I'm loath to refer to myself as a "single mom" -- not because I'm ashamed of my status, but because that label conjures such stereotypical misconceptions. Whether it's men laying on thick opportunistic flattery, women tearfully offering condolences or politicians blaming us for society's ills, it's clear that many perceive single moms as desperate, pathetic, social deviants living on the fringe (despite the fact that there are 10 million of us).
Let's clear some things up. Here are 5 things you should know about single moms.
1. Single moms are not sitting around pining for sex. Oh boy, I've had to clarify this multiple times for men who think that all we poor lonely souls really need is a good shtup. Single moms are sexual creatures like any other human beings but we tend to have way bigger fish to fry than getting laid. Of course, sexual intimacy is wonderful, it is just by far the least important thing on most moms' lists of needs. Guys, if your aim is to court a single mother -- have a respectful conversation, treat her to a night out, or better yet, do her dishes (please!!!). There's a difference between genuine interest and exploiting loneliness to manipulate for sex. While most of us appreciate the former, the latter is distressing and a colossal waste of our time. I've been startled to discover that horny men view single moms as easy prey and somehow lacking in any standards. Sorry pervs, we have kids and are generally inclined to be more discerning, not less.
2. Single moms don't want or need sympathy. I have to admit that while I was with my ex, I used to feel pangs of pity for single moms and I shudder to confess, even an ounce of superiority. Well, now humbled, and several years into single motherhood, I recognize how arrogant and asinine it is to make judgments based on so little information. The task of single parenting can be immense, but we moms tend to rise to the challenge and regard our role as a blessing more than a burden. I want to acknowledge that there are very serious, undeniable, social, emotional and economic stresses that most single mothers contend with. However, shallow sympathy does nothing to help the situation, raise self esteem or change public perception and policies. What do single moms want? Well, for starters, to be heard, seen and respected as individuals with distinct circumstances, would be fantastic.
3. Single moms can be great moms. It's crazy that this needs to be stated but some people seem to automatically assume children of single moms are destined to become criminals and drug addicts. Here's the deal, some moms suck and some moms are awesome and most of us fall somewhere between the two extremes regardless of relationship status. While many single moms battle a scarcity of resources and time, nothing in and of itself about being single precludes a mom from being as effective as our partnered peers. In fact, single moms are often inclined to pay extra attention and work even harder to ensure our kids' needs are met.
4. Single moms need the village, just like all parents do. It's ideal to have friends and family pitch in when raising children. I could have used that help when I was married but I couldn't quite rally for it. Once I became a "single mom," it was easier to emphasize that I truly needed help. But, I wonder, if I had had more help prior to things falling apart, if my marriage might have fared better. The point is, moms, dads, single or married, need support and assistance sometimes. This is not exclusive to single moms.
5. Last, and most importantly, single moms are as varied as all humans. We have diverse beliefs, desires, and experiences. Some of us are divorced, some widowed, some single by choice, all of us unique and individual. Single moms fall across the socio-economic spectrum -- some destitute, some living lives of luxury, some working two jobs while going to school; for many, single parenting is a genuine hardship, for some a challenge and for others, it's no sweat. Erroneous assumptions, both negative and positive, are made about mothers based solely on the distinction of whether or not they are single. For all of the conversations about single moms as a group, none of them encompass the range and complexity of our particular lives.
I, and most single moms I know, take great pride in prioritizing the care of our children. We don't see ourselves as downtrodden single moms, we see ourselves as human beings. So, let's lay off the "single mom" label. All it really reveals about us is that we are moms who happen to be single. The bottom line is, if all you know about me is that I'm a single mom, you don't know much.
Single moms out there -- any myths I've missed that you'd like to dispel? Now's your chance to set the record straight.