The past couple of weeks got me down. All that horrible weather left me with the winter blues, not much socializing and general malaise. It was a bit of a flashback to this time last year when I wrote “Single moms need gigolos:”
I’ve got the single mom blues in the worst way. I’m totally overwhelmed and exhausted and there is no end in sight! While most weeks my kids do stay overnight with their dad once a week, I’ve become jealous and resentful of “healthy” divorced families where both parties work together to support two careers and both parents do their best to be flexible and generous and make life work. I don’t have that. I also don’t have any financial support to run this show. I’m trying to grow my business, but that requires more child care, which would mean less time with my kids and I just can’t make that jump. I’m stuck and I’m resentful. I need more time, and I need a break. But there isn’t a spouse or an ex-spouse readily available to help make that happen.
I don’t feel so overwhelmed this time. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grip on the ole work-life balance. After all, I make a good living in less than 30 hours per week, see plenty of my kids when compared with many working moms. But I’m just alone. If I suffer a dip in my business, we are so vulnerable. If — like Sunday afternoon — I find myself making a fried egg sandwich in the afternoon and am suddenly hit by a wave of pent-up, lingering grief over the losses of the past few years, and despite myself I buckle over the counter in silent sobs. No one is there to catch me. Seeing the kids grow up so fast — Helena, barely 6, already reading so beautifully, devouring chapter books and joyfully teaching her brother and classmates to do the same. Or Lucas, who delights and delights and delights in telling detailed tales of day care, each punctuated by dozens of bright, “And then you know what?!” [lips smack] “And THEN you know what?!” [lips smack].
No on is here to record this life with me. To remember and build memories. To build that life.
And so I dream of a husband. Of being a wife. And I decide that being a wife is better than not being a wife.
For many people, I know that this is very true. For me, I hope it will be true one day.
But it is also a lie I tell myself: that married women have it better. I tell myself, and you likely do, too. But marriage, I think, is like money: If you don’t have it, you obsess about the notion that its presence is a magical ticket to happiness. But, I think, marriage is indeed really like money: It only makes life better if you are really happy in the first place, work really hard and appreciate it. Neither a spouse nor money guarantee happiness, or a life better than one without it.
Here are 7 ways that you tell yourself that married women have it better than you, but very well may not:
1. She is not lonely. In reality? Plenty of lonely married folks. Go to bed at different times and not quite sure what the other does at the office. Maybe he works very long hours, or is simply not that interested any more.
2. She gets laid all the time. Yep, statistics tell you that married people have more and better sex. Ignore statistics. Lots and lots of married people don’t fuck each other. And those who do may do it irregularly, and boringly. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The upside to being single? You have license to be a ho all the live-long day.
3. She has more help at home. Do you read a newspaper? Men don’t help with housework. Feminists are trying to sort that out, but until then, you’re not likely missing out on any Porn for Women.
4. She has more money. Sure, good chance that two incomes equal more than one income. But the couple’s net is not double that of a single person. Remember that two-income families have to support two adults: two cars, clothes and food, airline tickets and unfiltered Pall Malls for two grown-ups. Stuff like that. Also: couples fight about money. A lot. So there’s that.
6. She has more free time. Not if you have a visitation schedule with your ex. Because then you’re made in the shade and she’s jealous of you. Fact.
7. Her kids are better adjusted. OK, you’re probably right on that front. But not if you have your act together. Plenty of messed-up people who were raised by married people, after all.
Now, before you label me bitter, I’m not saying this is true for ALL marriages. (Maybe most. What do I know?) But what I do know is that you (and by “you,” I really mean “I”) cannot be happy if you believe your life must first be something that it is not. Right? But what about having a goal or a dream? What about being the exception? What if I am so, so, so inherently happy that it is, like, certain that my marriage will be a success? [lips smack] And then you know what?! [lips smack] What if I meet a great guy tomorrow? [lips smack] And then you know what?! [lips smack] I will be so much happier than when I was single! [lips smack] Guaranteed! [lips smack]
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Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.