Her question surprised me, and I had to think a while before answering.
Because we love our children, mothers usually try to conceal the feelings of fear and frustration, exhaustion and anger that sometimes accompany parenting. We find it hard to admit our mistakes or confess our discouragement.
Because single mothers may face prejudices and judgements from our peers and society, we often bear another level of expectation from ourselves and others. We often have to work harder to be financially responsible and emotionally available to our children. Single mothers wear the additional burdens of worrying about raising children on one income, having no one to share parenting responsibilities, and facing the long empty evenings after those children go to bed.
Yet despite the fear of the future and the many sleepless nights I endured as a single mom, I found aspects of single motherhood that I appreciated and enjoyed.
Here are 5 things I gained from being a single mom:
My years of single parenting were lonely at times, but the experience was also liberating. Being a single mom allowed me the independence to take control of my own destiny. When I decided to move to a new city to finish my college degree, I didn’t have to worry about disrupting my husband’s career or asking for his cooperation. I packed up my daughter and moved. Being a single mom gave me the freedom to identify goals, make decisions, and plan for my own and my daughter’s future.
Functioning as a single parent offered me opportunities to gain skills I might not have encountered as half of a couple. I learned to live on one income and manage a household on a very narrow budget. I became self-sufficient and solved problems without relying on the opinions of others. I grew to define what I wanted from relationships and to choose people I wanted to share my experience. I identified what I needed to survive, and what I could happily live without.
Years as a single mom helped me establish a positive relationship with my growing daughter. I believe those years brought us together to have a closer relationship that has grown into a rewarding adult friendship. Because I often had to be away from home to go to work or school, I allowed my daughter a level of independence and responsibility that I believe contributed to her maturity as an adult and shaped her into the strong, hard-working woman she is today.
Experiencing single motherhood forced me to develop a higher level of courage and confidence in my abilities. I gained strength from knowing I had to speak out and act in my own defense – no one else would do it for me. Years of working on my own behalf showed me I am capable of facing any challenge and confronting any circumstance. I know I can handle any situation life may throw in my way.
Raising my daughter as a single mom taught me to appreciate the simple, everyday moments we shared. My favorite and most vivid memories are the daily activities with my daughter: walking to the library together, rollerblading in the park, picnicking in the backyard, preparing a meal in the kitchen, or eating cookies and popcorn on snow days.
I am thankful for all the gifts I received, and I value the lessons I learned. Raising my daughter made me a better person. I have compassion for other single parents, and I am able to talk with others like Teresa to encourage them. I can say, Your life may be difficult now, but you will all turn out okay. Someday you will look back at this time and be grateful for these years with your children.
I honestly answered Teresa’s question with, “There were some days that being a single mom felt hard and scary, but I can’t say I regret any of it.”
I hope someday Teresa will look back on her experience as a single parent, and she won’t regret it, either.
If you’re a single mom, what have you learned?
Liz Shultz has lived all her life in the Des Moines area where she worked full time and completed college as a single parent. Now happily married, Liz enjoys antique shopping and attending Yoga in the Park with her grown daughter.
Liz blogs at howtobeasinglemom.com and volunteers with an organization serving teen parents in and around Des Moines. She is completing a book about how her single parenting experience influenced her journey to faith in God. In her spare time she deconstructs old pajama pants to create quilts that warm and comfort the people she loves.