I am not a single mom. I am a mother of two young children, and I am happily married to their father. Our situation is somewhat unique, because my husband is gone approximately 70% of the time for his job. Most weekdays I get the kids ready, fed, and get them out the door with all their stuff on my own. I drop them off and pick them up at different schools at different times. I deal with the extremely painful process of getting homework done, alone. Dinner and bed time are all me. If someone gets sick or has an activity or an appointment to get to, I take care of that, too. One especially challenging time last year comes to mind. My son and I both got the flu and felt absolutely miserable for a week. It happened to be the week of my daughter’s birthday, as well as picture day at school. Because OF COURSE. Parenting while sick is version of hell I wouldn’t wish on anybody, and not feeling up to celebrating your child’s birthday is heartbreaking.
Merriam-Webster defines a single parent as: a parent who lives with a child or children and no husband, wife, or partner. According to this definition, I could be considered a part-time single parent, and in fact I have been referred to that way by well-meaning acquaintances. But claiming that for myself wouldn’t be fair to the millions of single parents out there who meet more than just an arbitrary dictionary criterion. I asked people what they thought constituted a single parent and got a variety of interpretations, some with stricter standards than others (for example, whether or not the parent receives financial support from the other parent), but the bottom line is this: single parenting means shouldering the responsibilities associated with raising a child alone. I do a lot of the day to day stuff by myself, but I am not raising my kids alone. I don’t make big decisions alone, I don’t pay for their expensive shit alone, and I don’t worry incessantly about them alone. My mother-in-law raised three boys on her own. That is a level of badassery that I have not had to reach inside myself and find. To call myself a single mom would be an insult to people like her who don’t have what I have.
When I gave birth to both of my children, my husband was there with me. When my son broke his arm at one year old, my husband was there with us. When my daughter had surgery last year, my husband was there with us. Sure, there are things that he misses. Some of them are big things, like our daughter’s first steps and the great influenza battle of 2017. But the fact is that I have a supportive partner and our children have two parents that they know they can count on.