Monday, May 13, 2013

Ask Single Mom in the South: What Makes a "Single Mom"

A semi-regular column that addresses your questions about single motherhood. 
Got a question about which you'd like my opinion?  
Ask in the comments or email me at singlemominthesouth@gmail.com. 

*****

I came across an article the other day that posed the question, 

Can a married woman really call herself a single mom?

It seems Michelle Obama has made headlines recently for calling herself a married single mom because President Obama is away so much. ~ I really need to start watching the news so I'd know these things in a timely manner!

Coincidentally, I was dropping The Girl off at gymnastics last week and I overheard two dads talking. They were discussing a woman who claimed to be a single mom, but had a live-in boyfriend... a partner... and this dad seemed to feel that she needed to stop playing on people's sympathies because she wasn't truly "single" anymore.

I tend to agree.

I've had many a conversation about it with friends over the years and I'm here to tell you that in most cases, 


 the answer is NO.

It's just not the same.

There is usually a level of emotional support that comes with being married.  Generally, even if your spouse is away... a lot... you have a connection and a plan... common goals. Even in a relationship that is rocky at best, you have a warm body to help out on occasion.

This is something that in my opinion a true "Single Mom" does not have. 

In addition, when you have a husband or live-in significant other you are ~or at least have the potential to be~ a two income family.  Yes, your spouse may be away from the home, but in doing so he or she is earning money to support your family and common goals. I used to have this debate with my ex when he would give me a hard time about money.  While I certainly didn't begrudge his new wife staying home, if money was so tight, she could technically work. In my home, there is no spare person with the potential to earn extra income. It's just me.

A friend who was in a very difficult marriage said this to me one time. She said she was practically a single mother. She was the breadwinner and still had to do everything at home. Her husband didn't really contribute nor help with the kids. She was overwhelmed by her life and felt she had no help and might as well be a single mom. 

Then her husband actually did leave. While that came with some relief, she quickly realized how wrong she'd been.  Her husband did contribute income ~albeit not much~ to the family and he was a warm body with whom she could leave the children if she needed to run out for something and he did occasionally help when both children needed to be in different places at the same time.

So while I completely respect that First Lady Obama has an extremely unique set of circumstances that finds her parenting on her own in a way she probably didn't plan on when she gave birth, 

NO, she is not a single mother.

It's just not the same.


24 comments:

Angelwithatwist said...

In no way is she a single mother and with the income she really couldn't compare it to those of us who have been in the trenches. Of course we all would be kick ass single mom's if we had the amount of money she has at her disposal.. seriously. That just irritates me..

Diane said...

I had heard that she said that too and I thought, "Oh no she didn't!" It used to irritate me to no end when I'd hear someone say they were a "golf widow" for the weekend. Seriously had to bite my tongue on that one. Still do when I hear stupid statements like that.

nancygrayce said...

I will say this one thing.......when I was a single mom, I didn't go on ONE vacation. That's all.

Jennifer said...

Totally agree! Great post.

The Dose of Reality said...

I think she definitely didn't mean for it to come out the way that it did. No doubt being an actual single mom would be so much harder. And those of us from time to time who feel like single moms, know deep down that we don't have a clue...or at least I do! ;)-Ashley

Aleta said...

My husband works 16 hour shifts during the week. And I still would never say I'm a married single parent. It's hard during those days, but he's still here. And yes, that does make a big difference, even if it's just a phone call or text message to say he's thinking of me, etc.

Mommyof1 said...

Great post! I agree; it's totally not the same. I'm sure the First Lady didn't mean it the way it's being taken though. My sister has been married nearly 30 years and she says that often that she is like a married single parent. I think when she sees my life, she realizes how wrong she has been!

I guess people who have always had a partner have a hard time when that partner isn't around or doesn't help out as much.

Mimi B said...

This is definitely interesting. I'd have to say I'm a partial single parent now. Living with my parents has definitely given me the opportunity to go out on a date or on my first business trip without having to humble myself and ask friends and neighbors to help out or get a babysitter. This wasn't the case for 6 yrs. I also never had any family around to help, but had an amazing church that supported us in so many ways. It definitely is different when you share a home with someone. Being a single mom is a crazy life for sure! And, really Michelle Obama doesn't just have money and the President, she also has an entire staff at her disposal, although I have a tendency to think she's rather hands on.

Ilene, The Fierce Diva Guide to Life said...

I 100% disagree with Michelle Obama. You are NOT a single mom until you're actually a single mom. And I know that for sure. This is a great conversation.

Michelle Nahom said...

Totally agree with you. A single mom does not have the support system married couples have, period. End of story.

Stephanie said...

Oh I so agree with you! I'm not a single parent, but do have a Hubby who works a job that has crazy hours depending on the season. That being said I know I can still count on him, his support is just a phone call away, and he is coming home every night. Married people should never compare themselves to our single girlfriends!

Heather said...

Oh gosh that is just a silly thing to say. There is no such thing as a married single mom. I agree with everything you said about the differences. When my oldest two were little and even when my youngest was first born my husband traveled all the time, but I would have never compared myself to a single mom. He was a constant source of support even when he wasn't physically there.

Honeybee GB said...

I disagree with Michelle Obama. But I have another case. My sister, she is married with two kids and pregnant with her third. She lives with my parents. She sees her husband only like twice a year because they works in different state. I know he can apply to be relocated near my sister, but he refuse. My sister said she is practically a single mother because she handle the kids alone with a little help from my parents. It's so stressful and I think what she needs is emotional support, the real support of what married women suppose to have.

-Honeybee
http://herweightlossdiary.blogspot.com

Andrea B. said...

I don't speak from experience but I do agree, as well. It's easy for people to say "now I know what single moms feel like" but nope. Nada. No way. It's an easy slip, one the First Lady no doubt should have said differently. It's more powerful and understandable to say, as I have, holy CRAP now I feel like WHOA you single moms are powerhouses. My husband has been away for a few days and WHOA. Yep. Double whoa-s allowed. :>

anotherjennifer said...

I tend to call myself a single mom during tax season when my CPA husband is gone all the time. BUT I'm always quick to note that I'm not really a single mom because he comes home every night, brings home that extra paycheck and will be there if I truly need him. I agree. It's so not the same!

dinoheromommy.com said...

very well written babe and very true. It really isn't the same. While hubby works at night and we don't have dinner with him, we know he is a part of our family. very different from knowing he will never come home.

Stopping by from Saturday Sharefest, have a great day

Jennice Powell said...

I consider myself a single mother in the sense that I have no live in boyfriend,lover,etc. But I do have a partner...my mom. She has been a big support financially and morally. Before Hurricane Sandy hit, I worked outside of the home and she babysat my then 4yo. She doesn't mind going to doctor appointments, school orientations,or regular outings. So, yes, I'm a single mom, but I'm not parenting by myself. Jennice visiting from #SITSsharefest

Kimberly said...

Amen, sister! I know it can be rough when a partner's out of town. But my ex-husband has been absent (including not taking the kids on weekends) for 10 years! It's not the same as having a hubby who's in a hotel in another state. It's a psychological thing.

Melissa Miller said...

I've been an authentic single mom in the past. I do have a live-in boyfriend now, but in some aspects I still feel like a single mom and I can still identify. I won't go into too many details, but there are times when I wonder if I'd be better off alone with my son.

M L Dyson said...

My parents were married for 23 years. My father spent most of the week in another city and state, while my mother raised my brother and I. My mother was our everything. She was a married single mother, equivalent to the First Lady. Me? I'm truly a single mother. I have four children and I have no one assisting me with raising them. No child support, no weekends with the other half of their DNA, none of that.
I guess what I'm saying is, there's different degrees of single motherhood.
#SITSGirls

Charlotte Klein said...

I feel I have absolutely no business to weigh in here because I'm not yet a mommy as you know, but I do have some friends who throw this around and I suppose it's because their husbands work really late hours and they barely have together time as a family. I can understand both POV (though not the terminology that is being used). I imagine it's also very difficult on a mother who is home with the kids all day and only gets to see her hubby 2 days out of the week, if that. But I can TOTALLY see where you are coming from.

Hope all is well with you; I've missed you girl! XOXO

Leah said...

Great post!!! I cringe when I hear people call themselves "single moms"... Yes, your husband may not do much, may travel a ton, may not pay attention to you....but.... You are no where near a singe Mom!

Cyndy Newsome said...

I agree with you 100%, as someone who has been a married mom, single mom, and remarried mom. I do not call myself a single mom now. Even when my kids' dad was a truck driver and gone a lot, I didn't call myself a single mom.
I saw something weird online recently though - someone said that if your childrens' father contributed financially and was present in the chldrens' lives, you shouldn't call yourself a single mom. I find that bizarre. What exactly SHOULD you call yourself? I don't think it's necessary to make separate categories for different life situations.

Tara@Do These Kids Make Me Look Crazy? said...

Eh, I think the term "single mom" is defined differently, depending on the circumstance. I'm divorced. I don't have a live-in partner. I am the only provider. I have no family in the area. By most people's definition, that's a single mom. But my ex is a very involved father. He is good to them, although he is terrible to me. At the end of the day, however, I know that I have someone to share the decision making with, such as in an emergency. There is someone out there who is held accountable for their care, even if it's not to the same degree. To some, that would make me NOT a single mom.