My kids will be fine if I stay single for the rest of my life.
But they will be better if I remarry well.
It can be a tough balance to put your energy into thriving as a single parent while also believing that it’s ideal to be in a serious relationship. But the benefits are plentiful.
One of my single mom supporters is our longtime babysitter, Karen, now a grandmother. More than 20 years ago Karen found herself as a single mom to three young kids, and has not since had a serious relationship. She regrets that, and urges me to find love again. “Your kids need to see someone loving you and treating you well,” she explains. I thought of that last week when our friend Matthew was over for dinner, and he gushed about my corn-salmon chowder. “Wow! You just whipped that up?” he asked, then faced Helena and Lucas: “Your mom is such a good cook!” Without a third party to praise me, my kids do not have an opportunity to appreciate some of my finer points.
I also think to decades in the future, and how my children should benefit if I have a companion after they are grown. Case in point: My kids and I often visit with Nancy and Rolando, a neighborhood couple who met a decade ago, and are now in their 70s. They choose to maintain their separate residences, yet spend every day together salsa dancing at the senior center, eating meals and keeping the bench warm outside the local cafe. “My son is so glad I have a good man in my life,” Nancy says. It relieves her adult children to know their mom has someone to look after her and keep her company.
I also want my children grow up in a family headed by a couple. I want this to be their baseline understanding of family — not a single-parent model. I believe that my own transition to single motherhood was made remarkably easier by the fact that I was raised by a single mother myself. I did not suffer as much grief in mourning lost dreams of raising my kids in a two-parent family because my own attachment to such an ideal was weak. There are many gifts we single moms give our children — including resilience, independence, and a model for doing it all, all alone. Good or bad, large percentages of our children will divorce and be single parents themselves. But this can become a self-perpetuating cycle, one that ideally should be curbed.
But I find it tough to embrace my belief that it would be better for my children if I were happily married, and still feel proud and whole while I am not. I contend strongly that it is far better to be single than in an unhappy marriage. And yet I am also more realistic about what it takes to make a relationship work — and I wonder if I have hastily passed up opportunities to couple up with good men — to the detriment of my kids.
What do you think? Do you owe it to your children to remarry? How do you contend with the fact that you have not.
Recipe: Corn Chowder
- 1 medium onion, any color, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 celery ribs, chopped (the more leaves the better!)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped fine
- 3 small waxy potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, skins on
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1+ tablespoon corn startch
- Fresh thyme
- Fresh parsley, minced
- 3 ears sweet corn, cut from cob
- Hot smoked paprika
- Olive oil
- Heavy cream
Heat a Dutch oven. Pour in oil, sautee onion, garlic, celery and plenty of salt and pepper until translucent. Add bell pepper and stir until warm. Add potatoes, bunch of thyme, a few shakes of paprika and broth. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes or just until potatoes are cooked.
In separate bowl stir together corn starch and half-cup of water. Whisk into pot. Let cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring, until it starts to thicken. Dump in corn, heat through. Finish with 1/2 cup cream and parsley.Toppers: Roasted chicken, poached salmon, avocado, grilled shrimp. Whatever!
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.