You Made a Bad Life Choice?

I stumbled upon an article the other day titled “Single mothers shouldn’t be vilified, but they shouldn’t be glorified either. They’re people who made bad life choices.” [Gasp]…ummm what? I immediately got angry…like super, defensive angry… and contemplated writing back a fiery response to the author. But I didn’t for a couple reasons:

1) The article was written in 2011 (the equivalent of two decades ago in the digital world)

2) Everyone is entitled to their opinion

3) He was right (in my situation, anyways)

Now it’s your turn to gasp. He was right? Say what? 

When I found out I was pregnant my own dad took a couple weeks to even talk to me. He needed time to come to terms with the situation. I had made a stupid mistake and we both knew it - no need for him to tell me. I feel inclined to interject here that this “mistake” turned into the little human that now makes my world go ‘round…so, naturally, I do not regret a moment of it.

Statistically speaking, single moms are the poorest demographic in the nation and are also the most likely to end up homeless. Housing and childcare alone cost enough to completely suck up your entire paycheck. And did I mention they like to eat dinner… EVERY night. Expenses go 0 to 100  (real quick).

There are zillions of statistics outlining the benefits of raising a child in a two-parent home. And having raised my son in both, I can tell you that there is a noticeable difference in his behavior when his dad is around, then when he isn’t. But two parent households aren’t always possible, so single moms are left working their asses off trying to fill both roles. And naturally, we (myself included) struggle more financially than we would in a two-income household. And our nerves are shot, and our patience is non-existent, and when we have to fight about “…just one more episode of Dora before bed” we literally lose our shit. This is why we “glorify” single moms. They work all day and then turn around and work all night. Sun-up to sun-down. No days off and no breaks.

So why then, would anyone ever vilify them? Children raised in single parent households are more likely to end up incarcerated than those raised in dual parent households, suicide rates are higher, chemical dependency rates are higher… (all sad, all true). One parent means you are one role model short of a full set. It’s like driving with one headlight, or seeing with one eye. You can do it, but not as good as you could with two. You are literally operating at 50% efficiency rather than 100%. And the likelihood that an un-wed mother will raise a child who will also have children out of wedlock, is…well…high (as I write this I am already thinking of ways to keep Keylen locked away until he’s 25).

Of course, I do not think it is most women’s intention to become a single parent, or even to stay a single parent. Ideally, most of us want the same thing; to fall in love and raise our kid(s) in a household with four helping hands, rather than two. Whether that ends up being four biological hands or not is inconsequential to me, as long as the hands are attached to a solid role model who has a good heart. But, as a society we need to be careful in how we portray single motherhood.

[being a single parent]... it’s like driving with one headlight, or seeing with one eye. You can do it, but not as good as you could with two.

And now we get to the root of the statement made by the author when he suggested that “...they’re people who made bad life choices.” This is a blanket statement and is certainly not true for some situations (death, divorce, being just two examples), but is largely true for a majority (ahem… my situation). I made a decision that definitely wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done, regardless if it turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done. As a society we glorify single mothers so much that we almost make it look glamorous to become one, when truthfully it is anything but.

Case in point, my son’s teenage babysitter once told me “I hope I can be a cool, young mom like you someday. Your life seems so fun.” Of course she thinks it’s fun! She comes over for a few hours and then returns my son back to me before he has the chance to completely exhaust her with endless rounds of football, Lego houses, competitive fort building, and ninja sword fights. She isn't there for the temper tantrums or the sleepless nights when he's throwing up everywhere. When she comes over she also sees me at my best. When she shows up it means I’m about to get a few hours of child-less freedom! I’m on cloud-9 and usually enjoying my first (...fine, second) glass of wine by that point. I am a little bundle of joyous energy and so is my son. But this is so far from the day-to-day reality.

All in all, I truly LOVE being a mom, regardless of how I got here. I am thankful for the independence I gained as a result of being a single mother. I respect, and applaud, all the hard-working single moms from the East Coast to the Best (oops, I mean West) Coast. And I want single moms to have all the resources and support they need to be successful and independent boss ladies.

Back to the opening story about my Dad – he didn’t give up on me because I didn’t give up on myself. I wasn’t going to let the situation change the path I was on or what I had planned for my future. It just meant that I would have to work twice as hard, want it twice as bad, and sleep half as much. You can be a powerful single mom, a successful single mom, raise amazing children who lead extraordinary lives, and earn the respect of others. It just isn’t going to be easy, and that’s the honest truth.

Be a role mode, be amazing, be fabulous if you happen to find yourself in this situation. But by no means aspire to become a single mother.