Not once but THREE TIMES in the past week I have received messages from married moms who want to be part of my single-mom Facebook groups (join Millionaire Single Moms, or Debt-Free Single Moms, BUT ONLY IF YOU’RE AN ACTUAL SINGLE MOM!).
Here is one:
Hi Emma! I’m not technically a single mom, but can you please add me to your groups? My husband hardly does anything at all around the house, I manage the finances, run the kid around and work a fulltime job!
P.S.: No. Buh-bye.
And by the way: Are you fucking kidding me?
Any single mom will tell you how we bristle when a married mother casually calls herself a “single mom” because:
a) her husband is out of town on a golf weekend.
b) works all the time.
c) doesn’t do his share at home or with the kids.
d) has checked out of the marriage and makes her feel fat, old and unattractive.
Those scenarios may indeed be very hard. Painful, frustrating, hurtful, lonesome, unfair and bad examples for the kids.
I feel for you. I also identify with you. I used to be married. It wasn’t so great for me. My marriage was indeed hard, painful, frustrating, lonesome, unfair and a bad example for the kids. But the marriage ended. I got out, and I found a new life. For me, single motherhood has been pretty great. It is for a lot of people, maybe especially women, so many of whom I’ve met whom THRIVE in their newfound independence and are forced to find their way financially, logistically, romantically and as parents.
For some of us, being a single mom is better than marriage, and sometimes, indeed awesome.
Anecdotally, I don’t know so many really happy marriages, and scholars have found the same. Per Rebecca Traister’s very excellent bestselling All The Single Ladies:
Psychologist Ty Tashiro suggested in a 2014 book that only three in ten married people enjoy happy and healthy marriages, and that being in an unhappy partnership can increase your chances of getting sick by about 35 percent. Another researcher, John Gottman, has found that being in an unhappy union could shorten your life by four years.
A recently published Stanford study found that women initiate divorce 69 percent of the time.
In other words: Married mom desperate to hang with single moms: You are not alone in your marital misery. You’re good! Normal!
Meanwhile, single motherhood is losing its stigma, so much so that all these married moms go around flaunting faux singlehood! The “traditional” nuclear family with married parents and kids now constitutes the statistical minority of American households, with single-mom led homes constituting the majority of the remaining portion. Further, and somewhat astonishing, the MAJORITY millennial moms are unmarried.
That is right: Single mom-led families are on their way to being the majority.
Statistically, it is economically tougher to raise kids without a spouse. It can be scary, stressful, socially isolating, lonely, painful and worrisome. But with 10 million single moms in the United States, you probably know one or 20 who are thriving, fully embracing the economic, educational, sexual and social opportunities afforded women in this country today. It might look pretty good.
To which I say:
Hey married mom: Maybe you sense that single motherhood will be awesome for you, too. But no matter how sad you are, how alone in your marriage you feel, you do not 100% have to be financially, romantically or logistically independent. Because you are not. Because you are married. Because you have not taken the risk to go at this family thing without a spouse.
That is OK. Really, it is fine. You are there, and we are here. I’m OK, you’re OK. But you don’t get the benefits of commiserating with an amazing tribe of women who, every single day, get up every morning, earn a living and support a family financially, logistically and face the prospect of lifelong solitude while schlepping it to the gym and squeezing into that size 6 pair of skinny jeans and braving the wondrous and terrifying world of dating in 2016 — all while hugging and rocking and yelling and encouraging and singing to and laughing with and scolding their children every day.
And yes, that is what it means to be a single mom today: less than a quarter of dads who do not live with their kids are actually involved, and about as many moms receive any kind of financial support from their children’s fathers.
That’s right: The vast majority of single moms are really, truly solo moms.
If you think that because your husband won’t freaking unload the dishwasher and complains when you ask him to pick your son at his sleepover instead of watching the game, and you haven’t had sex in weeks or months and that makes you feel really bad, I am sorry for that. But you don’t get it both ways. You don’t get the financial security of a second adult living in your house, or the psychological security of knowing that if you have a brain aneurism in the middle of the night someone will drive you to the ER and then get the kids to school in the morning, or the social comfort of couples’ dinner parties and not having to face your mother’s judgement for getting a divorce — and also get to hang with us.
[Now, you know and I know this all doesn’t apply to abusive situations.]
Because you are not here with us.
You didn’t take that risk.
Maybe you will, and maybe you will thrive in your newfound solo life. Maybe you will stay, work through a rough patch in your marriage, and never, ever regret that.
Or, maybe you will stay and be really, really unhappy — unable to share your unhappiness with your married mom friends because you all assume that the others’ Instagram personas are accurate, and not being accepted by actual single moms — moms who bristle at your self proclamation of being part of the club. Because you’re not there.
Worth reading: Washington Post: “Why I Can’t Call Myself a Single Mom”
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.