What is a single mom?

I’ve been pondering this title lately.

“Single mom” used to be the identity that came with the expectation of pity.  Over time, it became a medal worn proud.

A single mom used to be someone in survival mode, treading water, longing for a break.  She wasn’t the best at making her kids feel important and empowered.  She couldn’t see past her own need for oxygen.  She did what she thought she had to do to succeed.

Unfortunately, this single mom looked past her purpose.  The ladder she was climbing wasn’t steady.  She wanted so badly to prove to the world that she wouldn’t fail, that she kept climbing the ladder, knowing she was headed for destruction.

She had a house, a steady income, and a few close friends.  On the outside, it looked like she was doing pretty well.

But if you caught her, if you peeped in her window, you would have seen her exhausted and gasping for air.  You would have found her just looking for relief from the daily struggle… constantly.

She thought that being in a relationship was what she needed, emotionally.  From the moment she knew she was going to be a single mom, she desperately sought to fill that void.  The void that she thought her ex-husband left… she replaced by another man.

Relationship, after relationship, after relationship, after relationship.  Each one lasted about two to three years… it took her that long to realize that the men were hurting her more than they were helping her.  Each time she found a new one, she’d fly right past the red flags that were blaring.  The flags were as loud as firetruck sirens, as bright as flashlights pointed in your eyes, and as obvious as stains on a white t-shirt.  Her negative state of emotional health didn’t allow her to see the red flags until two to three years into the relationship.

Fortunately, for her sake, and the sake of her children, the last one did her in.   She woke up.  The day her eyes opened, she shook her head in disbelief.  She couldn’t believe what she allowed him to do to them, how she allowed him to talk to them, and how meaningless she felt because of how he treated her.

This single mom decided that she needed to figure out who she was.  She realized there was a pattern and she wanted to stop the cycle.

She completed some painful soul searching that took her all the way back to her childhood.  She wanted to find out who she was before the relationship saga began.

First, she pulled out her positive traits, (because those were easier to handle): Carefree, silly, independent, a bit impulsive – the fly by the seat of your pants, adventurous kind of impulsive, not the careless risk-taking kind of impulsive – optimistic, kind-hearted, and overall… happy.

Next, she faced her negative traits: impatient, trusting people too quickly, hard-headed, competitive, naive, and willing to give in too easily in certain situations (not valuing herself enough to demand to be respected and valued).

For the first time since her divorce that was final 9 years before, she acknowledged that several of her negative traits contributed to the divorce.  Acknowledging this freed her to stop being the victim.

No longer the victim, she felt strong enough to start over.

Starting over meant that she wanted to try to be her “best self” – the one where her positive traits won more often than her negative traits.

The “Single Mom” title is now worn proud.

She helps her children change the spark plugs in their car without wishing someone else would.  She cleans the leaves out of her gutters with a smile on her face, glad she is not afraid of heights, and happy to have a steady ladder to climb.  She encourages her children to learn who they are, seek their true, unique identity, and not let anyone change them.  She respects herself, and hopes she is modeling that for her children.  She is driven to succeed, hopeful to dream big dreams that might come true someday, and thankful for the journeys – the one she walked away from, and the one that lies ahead.


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