(Not proofread, please bear with me.) I read this wonderful piece by Candice Benbow a few months ago. It brilliantly addresses some of the downsides of singlehood, especially for Black women in the US, who often have higher rates of singlehood. She was responding to an article written Emma Lindsay, which also summarized some of the challenges of being single. I definitely found myself nodding in agreement with many of their points. However, I also have found some things about being a single divorced mother of three that I like.
First, let me get this out of the way. Being a single mother to 3 children is really hard; I wouldn’t recommend everybody run out to test drive it. I rarely get time to myself; my career has suffered at times; and I feel like I cannot give my children the time and attention they need. I don’t like to complain about money because I know as an academic I’m better off than most of my single mother peers, but I live in an expensive metro area and that $95 a month in child support can’t even buy groceries. My biggest fear is what will happen to my children if something happens to me–I lose my job or become disabled or god forbid I die. These are the downsides of of singlemotherhood.
However, I believe getting a divorce was one of the best decisions I made in my adult life–right behind getting a PhD and having children. Being single with 3 children was better than facing the instability that my marriage was causing my children and I. I’ve tried very hard not to trash my children’s father on this site, but I cannot lie either. His behavior towards the children and I, while married and even after marriage, has been less than stellar, but having the distance of separate houses has made me less worried and believe it or not–more financially stable.
My children are getting to see me push myself to achieve my dreams. I had tamped down myself to be married. I tried to compromise to keep my marriage; I succumbed to the jealousy of my partner. He complained about me traveling to conferences or friends homes. Once the children were born, even though I was the primary breadwinner, he explicitly asked me to stop traveling for my career because “you are a mother now.” I fought back, but this took an emotional toll on me. My friends and family started to see me as wishy washy; I remember my father saying how tired I looked when he thought I couldn’t hear him.
My marriage was not good for me.
One of the realizations I had after divorce was that with the exception of mothering my children most of the goals I was most proud of, I accomplished when I was single. I got that PhD while single, I bought a house while single, I found some of my best adult friends while I was single. I saved enough money to buy a car with cash–as a graduate student–not sure how I pulled off that miracle, but I did.
My best friend told me that it wasn’t marriage that was bad for me, but that I just hadn’t found the “right person.” Honestly, I don’t know what the truth is. I’m so much more passionate as a single woman, and I love my kids and career more than anything else in my life right now. I like not arguing about stupid shit like how the furniture is arranged or whose house we are going to go to on Christmas. I like not having my family whine about my spouse or not having my spouses family whine about me. Maybe at some point I will have the right amount of time for the right person, but I will be single every day for the rest of my life before I will get into another relationship that tamps me down.
I’ve been vocal about my singlehood and my divorce in my peer groups. I often joke about how I lost 189 lbs–the weight of my ex. And one thing that has surprised me is the number of woman–at least 10 who have privately contacted me about how miserable they are in their marriages. One woman told me she admired my “bravery” when I decided to leave my marriage take care of two 4 year olds and a 2 year old by myself. This woman has suffered through an awful marriage with a completely unreliable spouse and later when she became sick that same unreliable spouse wasn’t there to take care of her even though they lived in the same house. Too many of us stay in awful situations because we fear being single and being alone. That fear causes us to stay with abusers, cheaters, and partners who pull us down.
I share my story of singlehood because I want women to know being single with kids is not all bad. I’m am the freest I’ve been since I was 28 and childless. My peace and passion are so much greater today. Do I feel lonely sometimes? Yes. Do I get frustrated late at night when my children decide to put me through bed time hell? Yes. But I also know I”m gonna go home tonight to the home that I’ve made for myself feeling strong, accomplished, and free.