There are few things I claim as absolute truths. Here is one: nobody works harder than good single mothers. I’d be happy to debate that with you right after you spend a week in their shoes. I respect the resilience and determination of single moms. They are the hardest working, most loyal, and most generous people you could ever hope to meet.
For as much as I respect single moms I have a tendency to make them angry. I point out that no one, no matter how good they are, can be two people. The best single mothers I know are trying to be both a great mom and a great dad.
I was jokingly asked once what I would need to take over the world. Without hesitation I said all I’d need is 10 single mothers provided I could promise them that their babies got to grow up, go to college and have good jobs. Single moms get shit done.
I have a clear memory of graduating college as a nontraditional student. I attended an awards ceremony – we celebrated those who finished with the highest grades. What we failed to celebrate were the women who worked, raised children, managed a household, and went to college. Don’t get in the way of a woman with that kind of guts. She will run over you.
Ask her why she does what she does and she’ll tell you about her kids. Ask her what she needs and she will tell you what her children need. Ask her what she wants and she might say, “a nap” but then she’ll go back to talking about her kids. Ask her about the deadbeat father of her children and she’ll tell you she doesn’t have time to worry about him.
The thing that I do that upsets single moms the most is explaining that if they get healthier (depression, anxiety, stress management), their kids will get better. They will reflexively explain that there is no time for worrying about their needs. I ask them if they would find an extra ten hours a week if their children needed it? They look at me like I’m the dumbest man who ever lived and say, “Of course!” I’ll then tell them that if they can pull off one hour a week for themselves it’ll help their kids.
Imagine embracing a mindset that everything will be alright if you just do absolutely everything right. Now expand that by applying it to doing right by everyone you love. Now expand that mindset to be daily reality. Now imagine doing that for twenty years. Yeah, it’s like that for a lot of these amazing women.
One of the people I most admire in this world confided in me that she didn’t “know how to stop being a single mother.” She found it difficult to let herself depend on her partner. She found herself doing everything and asking for nothing. When you live your life striving for impossible ideals it’s really hard to stop. I told her that she needed to learn how to relax. She laughed. I threw in the added incentive that she’d have better sex if she learned to do this. Women who live with significant levels of anxiety and stress tend to have lousy sex lives. Emotional, physical, and sexual release are all connected.
She had a long head start on her partner. He was new to being a step dad. He did not understand her sense of urgency about Things Getting Done. He was not used to living with a control freak. He marveled at her parenting and feared he would never live up to her example. He feared disappointing her and their children. She was patient and clear with her expectations and boundaries. It always takes longer than it should but he got It.
While I know they will live in their own little version of Happily Ever After, this will not be the case for a lot of single moms. They might tell you that when the kids are older, they’ll see about a man. Quite often, they fear that they’ll choose another bad one like the one who deserted their children. Good single mothers hurt for their children and strive to give them everything. In a more perfect world, we would all love our children with such tireless love and devotion.