Meg Winkler is a freelance writer who keeps the blog Brainy Babe where she talks about books, writing, and of course the single mom life. She has been through two marriages and maintains a good relationship with the father of her daughter. This is her single parent story.
I didn’t set out to become a single parent; although, how many of us have? I was married and happy and we were surprised with a precious little girl who—I kid you not—from the womb has always been the biggest sweetheart I could ever have been blessed with. And then the marriage fell apart.
The reasons behind the collapse of our marriage are more involved than I care to go into, but we were married for almost seven years, separated for the last three. Even with that separation, it was hard—one of the hardest things I’ve gone through. To make matters even more difficult, my first husband was (and is) in the Army. He’s deployed fairly often and at the best of times he’s still at least a few hours away. At the time of our divorce, he was literally on the other side of the world. And I had this three-year-old for whom I was suddenly primarily responsible. Her dad’s always done everything he can to help out, but living close by has just never been a reality and I was granted sole custody because of our mutual living situations.
I sold our house—I had to according to the divorce agreement. I ran the gamut of all the legal stuff and honestly for a while I felt completely ashamed over getting divorced. On top of all the embarrassment, I had so many decisions to make. I had to decide what to do with my business. Should I continue pursuing my master’s degree? How was I going to get along? I was scared.
At around the same time, an old friend popped back up in my life after several years of silence and we fell into a very quick romance. I wasn’t a single parent for long and I married the second husband much sooner than I should have. That marriage ended after just about a year together. That’s when it got hard; that’s when it got interesting.
I was a single parent for quite a while. I lived with my parents for a bit, and without their help I think the little one and I would have learned what it’s like to live out of a car. I didn’t date anyone; I focused on finishing school, finding a good job, and getting my feet back underneath me. I had to find what made me happy. After going through two “failed” marriages, I had to figure out what I was doing wrong and how to fix it.
I’d married the first husband when I was just 20. I was just a kid. In many ways we’d grown up together, but that also meant that I had to stop and look at things from the point of view of what I wanted out of life as a grown up. I asked myself what made me happy. I changed religions, and therefore a large social set. I got a new job and finished my degree. I started really writing, I mean really pursuing it. And finally I started dating again.
Being a single parent has been difficult, but it’s also been an enriching experience. And I’ve learned a few things:
- You can’t do it all: I never absolutely bought into the “it takes a village” philosophy until I became a single parent. When there’s just one of you, suddenly this support structure means so much more. You rely on extended family, teachers, and friends in ways that you didn’t before. You also become hyper-aware of how this village influences your kid.
- All the hard work is worth it: Sure, there are times when you want to throw in the towel. There are days when you seriously just want to sit on the couch with a glass of wine and a chick flick (or a beer and a football game). This is okay. This is normal. And this doesn’t make you a bad person, which leads to my last point:
- You have to put yourself first: Of course your kid is a top priority, but not your only priority. Take advantage of grandparents who want the little one to spend the night–go out with your friends. Take time to paint your toenails. Don’t beat yourself up when you really just want to hit the drive thru at McDonald’s because the work day was rough. If you remember to put yourself first, you’ll feel better and be a better parent. It’s easy to get dragged down by single parenthood. Take some time for yourself; your kids will see this and be happier for it.
Today my life is different. I met the love of my life a year and a half after the second divorce. When I met him, I’d already figured out what I want out of life. I’d learned what makes me happy. I discovered a few things about myself and finally returned to the person I feel like I was before I was married the first time. My relationship with my daughter was solid and I’d buried all the hatchets with her dad. I’d gone through those struggles of having to deny my little one a toy or ice cream in lieu of a new pair of shoes or actual, healthy (read: boring) food that she needed. I’d learned how to prioritize things and I’d learned what’s most important.
And the reality is that I’m no longer a single parent. Sure I take on all of the big responsibilities of parenthood for my daughter, but I live with my boyfriend and a roommate (his nephew) and we form a kind of non-traditional family. I’ve always believed family is who you choose, not who you’re born with. I learned a while ago that we have to do things our own way, not dependent upon what society, friends, family, or the media tell us. For some, single parenthood is the way to do it. Being a parent is hard—I don’t care who you are and who you’re with. But it’s worth it. In the end, it’s worth more than you know.
If you enjoyed this story, I hope you’ll read the other contributions to this series. If you’re interested in sharing your Single Parent Story, please email me.
- Single Parent Story: Getting Us There
- Single Parent Stories: Not Your Average Mama (addiction)
- Single Parent Stories: Mama and Her Drill (abandonment)