The 7 Most Important Things I've Learned in My 5 Years as a Single Mom
A no-bullsh*t breakdown from a bad*ss single mom.
I didn’t plan on getting pregnant when it happened. Having kids was one of those things that I always figured would just happen for me after I got married. And although I was getting closer in age to the big 3-0 with absolutely no husband prospects in sight, I still never gave kids or marriage any serious thought. I barely dated because I was a busy freelance writer living in Manhattan, with some of the most important things in life at that time consisting of hanging out with my girls at celebrity-studded events, accruing top publication bylines, and writing a novel.
So when I got pregnant, I decided to keep my baby (even though I knew I would be a single mother) and eventually moved back home to Texas so that I could be closer to family. My son, Aiden, is now 5 years old, and although I was pretty sure that I was going to die from sleep deprivation that first year, I will also say that becoming a mother has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Of course, every woman has a different story to tell when it comes to pregnancy and motherhood, but here are just a few of the things that I’ve learned along the way.
1. There’s no sense in excessively obsessing over how your actual birth is going to go
For me, it was never the pregnancy itself that freaked me out—yes, there were still plenty of “what the hell is happening to my body right now” moments—but the actual birth is what made me crazy. I read books, watched YouTube videos, joined mom chat groups, and followed hashtags on Twitter in my pursuit to figure out what would actually happen when I went into labor. I also asked my doctor a million and one questions about what it would feel like, and I remember her telling me to calm down and that everything would be fine. Then, because I thought it would be possible for me to just control the entire birthing process myself, I made grand plans of doing everything naturally, complete with a relaxing soundtrack of Sade’s greatest hits playing in the background. Absolutely nothing happened as planned. I actually drove myself on the freeway to the hospital after my water broke because the pain wasn’t that bad. Despite my best efforts to have a natural, peaceful birth, I remember raging out, wanting to kill everyone (including my super-nice doctor), getting drugs, and ending up having to get an emergency C-section. Now I wish that I hadn’t become so obsessed with having the perfect childbirth and just went with the flow because, in hindsight, the only thing that really matters is that you and baby are healthy.
2. The sooner you realize that the “old” you is over, the better
I always compare becoming a mom to flipping the page in a book to a new chapter. Of course you’re still you, you’re just a different you. There will be new things you’ll have to do in order to maintain your sanity—for me, that’s detailed planning and exercising frequently, two things I never did pre-pregnancy. There will also be things that you will have to figure out how to do in order to survive motherhood. For example, I’m pretty sure that my pre-pregnancy self never had this much patience, nor was I ever really good at things like cooking and cleaning. But now I’m a champ! Of course, these are just small examples in the grand scheme of how childbirth and motherhood have changed me, but my point is that I’ve embraced it. Yes, I might still drop it like it’s hot when I hear my favorite song on the radio (definitely something I would have done in my pre-pregnancy days!), but overall, I’ve stopped trying to go back to being the person I was before giving birth, because that lifestyle no longer matches up with my current one.
3. Get a nanny
I call nannies (or anyone else that can properly care for your baby) magical creatures because you can actually be a woman of the world again when they’re around. (By this I mean you might actually be able to take a shower, leave your house, and make a dent in your massive to-do list.) I remember thinking that nannies were only for extremely rich people and, being that I was a single, working, penny-pinching mom, there would be no way that I could afford one. I also remember wondering if I even really needed one because, outside of my baby not sleeping through the night, I could handle it. But once I went back to work after giving birth, it became impossible for me to manage my workload plus care for my child, in addition to all of the other life things that needed to be done. No matter if it’s in the form of a nanny or not, you should never be afraid to, or feel bad about, asking for help after you give birth. I asked around, did the research, and was able to locate a great (affordable) nanny for my son. I remember being so grateful for the love and kindness that she gave my baby that I cried….and I am not a crier. This leads me to my next point:
4. It may take some time for your hormones to return to some semblance of normal
I remember reading somewhere while pregnant that there was a risk I might turn into a bawling mess for any reason (or none at all...), but none of this happened until after I gave birth. I cried about everything, both the good things (yay! I was able to breastfeed like a champ!) and the not-so-good things (his newborn onesies no longer fit). I cried because I was hungry, sometimes even while eating, and there were plenty of times I got on the train to go to work and cried because I was so tired. I remember feeling like I was going to cry for the rest of my life until I asked my doctor about it, and she assured me that it was completely normal and that my hormones would eventually level out. And, yep, you guessed it—I cried about that, too.
5. You will lose friends, your social life will disappear, and you will be lonely AF
There is a very good chance that those people you thought you’d be best friends with forever will disappear entirely from your life after you give birth—especially if they don’t have kids themselves. This is due to many things, but it’s been my personal experience that a lot of the old friendships I had ended because I no longer had the time or energy to do much of anything else outside of caring for Aiden. As a single mother, I really didn’t see the value in paying my nanny or a babysitter to watch my baby while I attended an event or party that I knew I was too tired to go to anyway. Of course, all of my friends would be there, but I made the decision to save my dollars for those moments when I really needed the help. Because of this, I stopped getting invites to anything, and I went nowhere but work and home most days. Social media made it even worse, and it could get hella depressing and lonely at times sitting on the couch, holding my baby, scrolling through Instagram and watching all of my friends have fun without me. But it all worked out, because I made new mom friends and we created a social life that consisted of letting our babies play with each other while we sipped wine, folded clothes, and watched Netflix—which is actually pretty glorious.
6. Don’t compare yourself to other moms
Speaking of mom friends, it’s important to never compare yourself to other moms. I have a mom friend who told me once how jealous she was that I was able to breastfeed my baby. I never knew all of the details, but she told me that she had to use formula because her baby was not latching onto her nipple correctly. Personally, I never liked breastfeeding, but I figured if I was able to do it, I might as well. She, however, was obsessed with breastfeeding and shared with me how painful it was once she learned that she wouldn’t be able to do it. She cried, I hugged her, and I remember thinking that up until that moment, her #momlife looked perfect in my eyes. That’s when I realized how important it is for us moms to stick together and support each other—no matter how together our lives might seem from the outside.
7. Be kind to yourself and enjoy the journey
This is a very hard lesson that I’ve had to learn since giving birth. I was hard on myself for not having this parenting thing all figured out, for not excelling in my career the way I thought I should be, for my body not looking the way I thought it should look. There are days where I’ve felt like super mom and others where I questioned my decision to even become a mother. But I’m learning that now, more than ever, it’s important for me to effectively practice self-care and be kind to myself. I make it a priority to do the things that make me happy on a regular basis. Nothing is perfect, but I know that as long as I keep the love that I have for Aiden in my heart, remain fluid, and take it one day at a time, this mom journey will continue to be a blast.
Want more stories like this?