A reader’s awesome thoughts on single moms, sex and parenting

I’ve been thinking a lot about how our culture so damn mothers’ sexuality. Yeah, we’re all cool with women having casual sex and women owning their orgasms and women being as freaky as they want to be.

But for moms? Different rules entirely.

Women with children are expected to abide by an antiquated, prudish code that renders us chaste, “good” examples for our children. Which is bullshit, of course, because moms have just as many sexual needs and desires as other women. In fact, I believe motherhood is a massive gateway to unlocking your sexuality, if your experience is like my own. That experience includes evolving from a perfectly healthy sexual woman, to a woman who is now fully living in my body for the first time and enjoying my body and other people’s bodies more than ever in my life. And I am now a mom.

FYI, just yesterday I ordered from Amazon The Neutered Mother, The Sexual Family and Other Twentieth Century Tragedies. Stay tuned for a review of this 1995 academic tome!

Then today a reader posted this awesome comment that even I was not bold enough to write myself. It is in response to this popular post:

My boyfriend slept over with my kids home for the first time and hilarity (and normality) ensued

Match.com - View Photos of Singles Free


She writes:

Oh my goodness, thank you for writing this. I am overwhelmed with the amount of conservatism and self-sacrifice people expect of single moms.

I have a two and a half year old and am newly dating someone (about 3 months in). We’ve not had a sleepover yet, but we’re serious about one another — given, we’re as serious as you can get in a few months — and I don’t think sleepovers are too far off for us.

Shocker — I believe in modeling healthy sexuality for my daughter. I read in some thread that if I don’t want my kids having a parade of partners through their lives then don’t show them how to do that. Well, I actually don’t care if my daughter decides that she wants to have lots of casual sex… when she is capable of making that decision — near or at adulthood. I also don’t care if she is gay, or decides polyamory is for her, or is into kinky sex. All I care about is that she feels respected and empowered and in control of her sexuality. I care that she doesn’t hurt others or manipulate them, so I will make sure I don’t date people who are hurtful and manipulative. I care that she can communicate her wants and needs to someone she cares about, so I will model that for her in my relationships. What I cannot protect her from is loss. We lose people we love. Sure, I don’t want her to be heartbroken if I can prevent it, but I won’t always be able to do that.

Sometimes we will make the wrong choice, and our kids will have to go through those consequences with us. This is true whether we are happily married forever or single parents and dating. We will cause pain to our kids. Hopefully rarely, but it is inevitable. How we help them heal is much more important than that it happens.

Anyway, thanks for bringing this refreshing perspective to the overwhelmingly conservative, prudish, and outdated conversations around this topic.


What do you think? Do different sexual rules apply to women and moms? Post in the comments ….

Emma Johnson

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.

6 thoughts on “A reader’s awesome thoughts on single moms, sex and parenting

  1. Hey there, commenter you quoted here! *Insert sheepish wave and shrug here.*

    Yes, absolutely, we as a society expect mothers to sacrifice everything for their kids. I bet every single mom who reads this blog has had a time where we were celebrated for our identity as a single mom and told, “I could never do it” or “You’re amazing — sacrificing so much for your kid.” And mothers (single or not) do sacrifice more than men when it comes to family (see the book Maxed Out for starters). But single mothers, especially, are either held up as the pure paragon of self-sacrificing mother or degraded as a drain on society and a failure who couldn’t find or keep a man. We value the single mom who puts all of her desires to the side to create opportunities for their children.

    But I don’t want my daughter to grow up and feel guilty that because of her, I didn’t pursue my dreams or love or sex or all of the things that most happy adults are entitled to pursue. I don’t want her to walk away from her childhood with the image that mothers sacrifice and men get to do what they want. I want her to see me as I am — smart, confident, loving, sensual, passionate, political, fun, interesting, multi-faceted.

    Here I am going on again. ANYWAY, yes, the standards are different, and they shouldn’t be.


  2. Great great great! I’ve been a single mom for 13 years and have definitely had to model how to date and how to act and treat my boyfriends and vice versa. I don’t let her know every Tom, Dick and Hairy (no pun intended), but, the two serious boyfriends I’ve had, and I’ve loved and whom have loved me back. I would much rather her grow up seeing me respectfully navigate my way towards a great relationship than not see me do it all. Dr. Laura Schlesinger, prescribes that single mothers and father’s shouldn’t date until their children are out of the house. I say hell no to that. What kind of real life experience is that???

  3. Yes, I know first hand what it feels like to be under the moral microscope. Even my own father has told me that “no man wants a single mother– except for sex!” Well, guess what? Maybe I only want a lover while I’m enjoying my single life? I tell my kids that it’s completely healthy to have your needs met, and yes, I do need sex in my life. Like the quote in the blog, I only wish my kids learn self-respect, and feel secure and empowered to live the life they choose. I don’t care if society hasn’t kept up with new realities: there are LOTS AND LOTS of single parents. And no, that doesn’t mean we’ve mentally joined a convent. Get over it people.

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