[DASH of SAS] Dear new solo mom
Dear New Solo Mom,
You don’t know me, but I know you.
As a little girl, you may have dreamed of being a mother, but you may have never quite imagined that it would be like this – just you slugging it through parenthood.
Nothing can ever really prepare you for the possibility of raising a child on your own and I guess that’s why I thought of writing you and telling you what I have come to know.
For the most part, especially in the beginning, there will be a lot of ambivalence. You will be like all the other mothers, but at the same time, will not be anything like the other mothers. You will wrestle with the needs and wants of the two – sometimes conflicting – parts of you, the single girl and the mother. You will sometimes wish for a co-parent but will be grateful for the times when there is none and you are the boss.
You will be like every other parent who wants nothing more than to give the world to your child but will be overwhelmed with doubt and uncertainty about how to do that on your own.
Give yourself time and space to discover that you are only as strong as you choose to be. Allow yourself to understand that sometimes asking for help is not an admission of helplessness or inadequacy – but a natural, honest acceptance of who you are and who you are not.
Accountability and self-reliance are essential survival skills that are better lived out and served as an example to your children.
The joys of your child’s “firsts” may be diminished by the sobering realization that you have no one to share them with except the Yaya who will only dutifully say, “Yes, ma’am."
Then there will be times when you will feel a lump in your throat and a tug at your heart when you see your parents, your siblings, and other family members joyfully stand in as co-parents in their own right. There is nothing quite as moving as seeing that someone can and does love your child with the same intensity as you.
You will envy your single friends for amassing all sorts of acquisitions when everything you consider buying is first converted to and equated to cans of milk and packs of diapers.
When you do go out with your friends, you will find yourself counting the hours till you get home knowing that there is someone there waiting for you. In the quiet most mundane moments of every day, you may be humbled by the all-consuming instinctive connection between you and your child and how you need them as much as they need you.
In between all of this, you will deal with delicately veiled criticism and disdain posing as advice.
They will say no other man will ever want you but also wonder how you could possibly manage parenthood without a man. They will say that growing up in a single parent home is detrimental to the children. There will be labels bestowed on you: “sayang (what a waste)” or “damaged goods” or “may sabit (with strings attached)."
When you know you have nothing to be sorry about, you do not give people a reason to feel sorry for you.
Yes, there will be times when you will feel unsure and inadequate, but know that all mothers do at some point.
Learn forgiveness, a virtue more important than patience, an act that may be easier to extend to others than to yourself. Bitterness is tempting, but grace is much more liberating once you realize how much you still have to be grateful for.
Open yourself to finding love again – at the right time and only with the right person. Having a child is not a hindrance to love as what others may want you to believe. On the contrary, it provides clarity. So much more is at stake and you know better than to settle.
Allow yourself the pain of failing if only to feel the triumph and fulfillment of pulling yourself back up. You’ll feel proud of yourself and make your children even prouder.
No, you don’t know me, first time solo mom. But I know you. I was you 12 years ago. I will not pretend to know exactly what you are going through because our individual circumstances are different and it would be wildly pretentious of me to do so. But I am writing to you today to share the things that I wish someone had told me when I first became a solo mom.
You’ll be just fine.
Ana P. Santos is the author and publisher of Happy Even After: A Solo Mom’s Journal. She has been a solo mom for 12 years and counting.