Every now and then, certain Twitter trends show up to extol single parenthood --#SalutingSingleMoms, #FathersCanBeMothersToo and suchlike. When you see an advertisement that shows a son gifting his mother a mug that says "World's Best Dad" or a meme that says in effect that a single dad is as caring and loving as a mom, it immediately becomes aspirational.
I won't lie -- three years back, all this is what I thought it meant to be a single parent. I wanted to be that mom who got that mug from her son. I knew people would question my decision and judge me but I was ready to fight to be his parent -- both his parents.
I am his mother, I am his only parent. And I am doing the best job of being his parent that I can.
I remember a piece of advice I got from a well-wisher, who said now that I was my son's only parent I needed to be a dad too. I needed to roughhouse with him and do typical "dad things" so he wouldn't feel as if he was missing out. And for the most part, I believed that.
Then, I actually began the process of trying to be two people rolled into one. I had to be mom and dad and I had to do it right or else my son would be missing something. And so I turned into this helicopter parent who worried way too much, disciplined way too often and demanded way too much from a toddler. I began to lose sleep and smiles over doing this single parenting thing right.
Some people continued to judge me and tell me there was a void in my life that I couldn't fill by myself. On the other extreme, some people put me on a pedestal. To them, I was the bravest, strongest person alive and a beacon of women's empowerment.
But honestly, both got it wrong. I lived an almost normal life somewhere in between both these extremes. In the three years that I have brought up my son alone, I have learned many things about single parenting.
I have no void in my life
No, let me rephrase that, there is no more of a void in my life than there is in anyone else's. Yes I am single and yes I am a parent, but that is it. Don't read anything more into that statement. We are all different and want different things from life, just like any normal person. I am actually, for the most part, very happy, and satisfied with my life. I make choices and prioritize things, as do most parents. Yes on an off day, I do feel like I need a personal assistant, but then who doesn't?
I have never missed an important occasion in my son's life and have never had to compromise. That is just a choice I make every day.
My kid doesn't miss what he never had
Yes, really, my son is normal and healthy and mostly happy, and most of the time he does not know even that he is missing something. On the rare occasion that he does I just deal with it normally and he moves on. And if the child is healthy and happy, is he actually missing anything at all?
I'm like any other mother
I am neither a very brave and strong woman, nor a weak damsel who needs saving. On most days I am just a normal person going about doing things that need doing. My life's choices have brought me to this place today, but that's true of everyone. There are days that I breeze through and others where I don't want to get out of the bed. But on most days I am dealing with what life throws my way, one minute at a time, one day at a time.
Yes he carries my name....but it doesn't mean I am replacing his father
You know what I hate most? When a form readily substitutes his middle name for his father's name. It's a debate for another day, but why does society think that a child's identity begins and ends with their father? What I want to say here is that just because he carries my name I am in no way trying to replace his father. Or worse be his father. It is a hard enough job being his mother. All I am doing is giving him an identity that is real to him. With some it is their father's name, with others like us it is not. But that definitely does not mean that I can be two people to him. I am just trying every day to be the parent that he needs.
I am his mother, I am his only parent. And I am doing the best job of being his parent that I can. Being a single parent is a matter of chance or choice. When it is chance, well you learn to grow into it. When it is by choice you know what to expect (though as I said before there can be certain unrealistic expectations). I am not saying it is easy, I am not saying it is just the same as parenting with a spouse (I know I miss the good cop while trying to discipline him sometimes). All I am saying is this: single parenting is neither about being a victim nor about being a super human. It is just about being a parent, the best way you know how.