Single Mothers, You Inspire Me #thewayyoucarryit
Back when I was living in France I had a friend who was really hard on herself for being a single mother. Despite the strength it took for her to dissolve the relationship with her child’s father and choose to raise a child by herself, she still, of course, hated being in the predicament. Often in very transparent, raw conversations she would share with me her insecurity, difficulty with the social dynamics she then faced, not having the “typical” husband, house, etc. etc. to raise her new family. I always encouraged her, though well aware of the brutal reality of which she was speaking. Sadly, the frustration and disdain she had with her relationship status was not unfounded: in Western society single mothers don’t always immediately (or ever) experience the love and support they deserve. Most times they are met with judgment, exclusion, stereotype, and stigma that isolates them and consequently their child(ren), too.
My friend wouldn't even use the term “single mom” in describing herself.
Fast forward to less than a year later. My friend had her baby, who was now around 9 months old, and she was coming to visit myself and my husband at our apartment. She was still having a hard time adjusting to the shame factor of being a single woman with a baby, and still keeping a mostly low profile, avoiding people to avoid too many questions and the battle with assumptions and misunderstandings. Nevertheless, I’ll never forget seeing her turn the corner, coming towards our building, pushing her baby in an evolution bike (imagine a bike with a long, single handle to push the baby), walking like a queen—and wearing HEELS. It was summer, and I remember her post-baby curves looked AMAZING in her Bermuda shorts. She did not look at all like she’d JUST had a baby. Everything about her was radiant, dignified, and resolute. She was adjusting to the rhythm of carrying single motherhood.
That moment is one of many vivid memories I have of seeing my friend come into her own as, yes, a single mom. No it was not a complication she’d anticipated would become part of her life story (a select special few women CHOOSE to be single moms…), but it was one she was learning to carry. Right before my eyes my friend became the most organized, classiest mother I knew. Watching her create the lifestyle necessary to be balanced in raising a child and cultivating herself, I saw her rise above those challenges. She made decisions in motherhood so creatively efficient that I shared stories of the things I saw her do and the workarounds she created to simplify her life with all of my friends who were having children. Even down to the stroller she used: Whenever one of my friends announced their pregnancy, I enthusiastically sold them the concept of my friend’s choice of stroller, simply because of how she carried herself and her baby with it. No, really, this stroller model was such an amazing design that I preached its gospel to all of my friends, who shared it with their friends as a remarkable, pragmatic stroller to have for babies. When they’d thank me for the suggestion I had to tell them my inspiration came from my friend.
My friend embraced motherhood practically, efficiently, and stylishly—and gracefully embraced herself, and the “single” part of her motherhood in the process. She carried herself regally everywhere she went, baby in tow. Motherhood for me personally wasn’t even on my brain (no really you don’t understand: I had NO PLANS of being a mom), and yet, she became the closest idea of what I’d want for myself should I ever become a mother!
Everything about her was radiant, dignified, and resolute.
Fast forward a few years. I’d gotten married, my husband and I had moved to NYC, and I was pregnant with our son. As I entered motherhood my friend’s example that would lingered in the forefront of my mind. Many of the decisions I made in preparation for and in the early phases of motherhood were replications of her example. I was greatly impacted by how well she embraced her new life, as well as with how she carried herself as a woman with dignity and style and confidence, despite being a “single” mom. Yes, I bought that amazing stroller. I even bought an evolution bike for my son (and all my godsons) so I could strut stylishly around our Brooklyn neighborhood.
As my son grew up I’d find myself being complimented about how stylish I was as a mom, how I carried myself with my son, etc. I’d always have to redirect the compliments to my friend, just to sing her praises. My friend, who had the “complicated story” of being a working single mom in less than glamorous circumstances (“The father is not in the picture”), had blossomed into this amazingly confident woman and mother who created her signature way of carrying her complicated story. From France to Brooklyn, NY, she impacted my whole friend group with her determination to persevere.
I share this because not very often do single mother’s get the credit they deserve as being dynamic women who are doing it all, facing daily challenges ALONE for the most part, carrying their complicated story while raising their child(ren). I had friends who “did it right,” with had the husband, house, kids, etc.—I’m a married woman as well—and yet it was this friend of mine, a single mother, whose advice and tips and way of carrying herself through motherhood that I chose to emulate. In a society that’s so quick to devalue single mothers, it was a single mother who was my prime inspiration for how to carry myself and my baby through motherhood. A single mother empowered me with her example of savvy lifestyle decisions I could make as a mother. A single mother gave me the most vivid, influential picture of what motherhood could look like for me. And that single mother friend of mine impacted my life so much, that I use her example as a model, as a narrative to share with anyone who asks me for tips.
Every complication we face has a solution, has a way in which it can be repackaged so it can be carried efficiently as we live our lives. Some complications BECOME our lives and we have to learn how to carry them so that we don’t lose ourselves. It takes time and we have to be patient with ourselves and the critical, judgmental world around us as we step into our own and carry our stories with us. My friend showed me that the “complicated story” that is single motherhood (especially being a single mother) does indeed come down to #thewayyoucarryit. Single mothers…keep your head up!