Since becoming a single mom five years ago I've experienced judgment, pity and misunderstanding. But what most people fail to notice is that, alongside the downsides, I find solo parenting to be empowering.
Since my divorce, I've had a second child via donor conception and fertility treatment, which is one of the bravest and best decisions I've ever made. And I decided to do it all on my own.
Motherhood is a journey. When you travel it alone, without trying—and often without noticing—you build an extremely high level of independence, strength and resilience. Parenting without a teammate to divide tasks with, to provide a timeout, or to share decisions with, has pushed me to develop more skills and patience than I ever imagined.
1. Freedom and independence
I'm the only boss of our home. I don't discuss my parenting with anyone or compromise on how I want to raise my children. I can be as consistently inconsistent as I want and no one challenges me (apart from my 5-year-old!).
I change bedtimes when I need to, decide what we're going to eat and generally make all the choices for my family. (I can only imagine this is what it feels like to be the Queen.)
Although I do like being in control of the decisions, having sole responsibility for them can also feel like a heavy burden. Over the years I've gone from being a woman who couldn't even choose a restaurant for dinner, to a woman who makes decisions daily.
Through these experiences, I've become bolder and braver. I accept that I can only make what I believe to be the best decision at the time, and I may not always get things right, but that's okay.
3. All the love
I get ALL the love from my children and then some. It's a love I don't have to share or feel sidelined from when I'm not a parent of the week. Knowing that I'm the center of their world makes every worry diminish.
There's no pressure to rush bedtime. Instead, I lie there sandwiched between my two great loves—my 5-year-old's knee digging into my hip, my baby's hand upon my cheek.
With this love by my side, I know we can do anything.
4. Connecting with my true self
Single parenting involves many hours alone with my children. There's no adult I need to make an effort for or get sucked into arguments with. All that's left is me. I'm learning all about my strengths and weaknesses and it's helping me weed out the worst bits.
5. Practicing hands-off parenting
My oldest has been helping around the house since forever. He's pretty adept at serving breakfast, clearing the table and putting away his clothes. I think for me, raising him solo means having higher expectations at times. These expectations empower us both, daily.
I can't work everything out alone, just as I can't do everything alone, so my son is my teammate. I'm confident that this independence will benefit him, and any future partner of his, in the future. (Especially as he always replaces the empty toilet paper rolls!)
6. Grit, determination + strength
I've faced many challenges since becoming a single parent—not all connected to being a single mom, of course—but each seems to carry a heavier burden because of my status.
Single parenting has proven to be an extreme workout in grit and determination. I have to win because my children count on me, and me alone. The constant strengthening of my own resolve makes me feel like I'm becoming stronger by the day—and not just to survive, but to thrive.
When I found out my son had vision impairment, I fought for him to have an earlier hospital appointment than the one we were originally given. The fear of failing my kids if I don't advocate for them on my own means I have become a force to be reckoned with. And sure enough, once the hospital realized I wasn't going to give up, they halved his waiting time.
7. Meaningful female friendships
Over the years, my social network has become dominated by single moms. These women are strong, independent and fierce. They have refused to settle for anyone unworthy of their love. They are adventurous and inspiring. These friendships show me not only what I can be, but also what I have become.
If I had remained married, I doubt I would have met these firecrackers. They bring me joy and amazement daily. Together we've had many adventures—seaside getaways, ice skating trips and late-night open houses. I'm honored to learn about life, parenting and love from some of the most experienced women around.
When I first became a single parent I felt alone and unsure. Now, when my world wobbles I don't just know that I'll get through it, I know that I'll weather the storm AND come out even stronger.
To all the single moms out there struggling, you will get through this and in case no one has told you yet today—you're doing a really amazing job.