If you're facing single motherhood – whether by divorce, choice or happenstance, you need support. All the freaking support you can get.
The key in this new phase of life is to be strategic in choosing who your support system is. I'm not saying ditch all your old friends, or be a snob. But maybe you do ditch some of your old friends and up the criteria for who you spend time with.
You're building a new life here, woman! Who you spend time with influence who that new person will be.
At the root of it, you need these people in your life. Maybe you find one person who embodies two or three of these roles. Up to you. And if you're falling short, fret not.
Single mama, looking for friends?
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Here are the types of people you need in your life right now:
1. A comrade
Someone going through the exact same thing. Divorcing? Inseminating? Just got knocked up and gonna see it through? You need someone who is there, too. For networking purposes, if nothing else — share tips on lawyers, doctors, child support. For me, this is hands down my bestie Morghan, who I quote here, is a family lawyer. Our paths happened to coincide in infinite ways. We've done all kids of stuff together, include go through divorce, vacation and contemplate creating a blended family together.
2. A mother superior
This is a mentor of sorts – – A woman who went through what you're going through and came out the other side being more or less who you want to be. I have a couple of these, including single mom bloggers Alaina Shearer of Ms. Single Mama and Honoree Corder of The Successful Single Mom – both of whom are wildly successful businesswomen and remarried happily.
3. The dude
This is your single dad friend. I have several single dad friends, but the main jam is Marc. You need this friend because he is a man — a straight man who is going through the same thing you are, but with a penis. My friendship with Marc has proven invaluable for his perspective on dating and parenting, points of view that have made me a better girlfriend, parent and ex-wife.
Now, I don't know a lot of people at this stage of life who go out to bars and cruise dudes, though Morghan and I had a fun minute or two that involved some Jameson and firefighters and you can read about it here. Most of us set up respectful wine or dinner dates with fellows met online. In any case, you need someone to commiserate with — someone who will not judge you as being a filthy whore because you have sex with men who are not the father of your children, and also will not easily tire of your endless dating antics, because if you're lucky there will be many.
I've got a few of these (I like to circulate between several people, so as not to tire them of my tales). Several are single moms who live afar, and we catch up via IM after our kids are asleep. Others include my friends Betsy and Kris who have been married for a zillion years and think my dating life is hilarious and twisted and also hilarious. And then there is Sasha, who is 15 years older than me and married for the first time in her early 40s. This came after years working in the music industry and enjoying romance and her body in ways that not every woman does — but I do. “I can totally relate,” she says when I share without shame my latest dalliance. “When I was your age I.Could.Not.Get.Enough. You keep doing what you're doing.”
5. The local
This mom may not be your besteset soulmate sister, but she lives nearby and that is a lot. This is a mom — better if there are three such moms – or more — who you can call when you're stuck at the office and need someone to snag your kid at the Boy Scout meeting. She's the one with whom you can coordinate childcare coverage for all those effing half and snow days at school, and will take your kids when you feel like you're on death's door with the flu, and she will not judge you when you call her every.single.day of spirit week and ask, “OK, what are we supposed to dress for today?”
Maybe you don't have a zillion things in common, but that doesn't mean that you don't have a glass of wine with her once in a while and gossip about the cute dads at the school or encourage your kids to be closer friends because that is what community and family is all about. And if you are really luck you will really come to love and like her, and even if one of you moves away, or gets married you will still be close forever – because you will always have that bond that is single motherhood. And even though you don't chose it or wish it on others, it is like war. Men who go through war together always cherish that time as precious and those friendships as their dearest, most brotherly. Because even though it is horrific and unspeakable, those difficulties are the stuff of life. That is when you are most alive. And the people who go through it with you are the only ones who understand.
6. Your ex (Should you be friends with your ex?)
Should you be friends with your ex? This one is a big maybe, and if the answer is yes, then the friendship will solidify years after the breakup or divorce.
However, you do need to prioritize healthy co-parenting, even if your ex is a narcissist, and even if family therapy or co-parenting classes are in order. The upside is that amicable co-parenting, especially if it involves 50-50 time-sharing, is best for kids — as well as gender equality.
7. A friend with benefits (maybe)
Maybe you just want sex. Or a fun connection, a physical relationship—but none of the baggage of a full-on relationship.
Maybe you're enjoying something really great, but not sure how to define it.
Maybe a FWB is right for you.
I'm not fond of the term “friends with benefits.” I prefer, “Someone I'm sleeping with,” or “a lover.”
My terminology suggests what people have been doing since God created penises and vaginas: Enjoying each other sexually and romantically without any social commitments. When all parties are evolved adults, it can be a very satisfying arrangement. But it is rarely without its complications.
There are pros and cons of a friends-with-benefits relationship. But, lots and lots of pros.
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Happy loving, ladies!
Updated. Originally published September 22, 2014.