As a mom, it's typical to receive unsolicited advice from friends, family, and intrusive strangers. In my experience, though, no one receives more input, opinions, or advice about their parenting and their personal lives than single moms. As a single mom I was made to feel as though I had to work twice as hard as other moms, but without making a single mistake and while constantly apologize for simply existing. And when I asked other single moms to share the worst unsolicited advice they've ever received, I learned, once again, that single moms really can't win.
When I was a single mom, people were overly generous with their unwanted advice about how I should parent my kids, what I should and should not do, and how I should fix my clearly broken life. They told me I needed to find a new husband so my kids would have a positive male role model in their lives, while simultaneously expecting me to never actually leave the house without my kids. So, how was I supposed to find that man I supposedly needed?
I can't tell you how much shade I received if I dared to post a picture of myself having fun without my kids on social media. But in a very short amount of time I learned that when you're a single mom self-care is not optional. If you don't take care of yourself and get a break once in a while, you can't be the mom your kids need. And when I was given the space, time, and trust to parent the way I knew I could, like most single moms I was handling life just fine... and so were my kids. Still, and unfortunately, that didn't stop people from giving me some really bad advice, like the advice the following moms received:
"A friend used to constantly give me crap about dating 'broke dudes' and that I should start looking for rich guys like she did, to provide better for me and my kids."
"You should find a partner, otherwise you’ll get too attached to your kids."
"One of my high school friend's mom sat me down one night and said, 'Amanda, you're such a pretty girl. If you only date rich men you will only fall in love with a rich guy. Then you aren't a gold digger, because you love him."
"The biggest thing is other people complaining about their significant other being gone, and [claiming] they know how it feels to be a single parent. Not even close people. Also, I had someone tell me that I shouldn’t be ashamed to apply for public assistance. I own my own home, have a master’s degree plus two additional teaching licenses, and I’m at the top of my pay scale, but they assumed I would qualify for public assistance because I’m a single parent."
"People said, 'don’t date too soon or your kids will be confused.' So, my kids didn’t meet my now spouse until two and a half years into the relationship, and we were practically engaged."
"A lot of people told me that I would just get used to my kids being gone when they were with their dad and that I should enjoy that time. That really bothered me, because prior to the divorce it was just my kids and I. The adjustment to being without them was depressing and hard and having people tell me over and over that it would just pass was frustrating. Instead I felt like: why don't you just come over and have a drink with me or let me cry on your shoulder? Because I miss my kids and I'm spending the whole weekend worrying about their safety, what they're doing, and if they're okay without me."
"You should do some soul searching to figure out why you ran off your husband, so you can keep your next one."
"'Don’t worry, you’ll meet somebody else soon.' Um, not helpful a month into the divorce process."
"Some of the worst advice I’ve been given had to do with me being a lesbian who was previously married to a man. A family member told me to pretend that I still had a husband when doing things like applying for preschools or applying for jobs. It was ridiculous. I felt like I was being told that I needed a man (or a pretend man) in order to be socially acceptable and not put a stigma on my children."
"My father tried to hook me up with one of his co-workers. I had a ton on my plate at the time and was not interested in adding more to it at the time."
"Someone said, 'you should find a good man and settle down. It will make your life easier and teach your daughter traditional family values.'
My response was, 'b*tch, please. There is nothing traditional about me, my daughter, or our little family, and I’m good with that.' When I tell her she’s a weirdo, she says, 'and that’s good, right, mom?'
The answer is always yes. Always."
Because I became a single mom when my sister passed away, I get a lot of, 'are you sure that's what your sister would have wanted?' I mean, I loved my sister, but her choices were hers and mine are mine. I do always think of things she wanted for him, but don't need the judgement. It's hard to live in that shadow sometimes.
I think the most common thing for me is when I'm venting and people decide they need to give me the fix. I know what I'm doing here (unless I specifically ask for advice), I'm nearly 40, and a pretty successful adult. Sometimes I just need to vent."