Updated: Oct 2, 2022
As I open this blank document, I can feel my emotions taking over and now I’m nervous all my really good, strong, and valid points will disappear from my mom. I mean, brain—brain—sorry, I have mom brain. Because I am a mom. A tired, exhausted mom. Ahem, but that’s not at all why I’m upset. Did I mention that yet? I’m mad. And it takes a lot for me to get mad. I am a therapist after all who believes in regulating emotions, allowing the anger when it hits but also practicing peaceful coping skills on a regular basis, so my anger rarely has power over me.
I just read an article published by scary mommy, an account that I’ve followed for years and have always loved and valued. Their content is all about supporting moms of all shapes and sizes. But today, not so much. The title of the article is: FYI: You’re Not Single if You’re Married.
Because I love scary mommy, I clicked on this one, to be honest with you, I am one of those moms: guilty for claiming to feel like a “single” mom although I am very much married and have been for the past 12 years. Should I feel bad for this? Shame that I have felt these very real feelings? I needed to know. I needed to read this so I could learn. I never want to offend anyone, especially since I have multiple friends who are real single moms. If this is insulting, and I’ve definitely said it, that would be the opposite of my intention as a supportive friend.
However, this article didn’t teach me a darn thing! It just made me angry. I noticed my anger rise when the author started talking about how married women aren’t allowed to say that because “If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you have a person providing financial means. Emotional support. An adult human that lives with you at least some of the time, even if he works long hours or even if he travels for work. Someone to talk to about something other than video games and 3rd grade math. You have a person. And I’m not willing to give those a pass, who do not actually know this struggle, to share a title with any single mom. Just…no.”
Oh man, with this one! I had no idea we were all created for only two separate boxes as mothers that, according to this article, are equal: single or married. Here is my understanding: So, because we are married, we automatically have a “person?” A companion, a partner? Someone to talk to or someone who contributes financially. I’m confused. Because if that is the basis of her anger, man, is she way off! There are many married women who don’t feel they have that “person.” And they are entitled to have that feeling, even though they have a ring on their finger. She was angry and bitter; I could feel the anger and bitterness passing along to me as I read her words. She did take ownership for her bitterness, which I appreciated. She even called herself an asshole—she obviously is aware that for her, this is coming from a place of hurt and anger. But, hurt or not, she was seemingly annoyed with women who might have hardships as a mom but are still technically married, and I respectfully have something to say about that.
For the record, I’ve only referred to myself as a single mom during two separate seasons of our marriage, (which I suppose is two times too many for only being married for just over a decade) …and I’m not going to try to justify my reasons or situations that have led me to feeling like a single mom because…
Contrary to this woman’s opinion within her article…I believe I have every right to express my emotions and difficulties as a mom. Sure, I’m technically married, but having a feeling when I am exhausted, defeated, alone, and anxious that I can only imagine is what true single moms feel like, I am 100% allowed to feel. Because it’s a feeling. And I know a thing or two about feelings- did I mention I’m a therapist? I sit with women every day experiencing and expressing their hardships of motherhood. And as a mother myself, I get it. It unites us as women, we have that in common.
How about we stop categorizing and placing moms in different boxes and just feel with one another with empathy and validation?
Of course, struggles and experiences are different but one thing I have learned as a mother and therapist to women, is that while our experiences and situations may be different, we ALL feel these same and relatable emotions of defeat, fear, worry, exhaustion and loneliness. So, what is the intention of one saying they feel like a single mom- but they aren’t technically? I really want this to be heard. I want this part to be understood by every single mother out there:
We honor you. We see you and can see it is hard for you in a way that we can’t fully experience.
I know for me, I’m not trying to make others think, feel sorry for or worry that I actually believe that I am a single mom. I am expressing loneliness. I’m expressing anxiousness. I’m expressing what I can only imagine what a single mom must feel, and often. I believe that it is hard for you. I am not here to compete.
Let us get to the place where we recognize that: motherhood is hard, for all. No matter who you are. No matter if you’re married or single. No matter if your husband smokes meth in the other room or is clean as a whistle. No matter if you’re rich and can afford a vacation home or if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. No matter if your husband is in the military and currently deployed or your husband works every day from home. (That’s a separate struggle!) No matter if you grew up in a dysfunctional family or a healthy dynamic. No matter if you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom. No matter if you’re sick or healthy. No matter if you take medication or enjoy a glass of wine at night. No matter if you work out or just talk about working out Monday. No matter if you have support or have no family around. No matter if you went to college or not. No matter the cultural dynamics that have affected your family. No matter if you live in Australia or Texas. No matter if you’re a coffee drinker or prefer tea. No matter WHAT, you’re a caring mom who has hardships. It’s all relative. So, the next time you hear one of “those” moms, the ones who are married but struggling in their own version of motherhood, if you hear one of us say, “gosh, I feel like a single mom lately, I’m exhausted”—Please remember this: We are sending you a message of honor, respect and love. If we say something like, “It’s like I’m a single mom or something!” during our moments of hardship, this means we recognize the struggle it is for single moms and are using that moment to relate and bow down to you and your experience as a hard-caring mom.
To the mom who wrote the article, I hope you can someday soon recognize not only that you’re a freaking amazing mom, but that women around the world see you and feel you. Those who claim to feel what you must be feeling, are also lost or bothered in their own way, in their own heart and are also needing some help. And it’s okay for them to sit in that feeling. Even though, technically, their nuptials are still valid.
And for those who are married but feeling alone in this, you’re not only allowed to feel this, but you’re allowed to sit in this and express your defeat. Use whichever words you’d like, it’s real for you, and no one can take that away from you. Your intention is what’s important here, not what someone else might take from it.
And lastly, this is for all humans, be aware of WHO you are complaining to. We all have struggles and we're all allowed to feel the feels but being mindful of who you are expressing your struggles to, can make all the difference. If you don't struggle financially, maybe it's not best to express your stress over which new sink you should pick for your $50,000 bathroom remodel to your friend who is working two jobs trying to make ends meet. Just the same, if you're a stressed out mama but have a husband who comes home next week, maybe your single mom friends aren't the ones to express the feeling of "I feel like a single mom." Consider your friendships. Know your audience.
Yes, I realize my “rebuttal” of an article takes away from the other article’s author’s voice. She feels strongly enough about this issue to write an article about it and submit it to scary mommy. And who I am to tell her how to feel. So here is this, feel what you want to feel about other women claiming to feel “single,” but please try to see it from an intention’s standpoint and not as an insult or minimization of your single-mom struggles.
Tessa Stuckey, struggling mother of 4, Licensed Psychotherapist and author of the book
For the Sake of Our Youth: A Therapist's Perspective on Raising Your Family in Today's Culture