I see it before I hear it—the raised eyebrow, the half smile. I’ve just revealed I’m a single mom, and I know it’s coming next, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
I don’t know how you do it!
I try to smile graciously, but I’m dying inside. Instead of admiration, here’s what I hear: I wouldn’t want to do what you do.
And I get it. If you haven’t been a single parent, you don’t know what it’s like. But when you’ve done it—pretty happily (I got pregnant while traveling abroad and my daughter, Lucy’s, dad has never been in the picture) for your whole entire life of being a mom, it’s the only thing you know. Here’s the thing: Being a single mom is very different than taking care of your kids solo for a weekend. You develop a groove and routine and, at least in my experience, have a much smoother time because it’s not a routine interruption. It’s just our lives.
Here’s the other thing I don’t say: A lot of times, I don’t know how married moms do it! I can’t imagine the compromises, the misunderstandings, and the arguments that come from trying to get on the same page on how to raise a little one. If I do end up having a child with a partner, I think I’ll have a difficult time adjusting to having someone else’s opinions matter.
What I want other moms to know is how similar our experiences are. You don’t need to feel sorry for me, or assume that I’m wishing we were in a nuclear family. In a lot of ways, I’m not. But of course, some things are much more logistically tricky.
I have some married mama friends who invite me to do things on weekend mornings or afternoons, not fully realizing how doing an adult-only thing, like a yoga class or a mani/pedi, is just an impossibility for me. While I love being invited, recognize that I need a little extra time, and I may not be able to come because I either don’t want to get a babysitter or don’t feel like spending the money on one.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that my married mama friends sometimes assume my daughter and I are always available, because it’s just the two of us. I get so many invites prefaced with my husband is out of town, want to do a play date? Sure, play dates are fun, but I don’t like the underlying assumption that we’re a.) going to be available and b.) it’s a last-ditch plan because your husband isn’t home. Because I’m a single mom, I tend to plan my weekends super carefully and super far in advance, so the assumption that I’m free just doesn’t usually work.
Finally, unless I bring it up, please don’t ask my relationship with Lucy’s dad. I’m a pretty open book, and I’ll usually reveal the info myself, but if I don’t, it feels incredibly personal, on par with me asking you if you and your husband are trying for a second or if you and your husband are actively having sex. Again, happy to talk about all these things, but only if you bring them up.
Bottom line: We’re all mamas. We’re all trying to figure this out. And together, we’re all doing what we’ve got to do, and rising to the challenge.
Anna Davies lives in the Paulus Hook section of Jersey City with her two-year-old daughter, Lucy. Anna is a writer who has written for The New York Times, The New York Post, Glamour, Cosmo, Elle and others. She's also written thirteen young adult novels, including ghostwriting five Gossip Girl novels (shhh!) Prior to Jersey City, Anna lived in Brooklyn for ten years and is a Northern NJ native. She loves going on adventures with Lucy; follow along @babybackpacker on Instagram.