Motherly Collective

When my son was just four weeks old, I quickly and suddenly became a single mom. This certainly wasn’t what I had planned for myself or my newborn son, and it was scary to now be facing so many unknowns that didn’t just affect me, but this newborn baby boy, too. 

My unexpected single motherhood journey has taught me so much about myself, life and motherhood and I hope that in sharing it, another single mom out there knows she’s not alone. It can be hard while we’re in it, and I want other moms to know that it’s okay to feel how we feel.

And, while I want to be positive, I want to be realistic, too. Of course this isn’t the end for us. It’s just the beginning of what this new life will bring for our family.

Related: A love note to the exhausted single mama

Here are six lessons about being a single mom I’d like to share

1. Motherhood can be lonely, and it can be especially lonely for single parents

We’re often told that we’re ”not the only ones” and other toxic positive thoughts like that, that are supposed to make us feel better, but the truth is, even if we’re not the only ones, it doesn’t make it any easier. It’s taken me a year to not take things people say personally and to realize that I can’t force people to understand what I’m going through, or how I feel. Those close to you are trying to help, and the truth is that they can’t actually understand what we are feeling, as much as they want to try. So I appreciate the intent behind things people say and have learned to shrug it off if it doesn’t suit me at that moment. They say it gets easier as time goes on, and I’m sure it does, but we’re allowed to have rough days, too. Especially on days without our children. I watch our friends build families with their significant others and while I’m over the moon happy for them, it can feel isolating for me. But what I tell myself is that my son is happy. I’m happy. And we’re OK in this version of a family we have created. For me, therapy has been a huge help in helping to change my perspective.

Related: 4 online therapy options that are ideal for busy moms

2. Seek out a support system so you’re not alone on this journey

While the above can be true, I have been shown that I’m truly not alone. I have an amazing support system of friends, family and community that have shown me support that is truly unmatched. And, having my son has helped me make new mom friends, too. I’ve even been lucky enough to meet another single mom friend. Having someone to be able to relate to and to be able to understand what each other is going through has been really helpful. My friends are always up for activities both with and without the kids (they know when I’m without my son and will grab dinner with me). It keeps me going and provides a nice distraction on rough days. Putting yourself out there after having a baby and going through trauma isn’t easy, but it’s almost like the universe sent them to me. I’m grateful everyday for the moms in my life.

3. You can find your strength in times like this 

While having a baby could have made my situation more difficult, being a mom actually made it easier in some ways. This wasn’t just about me anymore. I had a reason to get up and get out every day. And, that reason brings me so much joy, I didn’t want to miss a single second. I’ve seen another side to myself that I didn’t even know I had. The women in my life have lifted me up through this, they believe in me and have helped me to believe in me, too.

Related: Why I refer to myself as a ‘single-lone mother’ instead of a ‘single mother’

4. It really does take a village. Allow the help & ask for it, too

Being a mom has changed the way I advocate for myself professionally and personally. As a working single mom, I am grateful to work for a company that encompasses mostly working moms and is run by a founder and CEO who promotes work-life balance. However, I know this isn’t always possible for everyone. For the single mom that may be struggling to find that balance, don’t be afraid to say “no” and set those boundaries. 

The other half of that is childcare, because without it, mom can’t get her work done. It’s very hard—if not impossible—to find someone to care for your child the way that you would, and not everyone has family nearby. While I’m grateful to have supportive parents who help tremendously, I also have a babysitter that I interviewed long before my son was even born. I think all moms struggle with this balance but I’m here to remind you that it’s OK to tap into your village, however that might look for you. 

I initially struggled to allow my parents to help because I always felt like that role should be filled by the other parent. But, since the other parent wasn’t around, I did it all by myself—with their help. As my son grows, I notice how he lights up when we’re with my parents. Over time, I’ve changed my perspective to accept the way my village looks now and the help offered to me. So to the single mom who may be struggling with the way her village looks or how she envisioned it would look, I hope this helps you realize that you’re not alone and it’s OK for our villages to look different than we initially imagined. 

5. Try to find joy in the little things

It sounds cliche, but it’s so true and I’ll admit it took me a while to fully get here. For many single parents, we have to give up time with our children and often feel like we have less time with them than if we didn’t “share” them. This “limited” time has been really hard for me, but has also helped me realize that I need to make the most of the time I do have. I often feel like I am racing to do chores and errands while my son is not here so that when we are together, we can make the most of our time together. Try to make space for whatever brings you and your child joy during the time you do have together. I’ll admit, there have been times I’ve cried through these times because it wasn’t what I thought our life would be—what my life would be—so believe me, I know it’s not easy.

A friend once told me to try not to focus so much on the situation at hand because I might miss special moments with my son. It has not been easy, but since then, I made it a real effort to try my best to be present because I didn’t want to miss a single thing and I know you don’t want to either, mama. 

Related: Being a single mom is the hardest, most empowering thing I’ve ever done

6. It’s OK to take time for yourself

Admittedly, I’m still trying to figure this out for myself (aren’t we all to a certain extent?) because the mom guilt can be oh so real. But when I’m able to give my son my best self, our family is our best self and that’s what matters. So get that workout in, take that nap and grab dinner with your girlfriend when you can. Be you for just a little bit. I tend to leave this for the days I’m not with my son and even then I still feel guilty. It’s a work in progress.

Motherhood changes you. Single motherhood has changed me, too. I like this strong, independent new person that I’ve become. I hope that another single mom reading this does, too.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.