I had a good time at a school fundraiser and it made me feel sad about being a single mom

Last week I attended the year’s first fundraiser for Helena’s school. Being that she’s in kindergarten, the auction at a nice neighborhood restaurant was the first such event I’ve attended.  Ours is a small charter school housed in a building once serving the film industry, but now painted bright primary colors, and from what I can tell, run by dedicated and enthusiastic educators. If you live in New York City, you know how winning the lottery-based charter system can make you feel like, well, you won the lottery.

I expected to have a fine time – after all, I’m one to jump at any occasion that gets me out of the house on a school night, especially if it will indirectly benefit the future of America’s youth. Especially if it indirectly benefits my child’s chances of becoming a wildly successful adult. And a roomful of mostly strangers is always a comfortable scenario for me. As I like to say – I can talk to a goddamn wall.

Parents and educators attended in cocktail attire. Everyone made efforts to welcome new faces. I became friendly with a few parents I expect to hang out with outside of school. Chatted with the director and a teacher. Many parents seemed to have known each other a long time. They did not exclude. I became even more secure in my sense that this was the right place for my daughter. For my family.

The bidding started. Enthusiastic PTA moms took turns auctioning off an impressive list of donations. Rounds of cheers and applause met the final bids.

“A week at summer day camp!” hollered the auctioneer. “Can I get $550? Your children will thank you!”

“A Toys R Us gift certificate! Parents – can we get $150? $175 Your children will thank you!”

“Ladies and gentlemen – a lovely Coach purse! $440? Can I get $450? Your children will thank you!”

Laughs and cheers and applause. All around was a happy crowd. They were good people. Nice people. Smart and cool people. People who form a community my children and I are now part of. I felt very happy and fortunate sitting among my new friends. I also felt a little sad.

Yes, there were many couples there. And I suspect many of the moms had left their husbands at home with the kids. But aside from being an outsider by way of marital status, I just felt sad to be alone. That event marked for me the beginning of an important chapter in my family’s life. I would have liked to have gone home with a partner on that frigid Wednesday in November. On the car ride home I would have said how glad I am that our daughter goes to that school. When we took turns brushing our teeth there may have been an unspoken, shared excitement for the new friends we met. There would have been a sense of a new beginning. Another seedling sprouting in the life that we would nurture. Nurture together.Instead, a mom with a minivan offered a couple of us rides. I gladly accepted, continuing the conversation and get-to-know-yous all the way. And when we reached my apartment, I thanked her and I went home.

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.

8 thoughts on “I had a good time at a school fundraiser and it made me feel sad about being a single mom

  1. Emma,
    I really appreciate the honesty and vulnerability you express in this post. Usually, you are so badass about everything that it’s hard to remember that there must be another side. I was just talking yesterday to my dear friend who is raising three kids as a single mom and she expressed very similar sentiments. She said sometimes it’s just so hard to not have someone else there. I told her, “I can only imagine. I get it.” So I say the same to you.
    Thanks for sharing this.

      1. I read your blog a lot! And I meant that as a compliment so I hope you took it that way. You are often very clear about your thoughts and feelings and come across with so much confidence. This seemed, while no less confident or clear, a little less “tough” for lack of a better word…anyway, I enjoy reading what you have to say :-) Even if I don’t always agree!

  2. I completely relate to this post. My son is in a great school in Chicago that we feel fortunate to be part of, and the families and educators are wonderful people. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to feel a little lonely embarking on this point in my son’s life without a partner to share the experience with. School pick-up, fundraisers, kid’s programs, and “parent’s night out” can be a little lonely when you’re flying solo.

    1. Angie – all so true. Of course, there are plenty of married moms who also tackle this part of life without the direct involvement of a spouse, but it’s a little different.

  3. My child is in a Charter school as well. Even though I am married, I go to most of the functions and events alone. I think it’s better that way because one I can invest time, I can be more active and vocal. Dad stays home to watch the kid. But I know what you mean…
    My kid is also in kindergarten. I became active in the PTO and I feel confident about our choice to send her to that school.

  4. I know exactly how you felt. I felt it, too. I wish I’d been as brave about admitting it during my single mom years. And, Emma, the married moms may not exactly welcome you with open arms. I only realized after I remarried how threatening single moms are to married moms. So if you feel a cold chill it is not your imagination. But, this could primarily be a southern thing…xoxo

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