What in the world is a single mom, and am I one?

I never meant to be a single mom.

My mom was a single mom... still is, in fact. She raised us on her own, without the every-other-weekend break and oftentimes, without any financial support at all. My dad wasn't a bad man by any means, he just wasn't a "dad" and by the time he realized it, I was grown. My mom never remarried. She's a single woman and a mother, and there's no confusion over her title. She is a single mother, through and through. Am I one, though?

I remember my first love. Do you?
His name was Justin and he was an odd duck. He was my first real, mom-sanctioned boyfriend. We went on dates and I'd ride the bus home with him sometimes, a huge responsibility my mom told me... and one I took very seriously. She was very protective but she liked Justin... everyone did! He was funny and unpredictable and complimented my spontaneous Leo spirit quite well. He dyed his hair and listened to Radiohead. He lived with his mom in a trailer park and didn't know his dad.

I remember laying in his bed after school, making out and listening to music when we heard the front door open. I nervously jumped out of bed. He stayed laying there, totally relaxed, and asked me what was wrong. I began listing all of the things that were "wrong" and at the age of 15, laying in bed with a boy was pretty high on that list. "Wouldn't your mom get mad?" I asked, and he laughed. "She doesn't care, come lay back down" and I did. Laying there I couldn't wrap my mind around it... she didn't mind us laying in bed together? The concept blew my young mind. My mom wasn't terribly strict, but Jesus! That would never fly.

As I got to know his mom over the months that we dated, I realized he was right... she didn't care if we laid in bed together, or if we stayed out too late, or if we didn't come home at all. In fact, there wasn't much she did care about. His mom worked at a factory and drank vodka straight from the plastic bottle. She kept her dildo in the dish drainer and took the Lord's name in vain. Her skin had no softness left, she always smelled like smoke and sex.

Justin and I had been anxiously waiting for the opening night of Fight Club and we begged my mom to take us to the theater. She couldn't, so we asked his mom. She said she'd be glad to as long as we'd buy her a ticket. I smelled the vodka on her and knew she had her little bottle tucked away in her purse. He begrudgingly agreed, but only if she'd sit somewhere else. We sat on the very last row, holding hands and watching the movie intently until suddenly she stood up and started screaming at me. Yelling names that even to this day make me blush, accusing us of having sex in the theater. As she ran towards me I looked at him and burst into tears. We were both confused, as we'd been so intent in watching the movie we hadn't even kissed! She grabbed us by our arms and pulled us into the lobby, scolding us loudly the whole way. I was shocked and humiliated.

It was then that I realized just as my dad never was a "dad" his mom was definitely not a "mom". Single or not, there was no "mother" to her aside from the fact that she at one point birthed a child. There's such an enormous difference in the title and the job, and though his situation was much more explosive than mine, he had no control over that relationship, just as I didn't. It became clear what our bond was from the start.

My mom took on the role of both parents not because she wanted to, but because it was her job. I'm very lucky in that I have Marshall's help raising our daughter... I don't have to be a dad, I just have to be a really good mama. Its a mentality, an active effort every day to be just... more.

At what point though, am I no longer a "single" mama? I mean, technically... I'm not "single" since I have a boyfriend, but I am still a single mom through and through. The numerous classifications within the title are what have me confused. Am I single, partnered/coupled, formerly-single? What if my boyfriend has virtually nothing to do with how I raise my daughter? Does it come down to his impact on decision making and his literal presence in her life? Do I decide or do other people?

My boyfriend, though a fantastic father himself, has very little to do with how I raise Miss Bean. He suggests an earlier bedtime for her and could color with her for hours, but all decisions relating to her are between her dad and I. He doesn't do my dishes or watch my daughter... not because I don't trust him to do so, and hell- I'd take help with the dishes anyday, but he just doesn't. And its not even that we don't have that kind of relationship... he's just an incredibly busy guy. Between 3 kids & work, he's pretty much not up for doing anyone's dishes but his own and that's fine by me. I'm capable and responsible for those aspects of my life.

He does support me though... and I don't mean he's paying my rent (though if need be, he'd gladly do it I have a feeling) I mean he listens to me cry and reassures me when I need it. He makes things better, and he strives to make me smile. Yesterday was an incredibly tough day because of a miscommunication with Bean girl's dad which ruined our plans of spending the day hanging out all together. I was downright sad, feeling sorry for myself, and he was wholly supportive through every bit of it. That's a huge advantage in my opinion.

If he did do my dishes and watch my kid would I be less of a single mom?

If at some point this road leads us to living together and/or marriage, will I still be a single mom?

What if I'm still doing my own dishes and watching my kid more than his?

A couple of my favorite bloggers have already discussed this (Martini Mom | One Smarmy Mama), but I want to hear your thoughts as well...

At what point am I no longer a "single" mom, or if since I am no longer with the father of my daughter, will I always be one?

Some opinions from my Facebook:

Heather Kendrick Gerlaugh is a single mama with a boyfriend. Does that mean I'm still a ''single mom'' ? Blog in the works...
2 hours ago via Mobile Web · ·
Melissa Belden Werner
My first inclination is "yes"... Until you are married again or living together as a married couple then you are a single mom (with a boyfriend)... Now you just have a longer title!
2 hours ago · Delete
Danielle Post-Pickle
technically...pretty much. Then again, it all kind of plays into how much of the child rearing is the boyfriend doing also. I'm in the same boat. I am still technically a "single mom" but we have been working as a unit lately but at this point the major decisions are still mine to make...until we're in a position where we aren't living separately and such I guess I have that position...though we do discuss a lot of things and his input is greatly considered and we pretty much work everything out as if we were all living as a family at this point. It's going to be there soon and we're just in transition phases now.
2 hours ago · Delete
Jamie Lynne Gerlaugh
Yep, until you are married again can you be classified as anything but single, on paperwork boyfriends dont count for much except maybe emergency contacts.
2 hours ago · Delete
Travis Williams
that's a tough call. maybe it depends on how many decisions he is involved in about the kiddo.
2 hours ago · Delete
Erin Myers Cohen
Yes, you are a single Mom, in my opinion. The main care-taking for kiddo comes from you -- the "single" refers to parenting by yourself (in partnership with you ex, I know, but still)! My hat goes off to you -- it's tough work!
2 hours ago · Delete
Lauran Elam
Single until you file joint tax returns and/or you share insurance.
2 hours ago · Delete
Ronald B. Dilbert
You most certainly are! You are just getting more help now!
2 minutes ago · Delete


October 26, 2009 at 2:36 PM Melissa said...

Check me out! I inadvertently made your blog! Woop woop!!!

So my opinion has already been expressed.

In addition, the "story" you recounted is sad... that whole situation with your first boyfriend, his mom, and you sounds awful... i hope he is doing well for himself now.

October 28, 2009 at 2:28 PM Anonymous said...

I basically disagree with a lot of the FB comments, and my inclination would be to say that there are two different identities getting all jumbled up here.......being a single woman and being a mom woman.

I don't really think it matters who much (or how little) your partner has to do with your child......if they are a good partner, they will still support YOU emotionally through the trials and tribulations of parenthood. At the end of the day, you have someone to call or hug or cuddle when the little hellion has been particularly rough. My opinion is pretty stark, I suppose....having been so glaringly alone for what, to me, seemed like forever, I remember how often I cried alone in bed with no one to call or how often I sat alone in the ER with a sick kid or how often I had to drag that sick kid to the store because I had no help to get her medicine. So yeah.........but, I basically said all that already. :)