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Dear Single Moms: I See You

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Once, I was sitting around with a few of my fellow moms, and we were chatting about our children. One of my friends went on and on about how adorable her sons are when they are able to get along and play with each other, and how her husband is like her third baby. My other friend talked about how much of a daddy’s girl her daughter was, and how she couldn't wait to have a son so he could be a mama’s boy.

I am a mother, just like them. But at the same time, because I am a single mom, my experience of motherhood is nothing like theirs. After an entire day of working, I sprint home to make it to my son’s daycare before the 6:15 cut-off to avoid paying a dollar a minute for the extra time that he's there. I listen as he chats away about his day, the latest preschool drama, and what he wants to eat for a snack. And I come home to an empty apartment, where all of the responsibilities to ensure his well-being are on me.

After I put my son to bed, I plop down on the couch and again, I am totally alone. I do not have a partner with whom I can commiserate or discuss my day. After a few hours of reality television, writing, and wine, I go to bed to wake up the next morning and start all over again.

5 years ago, when I first had my son, I didn't expect that this would be my experience of motherhood. It is difficult and sometimes incredibly lonely, but it is also rewarding. That's why I want to send a message to all the single moms: I see you, and I understand what you're going through.

I know the stigma that comes with parenting on your own. I know that while you should be applauded for being courageous, strong, and empowered as you raise a little life on your own, being a single mom comes with a tremendous amount of shame, even in 2017. It feels more like an embarrassment than an achievement. Society deducts a little piece of joy from our experience as mothers, simply because we aren't parenting with a partner. In one way or another, we are constantly reminded that we somehow screwed this whole parenting thing up.

Single motherhood is not a scarlet letter. It is not our one defining factor that determines who we are as parents or as women. Single motherhood has made me more determined, more focused, and more driven to create a life for my baby that is better than I could have ever imagined.

Earlier this summer, I went to a wedding where the couple had a child before they got married. After the ceremony, the groom went up to his bride and joked, "Our kid isn't a bastard anymore." They both threw their heads back and laughed, but I felt the smallest I’ve ever felt in my whole life. A little voice inside of me wanted to interject and ask if they considered my kid a bastard, too. Moments like these make single moms feel like they're a peg below moms who have partners.

To be honest, I never thought I’d feel so insecure about being a single mother. When I go out with my son, I make an effort to loudly bring up his father, just so strangers can assume that his father is around and active. There's this unnerving fear of judgment that I can’t seem to shake. I worry about how others view me, what strangers assume about me, and how my son views his own position in all of this.

But here’s what I really want to say to the other single moms: you are damn amazing. Being a mom, single or otherwise, is one of the hardest jobs on this planet. We are given the immense responsibility of raising a functioning human being who will later go on to be a part of our society. It’s not a task to be taken lightly. As a single mom, we have to be there for our babies while also being there for ourselves. The sacrifices, the late nights, the multiple jobs just to put food on the table, the fight to prove that we are more than just single parents – these are the things that make us extraordinary.

Single motherhood is not a scarlet letter. It is not our one defining factor that determines who we are as parents or as women. Single motherhood has made me more determined, more focused, and more driven to create a life for my baby that is better than I could have ever imagined.