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What Not to Say to a Single Mom

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.

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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 fall aside.

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. Thriving, even.

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.

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5. “I feel bad complaining to you.”

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.

Image via Leah Campbell

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