Monday, March 3, 2014

5 Things I’ve Learned as a New Single Mom

When I was a military spouse, I often referred to myself as a Sometimes Single Mom. My husband was frequently away on military orders, and whether he was gone for short bursts of time here and there across the country or for longer deployments to less than friendly places, I was often left parenting our two young children on the homefront solo.

That’s the definition of a single mom, right?

Turns out, not so much.

Since becoming a real single mom, I’m realizing there’s so much more to single parenting than simply being the only parent physically present. I won’t say I had it easy as a military spouse because I didn’t and neither do all the military spouses out there parenting alone right now. But real single mom-hood is a whole new ballgame. I’m in the major league now.

That’s why, when I first read military spouse Sarah Smiley’s headline in her recent piece in Huff Post Divorce, I almost spit out my coffee as she called herself a single mother in a publication aimed at single parents. But as I read her post, I realized it was actually a nice tribute to the single parents working it every day. All her points rang true.

While I agree with the 5 lessons she learned about single parenthood during her husband’s deployment, I wanted to add my own 5, my own lessons learned during my brief time so far as a single mom. I don’t wish to generalize to all single moms because all single moms face unique circumstances, but the following are 5 things I’ve learned along the way:

1. As a single mom, I am solely responsible for my financial outcomes.

As a military spouse, I did a lot of parenting alone, but the money was still incoming. My husband’s paycheck supported my ability to be a stay-at-home mom for 6 years, and when he deployed, we actually saved money. Any paycheck I earned when I went back to work was supplemental, not a necessity.

As a single mom, I’m on my own financially.

In my case, this is both good and bad. It’s good because, in my marriage, I was the saver and he was the spender. I no longer have to worry about his spending habits or deal with the fights those spending habits caused.  I’m already programmed to pinch pennies.

This is bad because his paycheck was significantly higher than mine. That means pinching pennies is no longer optional. Yes, I receive monthly payments from him, which I will never complain about because I hear too many stories of women whose ex-husbands think they can pick and choose when they want to pay child support. But that money covers a small portion of living expenses for me and my children. Money is tight.

2. As a single mom, I don’t make parenting decisions unilaterally, but sometimes I wish I did.

Being a parent is tough. That’s why it’s ideal to have two parents to bounce ideas off each other and generate solutions together. As a military spouse, I often didn’t have the option to call my husband and ask for his input on how to discipline our son for breaking a rule or how long I should let our baby daughter cry it out. I complained about having to make tough decisions on my own because I didn’t know when he would be able to call or if he even had the time to process life at home. I craved those times when we could discuss parenting issues, when we could parent together.

Now that I’m a single mom, I sometimes wish I could make those decisions by myself. Now there are no discussions at all. Now I have to deal with the aftermath of his parenting decisions I don’t agree with. I have no say in what goes on in his house when the kids are there. I have no say in the movies he shows them that I deem age-inappropriate. I have no say in the people he brings into their lives. I have no say in the gifts he buys for them, even though gifts like cell phones will affect behavior not just in his home but in mine as well.

3. As a single mom, I have lost a portion of my support system.

When you divorce a spouse, you inevitably divorce his family. While I still have a relationship with my former in-laws, it will never again be what it once was. And I no longer have any contact with most of his other family members and friends.

4. As a single mom, I don’t have a plus one and I don’t have the reassurance that one is out there.

Even when my husband was deployed, I knew I was married. I knew I had someone who was eventually coming home to me and would eventually fall back into the routines of married life. I had someone who would eat dinner with me, watch movies with me, sleep in bed beside me. Even if he was temporarily absent, I knew I had a plus one, a significant other, a care package recipient, a partner, a companion.

Right now I have important people in my life who love me, but I don’t have a partner here with me for the routines of married life. And I have no idea if I ever will.

5. As a single mom, my time with my children is dictated by a legal document.

Any mom will tell you that she needs some time to herself every now and then, and I’m no exception. But now, my time alone is a result of a document drafted by an attorney and signed by a judge in a court of law. I have to abide by custody schedules. Any changes to that schedule involves extensive  and frustrating exchanges with my ex.

But do you know what else that means? It means I treasure the time I do have with my children. And I'll never take that for granted.



  1. It was great to hear your thoughts after having been a Military spouse and now a single mom. I try to use the term solo-parenting because really, that is what I am doing while he is gone, but I am in no way a single Mom.

  2. The changes might me tough for you or to anyone else but good thing that in every hardships and new challenges you have learned something out of it. The most important thing right now or as a Mom or single mom is the kids.



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