Photo credit: Gagilas
Last night, to appreciate the ‘super moon’ double-eclipse, my kids and I popped a giant bowl of kettle corn, called up my brother and sister-in-law who live in our building, and headed outdoors (my kids in their pajamas) to watch the natural wonder. Along the way we noticed that West Side Story was playing on a giant screen in the little park across the street from our apartment. There, we bumped into a half-dozen neighbors, one of whom held Lucas on her lap for the duration of the film, and another, whose daughter and Helena dashed off playing.
I felt really happy. These were just a few in our circle of people who love and look out for us. There are dozens more.
Sure, family is a sorta security. But everyone has a story about how their brother/sister/parent/aunt/cousin/uncle/grandparent is somewhere between an unreliable flake and despicable person banned from their lives. Sure, you got married with the assumption and/or hope the guy would be there forever and ever. But even amazing spouses are human and imperfect.
In other words: You need a tribe. Your kids need a tribe. Some people are blessed with functional in-tact families that organically provide that. The rest of us have to create it.
One of the biggest fears and challenges of single parenthood is the loneliness. Not just the social, sexual and emotional connection inherent in a happy marriage. But the sense of being alone. That in the event of financial challenges, you are SOL. Medical emergencies? Flying solo. Logistical pickles every parent faces, day in, day out? All on you, momma. Never mind the need to chat about one’s day, or get a goddamn hug a few times per week.
So, go out and find that. It can be really hard in our culture to be vulnerable and ask for help. I wrote about that her, How I Found Strength in Asking for Help (originally in DailyWorth). This is especially true of women, as we expect so much of ourselves and each other. And asking for support can be especially true for single moms.
You’ve been burned before. That relationship that was supposed to be everything, forever and ever. Not so much. It’s hard to trust again.
You feel like a failure. So your marriage didn’t work out, you got pregnant outside of marriage, or didn’t find the perfect guy and had the kid on your own. Society tells you you are a loser. Losers must pay. They don’t deserve support! Of course, that is not true. You’re just a woman and you need a few friends. Get over it.
You benefit from playing victim. Our culture pities single moms because we’re all supposedly so alone and lonesome. When you first faced your own single motherhood, you likely were terrified of being so alone — a very human and natural reaction. But, if you choose not to fill your life with supportive, loving people, and instead cry: “I’m so alone with no one to help!” what do you get out of that? Do you hope others will flock to help? To pity and pander? Again, you have a choice.
You expect a man to save you. Again, the twisted fantasy that permeates our culture is that there is but one soulmate for every soul, and that person is to be your spouse, and that spouse is to fulfill your every need. Even in a great marriage, that is so messed up. Everyone needs lots and lots of people for all kinds of things in life. Maybe a husband is unique in your life in that his is the only penis you service. But healthy people have their emotional, intellectual, social and logistical needs serviced by a whole cadre of loved ones and acquaintances. You’re already a single mom — a renegade who rejected the notion of “normal” family. Why are you still seeking a “normal” family?
What is the answer?
- Accept that there is more love and support in the universe than you can stand. The second you get that, magical things will happen.
- You still have to work it. Just invite people over for dinner. Seriously, no one does this any more. Invite the neighbor over for pot roast. Ask your colleague for Sunday brunch with the kids.
- Embrace it is normal and healthy and human to feel lonely. Even when you have a zillion wonderful people around you.
- Remember: Relationships take work. Each and every one of them. Nurture and appreciate them.
- Relationships come and go, wax and wane. Maybe you and your BFF drift apart for some months or years. That is OK. Other people will drift in. Be realistic about expectations — including the expectation that you will get the love you need from places you cannot imagine.
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.