On July 12, 2017, my parents will be celebrating their 47th wedding anniversary. They met on September 21, 1966- my father’s 19th birthday- at Cornell University, dated throughout college, and married a year after they graduated. Growing up, I was certain I would follow in similar footsteps. Even though I was raised on the Upper West Side, went to a progressive private high school, was a three sport varsity athlete and captain, and was consistently told that I could be anything and everything, I naturally assumed my biggest role as an adult would be as a wife and mother.
Just like my parents, I ended up at Cornell. And, just like my mother, I met a boy my freshman year who I wound up dating exclusively until the age of 25. This relationship didn’t end up in marriage but not long after we split, I met the man I would marry at age 29. When I found myself at 36, separated, heading towards divorce with a business to run and a two year old to care for, I was forced to come to terms with the fact that my life looked nothing like the one i would’ve assumed.
When it comes to being divorced, I am one of the lucky ones. Sophia’s father and I put her wellbeing first, discuss her needs and are able to be together at appropriate times- with her- to enjoy her accomplishments and special events. We also recognize that to be the best co-parents we can be, we each individually have to be in a healthy place. So even though we are not in a relationship any longer, we do our best to make sure the other feels (relatively) rested, not terribly overwhelmed, and generally content.
So unlike many of the moms I know, I do get breaks. I have never valued “me time” as much as I do now.
What this also means is that when I am with Sophia there is no one else to share both the triumphs and the challenges. Like when her voice gets really loud with excitement and determination she is able to read a word. And when she asks the meaning of a random word like the word “test” and I have to come up with the definition. When she says “big” words like “extracting” and when she is trying to say “distracting.” How endearing she is when, before she is asleep, she is in bed talking to herself and singing the songs she sang at school earlier in the day. Trust me, raising my daughter isn’t always a picnic. There’s no one else to help discipline when she disobeys, no other set of hands when she can’t sleep, gets sick, and wants water, breakfast, and help with her clothes, all at the same time.
After she is asleep at night, there is no one else there to sit with.
This is at times peaceful, lovely and incredibly rewarding. And, and at other times, it feels completely and utterly lonely.
I can only imagine the challenges that full-time single parents face; whether they be a widow/widower or a man or woman who decided to adopt. And of course, those who thought they would have a partner, but then suddenly did not.
” I always knew I wanted to have a child,” a client of mine, Niki shared with me. “I decided to BE a parent the moment I became pregnant. I decided to be a single parent the moment my boyfriend decided he did not want the responsibility of being a parent.”
When Niki was on maternity leave, with her adorable son Teo, she attended some of my MamaFit classes. Despite the solo-sleep deprivation she was facing, as no one else was there to bear the burden, she still managed to get to class.
“The biggest challenge has been not having help, having to do everything alone. Not really getting that time out when a partner would take over,” Niki, who doesn’t have family nearby, continued. “But the biggest reward? My son! The love I am capable of and receive is incredible. He is the most amazing, loving, sweet, strong-willed little boy. His smile makes everything ok. Even when he is testing me (often) the love I have for him is overwhelming. He has given my life a whole new meaning. Coming home from work is like coming home to the winning lottery ticket every single day.”
Niki gave me some golden words of wisdom: “The best piece of advice for anyone who is faced by choice or unexpectedly with becoming a single parent is that you can do it. It seems impossible and it can be overwhelming at times but it is totally possible. Surround yourself with a strong support network especially other new moms and moms who have done it already. Don’t stress the small stuff and enjoy every moment. It sounds cliche but it’s so true that it goes by fast. Cherish it, because having a child is one of the ultimate blessings.”
Here are my top three tips for single Beyond Moms:
Embrace It: Whether or not this was what you signed up for, being a single parent is incredibly rewarding and empowering. Love it, embrace it; It will not only be positive for you but for your child.
Find Your Team: The importance of a support network is profound. Personally, I have found becoming friends with other single moms hugely helpful, but really this could be anyone who you feel you can be yourself with, without judgement, and who understands the need for even just an hour to yourself and may help you attain that.
You time: Okay, this may seem impossible. But to be the best parent you can be, you do need to be able to carve out time for yourself. Even if it’s just an hour to go workout. If you have no family in the area and no partner, perhaps you can trade off with a fellow mom friend.
Beyond Moms value the woman inside the mother- as a single parent this is distinctly important. Trust and love yourself and embrace the journey with all its windy turns, hills and valleys. Ultimately, you will grow through all of it.
Laura Kovall is a mom and founder and CEO of The Fit Co, a one-stop shop that fits fitness into your life with time efficient total body classes. Laura is empathetic to all who want to remain fit while juggling multiple responsibilities. She created her program at The Fit Co. with this in mind.