A few weeks back I was watching a reality television show with a face from the past. The speaker was Tonya Harding, the Olympic skater involved in the knee debacle from years past. She was learning how to cook, and in her side interview she mentioned how she had struggled her whole life because she had come from a “broken family”.
That’s a phrase I hadn’t heard since my high school years, many moons ago. “Broken family”. I looked at my preteen son and said “What is a broken family?”. He didn’t know, he had never heard the phrase. It’s because his family isn’t broken, it’s fixed. It was broken, he just doesn’t remember.
Single mother doesn’t mean broken family anymore. I am not going to conform to a stigma from 30 years ago that says the perfect family has to have a mom, and a dad, and 2.5 siblings. Our family is not broken.
Blog after blog, article after article about parenting from parents in two parent household always “wonder how single parents do it”. Well, I am going to tell you. The exact same way you do. We spend our lives shuffling and scheduling and planning and decision making and budgeting. Maybe some extra budgeting. You don’t have to feel sorry for us. Many single parents are single by choice.
When Harding used that poor excuse to explain why things were so tough for her, I got mad. “I come from a broken family”. Oh please, you and 1.9 million other kids that year, give or take.
The U.S Census Bureau estimates in 2018 there were 13.7 million single parents with approximately 22 million children combined. Single doesn’t mean broken, single means one.
I too suffered from the idea that family meant two parents. I cried the day I filed for divorce. I had somehow failed at marriage. I had failed my child. I had failed myself. I wasn’t good enough. The truth is, I hadn’t failed at anything. I was taking a step in the direction I was meant to head. I didn’t know I’d turn into a superhero, it just sorta happened.
As a single parent, I was able to go back to school and earn a college degree. The first person in my family to ever do so. My son and I competed for better grades. We were even able to take a tour of a college campus, where he fell in love with the idea of college.
As a single parent, I was able to create my own schedule, and follow through with my own actions. I was able to show my child strength and perseverance. I became the only person he could depend on, without a doubt. I built the foundation from the ground up, and he is none the wiser of what it takes to shake the stigma that society places on you when you are a single parent.
When my son looks at me, he doesn’t see a single parent. He just sees his mom.
Do not feel sorry for me, my family isn’t broken, it’s fixed. I fixed my family. I am not a single mother. I am a mother. I am also a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a friend. I wear every hat.
And I look great in hats.
Photo credit- Parents magazine