I thought I knew what was coming ... until it actually came.
When I was debating whether or not to become a single mother, I knew my life would change dramatically after having a child. Even though some of these changes are wonderful and there are others I could do without, overall I know I'm a better person than I was before and would have been otherwise.
Here are the 6 most surprising things no one could possibly understand about being a single mom — until you actually become one.
1. You don't feel lonely anymore.
Before being a single mom, I felt general haze of loneliness cast over my life. I worried about whether anyone would want to date me if I had a child in tow. I was worried about prioritizing a baby over a partner because I yearned for both equally.
Now that I have a little one, I never feel lonely. Even when I’m alone working frantically on my book and business or playing alone with my son, I never feel any loneliness.
While I’m open to finding a partner and dating one day soon, I currently have no desire. My heart feels filled to the brim. I don't feel like I am lacking anything.
2. Real self-care wins is not a luxury — it is a vital priority.
I’ve been teaching and advocating self-care and balance ever since I had to leave my high paying corporate job because of a repetitive strain injury over 15 years ago. Being a single mother has forced me to prioritize the self-care that really matters.
These days, I’m lucky if I put on deodorant and brush my teeth. I’m usually rushing to get my son fed and clothed and off to daycare so I can take care of the immense number of responsibilities in my life. Yet, I hold sacred my Qigong weekly class — the one thing I know that keeps me sane and grounded. Even when I feel completely overwhelmed, a few minutes of Qigong places me straight back into my clarity. I feel upbeat and optimistic about everything after class, so that wins out over every other form of self-care.
I guess you could say, I've cut out the fluff.
3. Structure trumps spontaneity.
Most of my adult life, I’ve valued spontaneity and flexibility above many other things. I’ve weathered the ups and downs of being self-employed in order to have the flexibility to walk my dogs on the beach in the middle of the day or run off to a spiritual retreat in Maui when feeling called. I've always worked hard and got things done even with very little routine or structure in my life.
Since having a child, I’ve grown to love structure and routine. Simply put, structure is a single parent's friend. It helps maintain sleep schedules, ensuring my son (and I) get enough sleep, prevents “hangry meltdowns,” and ensures that my son (and I) know what’s coming.
I’ve become a vigilant routine maker and I love it.
4. The physical contact NEVER ceases.
I knew parenting would be physical, but I never quite understood why moms talked so much about being “touched out.” Now I get it!
Breastfeeding. Co-sleeping. My son whining “Mama carry me!” Poop explosions. Food being spit, flung, or spilled all over my clothes. The stream of things touching my body never ends. Add on sleep deprivation — and my body is tapped out.
5. Death becomes far scarier than you ever knew possible.
I never thought about death much before, but now I wake up in the middle of the night worried about getting cancer or getting run over by a bus. Then I worry I’m going to jinx myself by thinking about it, so I try and to shake it off. I vow to stop eating sugar and add more kale and exercise to reduce my chances of cancer. It’s a never-ending loop.
As a single mom, I’m more anxious about leaving my son alone when I die than I ever thought imaginable. And, more selfishly, I worry about not getting to see his life and who he will become if that were to happen.
6. You can do absolutely ANYTHING!
Amidst the lack of self-care, sleep deprivation, bodily fluids speckled across all my clothes, and of course, an obsessive fear of death ... comes an amazing silver lining!
Most days I feel completely unstoppable! I can do anything!
I am so amazed at my tenacity, resourcefulness, and strength. Some days I feel defeated and overwhelmed, but more often than not, I rebound quickly and again feel empowered and blessed.
I’ve been plagued with crippling self-doubt for much of my life. As a mother, it’s easy to second-guess every decision — and of course, I do. But usually, before too long, I return to my grounded self and know that I am doing the best I can and that my best is pretty darn amazing.
I could obsess over whether or not I'm perfect, but instead, I choose to marvel at all I’ve been able to accomplish ... and all that I have to look forward to.
Sarah Kowalski is the founder of Motherhood Reimagined, a life coach, and fertility doula. She is a go-to guide for women who are contemplating single motherhood, seeking help with fertility or raising donor-conceived children. Visit Motherhood Reimagined to get her monthly newsletter or to set up a free 15-minute consultation. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter @choicemamababy.