17 posts categorized "Single Parenting"

"Mama, you never keep promises"

February 19, 2014

"Mama, you never keep promises," she says.

You know what hurts most about being a working-poor single mama of three remarkable girls who deserve to receive everything life has to offer? It's not necessarily the political or policy issues that work against me. Or even the need to defend myself while simultaneously doubting myself. It's those words.

I do keep the promise of good food, a comfy bed, a trip to the doctor when they need it. But those are non-negotiable items in the contract of motherhood: I meet their basic needs no matter what it takes. And as oft I can I give them an ice cream cone, a day at the beach, a guinea pig, even. Those are childhood entitlements, so I consider them basic needs, as well, though they have no idea how challenging it is to provide them.

But the day at an amusement park, the weekend camping, the lessons in whatever interests them or the big gift they really really want, well, those are un-kept promises, it's true. Actually, I don't promise them, I typically tell them "Someday I will make this happen for you when I can." So they want them. From me. Because I'm mama. This is the part I think is hard to understand for anyone else outside this fishbowl. It means that even the most simple things for me are left undone - a yoga class, an hour walk, a doctor visit - because they all have a concrete cost that's just too hard to justify. To me they are not fixed expenses or basic needs. Yes, I would love to focus on my art, take care of my body, take care of my heart.  Of course that makes sense to me.  But in the balancing sheet of the life and sacrifice of single motherhood, it just doesn't make sense to move dollars into your children's 'expense' column, even though they go into your 'income' column.  It just doesn't feel right.

I'm left with little emotional bandwidth to do much else as my own dreams quickly diminish in the rear-view mirror on our journey.  I make compromises to my heart that anyone looking inside might find unimaginable, but they don't see the internal accounting in my head. Yet even still, I'm left with those words, so innocently spoken as mere fact from her perspective.  I'm meeting the basics, yes, yet there's still more because you teach your kids to dream, and childhood is magic; they deserve *that* childhood entitlement even more than anything else.  Yet, it's also true too that I have been home teaching my youngest girl (and one more though he recently moved away) for months now because I just couldn't fathom sacrificing the gift of time and focus that my prior professional life stole from me with my first two.  And she just sat down and read her first book to me, at age 4, with a look on her face of having conquered the tallest mountain and an air of confidence that displayed to me *of course* she conquered the tallest mountain.  I gave her hope and knowledge.

That's how it balances out and I pray that someday all three of my girls will have the graceful gift of perspective to see this.  Someday, with any luck, my girls will know this struggle to be present for them right now is the greatest gift of all.  It sure is hard when you're raising your kids alone.  I want to be someone who keeps promises.

ISO: Co-Parent, not Partner

December 06, 2013

A dear friend of mine has seen relationships come and go in the past 15 years.  Always knowing she wanted to be a mother, she has taken the plunge into fertility treatments and insemination.  She is not alone in this quest.  Many women find themselves in a predicament where they are partnerless but wanting to be a parent.  Have you encountered the same?  Perhaps the outcome is single parenting by choice or perhaps finding a co-parent, though not a partner.

A recent email came in from an urbanMama-to-be:

I am currently single and interested in finding someone that wants to become a co-parent. I was in a 6 year relationship with a man I thought I would marry and have a child with. We bought a home together in July of 2011. In November that year he told me he was no longer sure if he wanted to be a dad. We went to counseling, and tried for 1 year to help him come to a decision. He couldn't, so I left. We sold our home I'm May of this year, and I have been single and living in an apartment since. I want to be a mom, I'm 38, never did I see myself in this situation.

Marry a Family, Divorce a Family?

May 29, 2013

DSC_0650Somehow, through my extremely long and messy divorce, I have managed to stay somewhat close with my in-laws. My ex-husband's dad and step mom have been committed to my girls and me from the very beginning. This is not to say that they're not in a difficult position, but they are very diplomatic and still consider me family. We go on long weekend trips to the coast and they sweetly remind me that if I ever move on to a new relationship and decide to grow my family, those new additions will be welcomed into their open arms. This relationship has been so comforting and I'm incredibly grateful. I recognize how lucky I am and how unusual this probably is for most ex-daughters-in-laws.

So here we are, almost 3 years since the separation and I still adore my in-laws and they seem to find value in our relationship as well. Sometimes I think that my father-in-law tolerates me, my homemade life and my choice to homeschool my youngest daughter, but I know that I can quickly bring him back around when I cook or bake for him. My mother-in-law is the most comfortable of the two and probably one of my closest friends. In spite of the circumstances of the last few years, we have been able to talk with utter transparency which is sometimes really hard and other times it's really healing. I'm starting to think everything is going to change though.

My ex has a serious girlfriend. He's had many girlfriends in the last few years, but nothing so serious. This girlfriend has a child and seems to be on the prowl for a stable relationship. My ex is either serious about her or he is just playing along- I can't tell yet and we are not able to talk about much, let alone our relationships.

It's funny because I don't care that he's moved on (although I used to). I don't want to know too much and I don't really like hearing my kids prattle on about what they do when they're visiting their dad and his girlfriend. I get mad when they tell me that they spend so much time with her when really all they want is to be with their dad, but when it comes to my ex moving on to something more serious, I don't care... except that I really love my in-laws.

It's already getting complicated too. My mother-in-law feels torn between me, who she loves, and her stepson and his new interest. She knows that at some point she is going to have to meet this new girlfriend (sooner than later) and it will get even more complicated because she will probably like her. This will be the first thing that we won't be able to talk about. In the history of our 12 year relationship, this has never happened. She's not going to want to hurt my feelings and frankly, I'm not going to want to know too much. I expect that I'll feel jealous of their time together and of their new relationship and as childish as it might seem, I worry that I will be pushed out.

I have been lucky to count my mother-in-law as one of my best friends and it's devastating to be sensing this shift coming into our relationship and realizing that there's really nothing I can do about it. I just have to stand back and let it unfold. It really has become one of those situations that keeps me awake at night as I search my brain for ideas that would keep us close, and yet I continue to come up blank.

I'm really going to miss her, that I know for sure.

Advice for post-divorce co-parenting

January 08, 2013

One of our founding mamas went through a divorce early in the history of this site, and it was overwhelming; her experience took her, largely, off the blog. I've personally watched many of my friends go through divorce and it seems so, so hard -- I've even taken to exploring my thoughts about it in fiction. Co-parenting while divorced, for me, sounds even harder than co-parenting while in a difficult marriage. Another mother asks:

Does anyone have good resources or personal experience to share with a newly divorced mama? My ex and I are fairly amicable, but I find myself really struggling with how this new world order works for the kids as they split time between us. Everything I've found to read about divorce addresses the nightmare scenarios when parents say nasty things about each other to the kids or manipulate them to win affection. That's not us at all. Those stories make me very thankful for how our divorce has gone. And still, I wonder if it ever feels normal to live in 2 different houses, have 2 different dogs, 2 sets of neighborhood friends... having grown up with 2 parents and a super stable home life, I feel a little heartbroken when I think about it too long. I know my kids don't necessarily think about it the way I do, but it would help me to have exposure to success stories of growing up equally with 2 parents in two houses.

Do you have any advice or stories to share?

The Puzzle: Single parenthood, work/career, childcare

April 13, 2012

"How do other working single parents balance the demands of work with childcare?" asks a friend.  She goes on:

My lack of ability to network and attend as many after work and out of work functions sometimes leaves me feeling outside of building strong relationships and opportunities professionally.  A lot of events and functions happen before daycare opens or after it closes.  Even if I could find a sitter, which most nights I can't, it is hard to justify spending the $12-15/hour plus any drinks and dinner at the function when I already pay $11k per year for full time daycare on a single income.  

Continue reading "The Puzzle: Single parenthood, work/career, childcare" »

Single Motherhood: so many different circumstances

March 19, 2012

One mama friend has two children, both under the age of 2.  She was never married to their father and - it looks like - she never will be.

Another mama friend has two children, a bit older, again never married to their father, but really, really, REALLY tried.  It didn't work, and she has been single-mama-ing it since the beginning.

Some mamas make the choice, from the beginning, to single parent.  

In every one of these case, so much moreso than our partnered-parent counterparts, "it takes a village".  The recent Portland Tribune article  says "a growing percentage of Multnomah County's new moms are unwed", with about half of the women younger than 30 are having babies out of wedlock.  Considering moms of all ages, in Multnomah and Clackamas counties, about 1 in 4 babies are born to unwed mothers.

Continue reading "Single Motherhood: so many different circumstances" »

When other mamas are single... on Facebook

December 12, 2010

I was idly browsing my Facebook page in between dishwashing jags when I saw the familiar-but-ironic little heart next to one of my relative's status updates. "___ is single," it read. Though I've always considered her a favorite family member, we don't spend much time together outside of Facebook, and I only met her husband once or twice; I had no idea things were rocky between them, and now his absence at more recent family gatherings looms large.

Only the latest in a recent spate of relationship status changes, it seems to be the vogue among friends and family and people I barely know to "like" such declarations of independence. I've seen situations in which the singleness was quickly reversed (a regreted overly-public blowup after a bitter, alcohol-fueled argument perhaps?) and these make the "liking" even more piercing than it is, in the most straightforward of situations. I can't find myself to "like" anyone's singleness, even if the relationship was especially tortured and obviously a bad one from the start. It seems too much schadenfreude, even if the one on the other end of the sudden singleness was terribly unkind to someone you love.

My relative's status was liked by someone else I like and whose judgment I respect, and I think the generally-accepted Facebook subtext for this is, "the marriage was bad for you." But, as with so many Facebook singles recently, little children resulted from this star-crossed entanglement. I know a bit of what it's like to be a single parent (though all my single-ness is temporary); I know what it's like to have a marriage-with-kids that is rocky. As is often the case with my rawly-single Facebook friends, I want to reach out. I want to act in support of this fellow mama, when things are obviously hard.

But: I never know what to say. I don't want to "like" it, I don't know if public comment under the status update is a better or far worse option. (And what, then, if there's a reverse?) It's so easy to get Facebook grant you a permanent separation. It's a lot harder, slower and more tortuous to do so legally; if one wishes to celebrate singleness, I think to myself, the end of that process is the time to do it.

I know lots of mamas who read this blog have gone single on Facebook, and have gone through the months- or years-long legal process following that social media break. I know others who have watched friends go through it, or go through the up-and-down of argument, separation, reunion, separation, divorce. What is the best approach? Speak publicly now, email, phone, pray?  Or simply wait until... what? If you've liked, or been liked, in situations like this: what resulted? What advice do you have, now?

Dating as a Single Mama: Do you involve the kids?

June 25, 2009

Single mamahood has its unique challenges, one of which involves how much (if at all) to involve our young ones.  An urbanMama recently emailed:

I have been a single mother since before my daughter was born, so I have been raising her 24/7/365. She has always had men in her life, one especially who is a father-like figure, and has been an on-and-off partner over the years. Currently, we are just very close friends. But recently, I have met someone and I think that it could lead to some sort of ongoing relationship (I’m not counting my eggs before they hatch…) and I am wondering about how to deal with this with my almost-4 year old. She has been included in several get-togethers over the past couple of weeks, and seems to be handling it ok, but she may not be aware that we are anything more than just new friends. I have single mom friends who date, and everyone seems to handle it differently. Some keep their parenting lives and their dating lives completely separate, which I imagine would be easier for those who share custody and have some time to themselves without having to find a babysitter each time. Others include their kids in the relationship from the beginning. Some concerns I have are how this new friendship will affect my daughter’s relationship with our close male friend, and also how it will affect her if he becomes part of our lives, and then the relationship ends at some point (as many relationships do….). I am feeling all sorts of guilt related to my daughter and my relationships and I don’t want to stress her out too much. But I definitely want to see where this new friendship is going to lead, because Mama is definitely having some fun!  Can anyone give me some guidance from their personal experience with dating as a single mom?

I Heart Single Parents: Local Social Networking

July 15, 2008

We've talked here on uM about Facebooking. And honestly, when I saw that post way back in September 2007 I wasn't quite sure what Facebook really was.  So embarrassing!  We've also shared the unique challenges of single parenting and found ways to connect with others in the same shoes

So it all came together when we recently met the founder of an excellent (and local!  isn't everyone into local these days?) social networking site for single parents called I Heart Single Parents.  Facebook meets single parents - but better. 

The founders describe it as 'an online community for single parents to meet, chat and find support.'  It has a decidedly upbeat attitude, an "I'm here and I'm gonna love it" approach.  Have you checked it out?  If you visit, let us know what you think. 

What are challenges as a single parent?

May 03, 2008

In recognizing the diversity of urbanMamas, we know that we are not all partnered parents.  There are distinct challenges - emotionally, financially, logistically - to solo parenting.  We recently received an email from a mama wanting to discuss more and connect with other single parents:

I am looking to meet other progressive mamas who are parenting without partners at least part time. I'm going through a separation and feel like a sudden outsider in my mostly nuclear, hetero, married world. I would love to meet other mamas, gay, straight, or otherwise, who want to connect around the challenges of parenting solo.  What are the challenges you face? I find, for example, that it's hard to overcome the collective inertia to get out and do things when it's just myself and my child. Families don't seem to invite us out as much. I'm also feeling guilty about the pleasures of having some actual--gasp--time to myself each week. I'd love to hear what you have done to honor your needs and feel good as a mom who is not with-child-every-minute.

Are you interested in getting together sometime to discuss these issues of single parenting?

Are there grants available for housing?

May 02, 2008

It absolutely takes a village, and part of our goal in building the urbanMamas community is to offer resources and guidance to all.  We received a recent email from a mama just outside Salem requesting help accessing grants or other financial assistance to buy a home:

My name is Starla I live in Stayton, OR.  I am 37 years old, single for 9 years. I have 3 kids each with a different type of mental disorder. My daughter is 14 with OCD, Trichotillomania, OCD Hoarder and ADD. One son is 12 with Autism/Asperger’s, PDD and ADHD.  Last but not least my 10 year old son with Bi-Polar and ADHD. My children are my world.  We moved to OR from CA so I can get my children more help through the school and Therapist, things are doing so much better here. I have a Home Day Care, that is so I can be more convenient when I have to drive my children to all of their appointments (therapist, Med Prescribers, a Home Skill Worker, or school teachers or counselors). I just went back to college in Oct. 2007, this is the start for me to a whole new career; my goal is to be a family Therapist for children with mental disorders.

Being a single parent with children with mental disorders, my job options are limited and the so are my finances. I would love to be able to buy a home for us.  I am renting a duplex so the maximum number of children that I can have in my Daycare is limited to 5 children.  If I had a home I would be able to have 10, and that would double my income.  Also my children are loud and they bother the neighbors on the other side of the wall (the neighbors know about my children and their mental disorders).  It is hard enough to try to control the children, and - when a neighbor comes over and gets in the middle of it - that makes it much harder.  My son (the one who has Autism) thinks that the neighbors want to kill him and I can’t get him to play outside, and he thinks that the owner want to kick us out (they don’t).  He lives in fear all the time. My daycare children are wonderful, and my children love them.  They all get along with the great.

If there is a grant that can help my buy a home for us that would help us out so much.

What are resources statewide (or even in Portland that could potentially have similar programs in other cities) that you could suggest? 

Single Mamahood: What is it REALLY like?

January 10, 2008

Mamahood comes in different forms.  Some mamas have a partner who may be a papa or another mama.  Some mamas are separated or unpartnered for other reasons.  Some mamas are single mamas by choice.  We want to hear what single mamahood is really all about, and we recently received email:

I recently had a friend come to me asking about being a single mother. She just discovered that she is pregnant with someone whom she just broke up with. I would really like to give her as much information as I can so that she has some knowledge draw on as she decides whether or not to become a single parent. I can share with her my own story but I know there must be more information out there than that.  I have done a umamas search on single parents but most of what I find is about single parents groups, etc. Does anyone out there know of any resources, beyond the standard WIC, Planned Parenthood and the like where my friend can get information about being a single parent, not necessarily JUST about the process of choosing or deciding against abortion?  I'd really appreciate any kind of feedback that anyone has to give.  Thanks again for being such a wealth of knowledge and support!

Help a Single Mama in Need

October 22, 2007

our urbanMamas community is tight and supportive of all mamas.  A mama emailed the other day and would love to hear from the rest of the community:

This is a little different than I normally read on the site, but I need support in a big way. I lost my job yesterday and I am the sole breadwinner in my single-parent family. I have a 2 year old, and receive no child support. My family is going to help me, but I'm still feeling a tremendous amount of stress and guilt. I sent my daughter to day care today and I will continue to do that as much as I can to keep things normal while I look for a job. Obviously, my mood has been one of anxiety and distraction lately, as I was anticipating the AX falling at any minute for the past 2 weeks. I think I am holding up well around her so far, but I don't know what the future will bring us, if we will have to sell the house and move, or even leave Portland (sob!). Since this happened, I have heard many stories of people who have been "terminated" from their jobs for various reasons (in my case, they have been wanting me gone for 2 years and were just waiting for the right set of circumstances to occur) and they did work again! I have been reading articles on Monster.com about how to tell a perspective employer you were fired without it getting you booted out the door. It's helpful, but this is still scary. I am on my way out the door right now to go apply for unemployment, but I wanted to hear from others if they have been through similar situations and how they dealt with it, especially while caring for little ones. Single parent responses especially welcome.

The New "Normal" - a post-separation family

July 27, 2007

Jason and I have been separated since January. We have had our ups and downs; but, have been able to keep Jackson largely unaware of our challenging moments. Things have been on a fairly even keel for the past few months and we seem to be getting a handle on the idea of co-parenting. In fact, we are comfortable with being around each other at the same gatherings and will even make a point of going to a gathering on our "off" night in order to have some additional time with Jackson.

Jackson let us know that this wasn't working all that well for him. The last time I attended a gathering when it wasn't a mama-night, Jackson told his dad that it was too sad for him to see me when it was a papa night because he did not like having to say goodbye to me and would have preferred to just play with his friends. I talked to Jackson about it a couple of days later and he said it was just too hard to not be able to stay with someone that he loved. We are so fortunate that he is so articulate and able to convey his feelings so well. I was heart broken; but, it isn't about me. Most of all, it hurts me to see that his dad and I have done something that has rocked his world to its core and are unable to "fix it" for him. I just want to take the hurt away from his little 4 1/2 year old heart.

So, a multifamily camping trip is coming up and it is not on a mama weekend. Jason and I have discussed it and decided that we are comfortable with both of us going. Obviously, we are going to talk to Jackson about it and make sure that he gives the idea the thumbs up. I am hoping that the idea of a whole weekend together, and not just a 2 hour drop-by, will make the difference to Jackson; but, I certainly don't claim to be able to read his mind. And, I don't want it to make it confusing (ie. Does this mean that mama and papa are going to live in one house again?).

I am wondering if anyone has experience with the post-separation family and how things worked for her/his family. Is anyone else going through these kinds of transitions? I'd love to hear about other separation/co-parenting experiences.

Question for 2-house families

April 21, 2007

urbanMamas and Papas, Sadie Rose would love to hear how you have juggled scheduling for your child(ren) who have two or more places to call "home":

I have a 2.5 year old boy, and he goes to his dad's one night a week. But now, things are changing and he's going to be there nearly (but not quite) half the time!

I was just wondering if anyone out there has any ideas on the best way to do the split household with a little guy. I was nearly twelve when my parents divorced, and as I headed into my teens, I liked the longer stints at each house so that I didn't have to go back and forth so much. But clearly, with a toddler, I'm not going to do it as I would with a teenager. At this point, we have developed a schedule where he goes to his dad's house 2 nights in a row, comes back to me for 2 nights, back to dad's for 1 night, and then back to me for 2 nights.

It sounds complicated, and I suppose on many levels, it is. I am just wondering if any uMs have any other ideas or experiences or advice on this matter. We are barely even through our first week with the new schedule, so I'm not even sure how it's going to go. Time (and emotions) will tell.

Single Moms Unite Together

October 18, 2006

If you missed that last single moms get-together, mark your calendar for November 4th.  Debby writes:

You are invited to a meeting of a group of single moms by choice or circumstance. We are now called "Single Moms Unite Together" (or as we affectionately call ourselves, "SMUT!"). This group is for single mothers or future single mothers who chose to do to it all of their own, whether by choice to inseminate, adopt, or not partner with the baby's father after finding out they are pregnant. Becoming a mom alone is hard work, and requires lots of support and empathy! We have been there too! Let's get together and drink coffee! We are meeting on Saturday, November 4, 2006, 2 pm at Sip and Kranz, a family friendly cafe with a fabulous play area for the kids. If you are interested but cannot attend, please do not hesitate to contact me so I can add you to the email list for future events. We look forward to meeting, playing, and networking!

Single Moms Group

September 20, 2006

Typically we receive more emails from mamas looking for groups, but every so often, someone emails us about a group that they've started.  As always, we're more than happy to pass along the information.  Debby writes:

We are starting an on-going group for women who deliberately became single moms. The moms we are looking for went through pregnancy and childbirth, or the adoption process, without partners, and are raising their kids as single moms, or they are currently pregnant with this same expectation. This can include women who deliberately got pregnant the old fashioned way or by donor insemination, and women who may have gotten pregnant unexpectedly and have chosen to do it all on their own. The group is aimed toward offering support and social contact for single moms, but it can also serve as a play group. So far there are 4 of us, with kids ranging from not-yet-born to 14 months. We have mostly only met by email. We are hoping for many more members, all with different stories and different insights into our situations! We are meeting this Saturday, September 23rd at the East side Urban Grind at 2pm. Hopefully the baby room will be available, but if not, there is lots of other space for the kids to play! We hope to see you there!  Contact Debby for questions and more information.