Living life as a suburban single mom is kind of complicated. Why? Because although divorce is pretty common nowadays, being a single parent in a family oriented suburban community is still far from the norm. Not that the single mom and her kids don’t constitute a family. They sure as heck do! But let’s be honest. We are unlike the traditional family of mom, dad and the kids.
I’m also not saying that other suburban families don’t treat the suburban single mom with the same friendliness and warmth they treat their married friends. Believe me, I have experienced so many acts of kindness that bring tears to my eyes when I think about it.
But regardless of the accepting nature I feel as a suburban single mom, and despite the paranoia I sometimes experience, I think the suburban single mom is misunderstood in some ways.
Here are 9 facts about the suburban single mom:
1. We don’t hate our friend’s ex’s.
I recently ran into the ex of a girlfriend of mine and the guy wouldn’t say hi to me. He wasn’t being rude, he just sort of put his head down, which sent the message to me that he thought I hated him. I got to thinking, and it really made sense. He figures that his ex-wife told me everything he did to her, cried to me about him, told me what a horrible person he is, and now I hate him.
I feel terrible about this because I don’t feel that way at all. Although I am deeply saddened seeing my girlfriend hurting so much, I am not here to judge anyone. I was not in her marriage. I am only hearing her side. Not that I don’t believe her, and not that I don’t care about her feelings, but her ex has a side too.
I decided that the next time I see him I am going to start a conversation and make sure he knows I have no ill feelings towards him. He deserves it. Divorce is a time when we all feel insecure and we feel like other people are taking sides. If you let a divorced person know you are not, you will take away some of his or her stress.
2. We don’t try to milk it.
Remember I said that I have experienced acts of kindness that bring tears to my eyes from people in my community? Well, I have also experienced judgmental people who keep score. They count the number of times their kids come to my house versus the number of times my kids go to their homes. They count the number of rides they give my kids versus the number of rides I give theirs. And they aren’t shy about letting me know they think it’s unfair.
It drives me crazy because they really don’t grasp the fact that I’m doing the best I can, that I work full time and that I have no husband to drive my kids if I can’t. (And that is not a slight against my ex. If it isn’t his scheduled day, he is working also.) I’m not saying that single moms should have special treatment, just that we are really doing our best, sometimes with less resources than others. And isn’t the idea of a community to help each other out?
3. We’re over the divorce.
If it’s over a year, we’re done crying and feeling sorry for ourselves. Please treat us with normalcy, and stop looking at us as if we were just diagnosed with a terminal illness.
4. We don’t care if you saw our ex.
Suburban communities are small places. Lots of running into people. That includes friends running into the ex. You can tell us or not tell us if you ran into him. I personally am never offended either way. I guess the bottom line is, our ex is not our choice of topics of conversation unless there’s some significant reason you are telling us.
5. We spoil our children a little more than the average person.
That’s just the way it is. Divorce guilt.
6. We still want to socialize with couples.
A lot of people assume that on the weekends, the single mom wants to either go out on dates or go out with other single women. Sometimes we want to do that, but just because we ended up divorced doesn’t mean we don’t still love to go out with our married female friends and even their husbands. I have actually had some really fun times at parties I went to by myself, when I was the only person there without a date. One party resulted in me being set up on a blind date. No one even cared or paid attention to the fact that I was there by myself.
7. We might not be looking for husband number two.
Many married people assume divorced single moms are dying to get married again. Not the case with the majority of single moms I know.
8. We don’t dread Valentine’s Day, Christmas and other holidays.
Holidays, even the one we are about to have that involves romantic love, chocolates and flowers, are still enjoyable. They just take on a different twist. Holidays become all about the kids and other people we love (and that might be the case for any mom–divorced or not.) And if you think about it, the single mom is a lot happier being alone on a holiday than being in an unhappy marriage.
9. We still believe in happily ever after.
I guess I can only speak for myself on this one, but I have to believe that happily ever after is largely in my control and doesn’t involve a man. Happily ever after is something every person should strive for, regardless of marital status. After all, it’s just another way of saying “I want to be happy.” And Prince Charming is only responsible for some of that. The rest is up to me.