Dear World: Single Moms Are Not Failures

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Single Moms Are Not Failures

Can we talk about something for a minute? Do you know what appalls me as a single mom? Like, the-next-time-I-hear-this-shit-from someone-I-am-going-to-release-my-inner-kraken sort of disdainful of it?

It's the goddamn stigma.

I don't just mean the "you are destroying America and breeding criminals" stigma (but f*ck you, too, Rick Santorum), but the notion that as a single mom, I am somehow a failure.

That because I had had enough, I've failed — and not only have I failed myself, but I have failed my children, my ex-husband, my family, my community, my potential future partners, my church (back when I had one), the institution of marriage itself, the nobility of motherhood, and society as a fucking whole. 

As if I had a responsibility to anyone but myself and my kids anyway. 

As if the ever-sacred moral fabric of society will now experience a great and expeditious unraveling because I decided not to be married anymore.

As if I should have been stripped of the title of mother when I shed the title of wife. 

As if anyone else could have done any better if they'd been dealt the same hand.

As if it is any of anyone's damn business anyway!

I'm tired of hearing people say that I "made my choices," as if I ripped apart my old life as capriciously as I choose an appetizer. As if staying and allowing myself to be trodden upon like a bit of grass in a footpath would have somehow been preferable to getting the hell out from under the feet. 

I’m tired of men telling me that I am great, but they can't accept my "situation," as if I am standing in quicksand, waiting to suck them in and suffocate them in a vortex of need and poverty, and unrelenting expectation.

I have children, not a "situation."

I’m tired of some married folk acting as if I am dangerous, like I want to ruin all marriages everywhere, because if I can't have one then neither can you.

I'm tired of hearing people say — in that knowing and righteous tone — "she's a single mom" to describe other women, before they know that I am one, too. As if those four words explain the sum total of her character, her abilities, her potential, and her life.

You know what failed? My marriage, NOT me.

It strikes me as intensely hypocritical that the general attitude towards the women who have chosen to make enormous sacrifices in order to do whatever it takes to provide their kids with the best life they possibly can is one of derision. 

The truth? A marriage is not always the best place to raise kids. Some relationships are toxic and no amount of therapy or holy water can exorcize its demons.

Some women have partners who hate them, abuse them, neglect them, cheat on them, lie to them, abandon them, hurt them, leave them, or just make them fucking sad.

Some women chose the wrong partner once upon a time or grew into a person who needs something else.

Some women had wonderful partners who died too soon.

Some women didn't even get the opportunity to have a partner, but they had the opportunity to be a mother — and they seized upon it, partner be damned.

In a society that so reveres motherhood, how can there be so much disdain for women who have chosen to be mothers at all costs?

Of mothers who opted to take an exhausting and lonely road because they knew it would be better for their babies in the long run?

Who chose not to run away, but to scoop their children up and carry them to safety?

How is there such a prevailing belief that a woman who will work her ass off to do right by the tiny people she loves is bad for society? In what realm does any of that make an iota of sense?

There is more to life and womanhood and motherhood than relationship status, and said status has no bearing on one's ability to mother well.

When I split from my ex-husband, my capacity to love and care for my children was not divvied up in the divorce. The fact that I have not found a suitable life partner in the intervening time does not prove that I am somehow unfit to help my littles navigate this world.

It is not evidence of some intrinsic nurturing deficiency, some genetic flaw in my mommy gene, or a deviant nature. It is utterly irrelevant.

Single mothers don't owe the world explanation or apology, and we sure as hell don't deserve any ire. We carry a heavy load, and often it feels like we are carrying it while swimming upstream.

We are doing our damnedest to be good moms, good friends, good employees, good people, good everything. A lot of us didn't set out to parent alone, but life is messy and unexpected things happen, so we are doing it anyway.

Because the vow we each made to love our children ferociously supersedes any other vow — even the ones that got broken. So here we are, doing it anyway.

If that’s failure, it's time to reevaluate the definition of success.


Unomum is our space to explore the many million issues of single motherhood, but it's also for all the ladies — women stuck in shitty marriages, unfulfilled broads wishing for divorce, and happily coupled former single moms with a shit-ton of wisdom to share.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.