perfectly capable of weeding out the losers.
3. “Don’t you think she needs a male influence?”
Kids don’t need a parent of each sex to grow into healthy, functioning adults.
As a single mother by choice, I hear this one a lot. People
automatically assume that my daughter is somehow stunted because I don’t have a
male partner in my life. But guess what? The research is in, and kids
of single moms by choice and gay and lesbian parents are doing just fine.
Kids don’t need a parent of each sex to grow into healthy,
functioning adults. They just need role models in their lives of both sexes to
look up to. And you know what? We’ve got that. My daughter has the most amazing
grandfather in the world, and some pretty incredible uncles to boot. I promise,
she certainly isn’t lacking for quality male influences. In fact, I would argue
she is pretty blessed in that arena.
4. “How do you afford it?”
I work. I work really damn hard. And I pay all my own bills,
thankyouverymuch. You know what else? I maintain a schedule that has my
daughter only in part-time daycare, allowing
us to spend our mornings together every single day. It may mean I’m working
well into the middle of the night a few times a week, but it’s worth it for me
to have that extra time with her.
That look on your face right now, though? Yeah, you know, the one that suggests
you don’t think I could possibly be doing this all on my own, and that you are
sure I must be on some sort of government assistance to get by (a choice I can
also tell you would thoroughly judge). Well, it’s off base. We may not be
rolling in money, but I do just fine on my own. And you’re a jerk.
Most of my friends are married. And it’s not uncommon for them to
struggle when their husbands are out of town or simply aren’t pulling their
weight with the parenting duties. But whenever they want to unload about those
frustrations, as friends do, they always preface it with, “I feel bad
complaining to you.” And I always tell them to shut up.
Look, we all adjust to what we know. That’s just the fact. I get that if you entered into this
parenting thing as part of a couple, it can be hard to do it on your own when
that partner isn’t around. You don’t need to apologize for that, certainly not
to me. I can promise you, I don’t in any way feel like Supermom or judge you
for struggling with the juggling.
Doing it on my own is simply what I am used
to. It’s my norm. So much so, that I can also tell you that when and if Mr. Right comes along, I am probably
going to have a very difficult time letting him into my parenting bubble. It is
going to be hard for me to take another adult into consideration when it comes
to my parenting decisions. And when that time comes, you had better believe I
will be complaining to my married friends about how hard it is for me to be
living their norm. So complain away.
You don’t have to qualify your frustrations to me.