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The Beleaguered Single Mother

I don’t know much about how my ex-wife dealt with the divorce and her recovery from the breakup of our family. I do know she got the lion’s share of time with the kids, she got the marital home, and she got a hefty child support payment, tax-free, or the equivalent of a nice full-time job, mine. And yet, she’s not happy. She’s beleaguered. She’s tired all the time. She’s angry about the divorce. What gives?

In the real world, post-divorce, I am in the process of trying to find a suitable single mom to date. I think a mom would be a better choice for me than a woman who has never had kids, but that’s just my idea. Anyway, I talk to a lot of single moms. In fact, I think, single mom’s make up about 85% of my readership here on The Whole Parent, so I best tread lightly on this topic, as I try and understand the DNA of these women I’m encountering. There seems to be an aggressive stance towards men in general. Perhaps it’s more pronounced when you have gotten a divorce and are now fending for yourself with one income and 50% less time to yourself. Perhaps it’s just a joy and comfort at not being in a dysfunctional relationship, and an antagonistic approach to keeping it that way. Single.

Several things this week have perked up my ears to this militancy, this rationalization, this bias against men.

My first example came when I was making small talk via Facebook chat with a woman I’ve known for over six years. It had noticed she moved back to Austin from some adventure she and her husband set off on two years ago. Here was her response.

Not one single thing I had said before this remark mentioned getting together, even for coffee. Nothing. In my mind, this was an unprovoked defensiveness. I’d never been aggressive or sexually interested in this woman. She was a friend and a professional connection. Oh well.

The second poke at my evolved masculinity came in the form of a meme post from an account I find quite funny. Scary Mommy. But this one struck my “moms are good dads are bad” bone. What do you think?

There are several big problems with this attitude.

  1. Mommy is being passive aggressive here and telling the kid she’s angry with the dad for taking care of himself
  2. Mommy is expressing her distress to her child and not to the man, ostensibly causing her the pain
  3. If mommy is tired, mommy needs to do things to take care of herself, and this might be confronting daddy about the balance of work
  4. Mommy is not taking ownership of her own tiredness, she’s blaming daddy

I suspect this meme will strike a chord with some of my readers. For me, I was aware of the victimization of the statement and the misdirect of discharging the frustration and anger at the child. I don’t think daddy is the issue. I think mommy and daddy need to have a chat, without kids about, to discuss why mommy is so tired and why mommy thinks it’s daddy’s fault. Maybe I’m reading too much into the meme. But it’s an old trope that gets expressed over and over on social media. Mom’s tired because dad sucks. Perhaps this is why some of these women have ended up as single moms. Again, I don’t know what I’m talking about from a mommy’s perspective, but I do know that my happiness and rest as a father was my responsibility and not the responsibility of my wife.

Is there some of this same energy, that it was daddy’s fault when I’m encountering these beleaguered single moms?

If you are a single mom and you are discharging your anger and defensiveness at all the men in your life, regardless of their spoken and demonstrated intentions, you might not be ready for a relationship yet. My Facebook friend needs some time to be alone before she jumps into another relationship. I think her defensiveness shows she’s not ready.

Single moms AND single dads have many of the same issues after the divorce:

  • There is less time to do “me time” activities
  • The 50% of the daily chores and parenting (provided yours was a 50/50-type relationship) are now 100% back on your shoulders
  • Making time for starting and sorting through a new relationship seems absurd, for a while
  • My kids are my priority, I’ll get back to you about that offer for coffee after I’ve worked out my schedule with my kids
  • I’m going to give my kids every opportunity to be with me, even if it means breaking some of our dates
  • When my kid calls I will always answer
  • I can’t concentrate on my needs and wants until the needs and wants of my kids are taken care of
  • I’m still pretty raw from the break up of my marriage, I need some time to sort through my life and determine what I want next in a relationship, if any.

We’re in the same situation. Divorced with children. Some issues we may still need to process outside of a relationship, so we can be available when a real relationship opportunity comes along.

There is this theme in single parenting social circles that moms have it harder than dads. Or that the single mom struggle is the result of a shitty dad. I can assure you the cut of a divorce swings both ways.

At a restaurant a few days ago, a woman spoke to me about her ex-husband, “He left me and the kids of 23 years for some young woman. He said his priority at this point in his life was sex.”

I was astounded that she had revealed so much of her distress to a stranger. I was also empathetic. Men can be assholes. I’m not sure she needed to tell me her grievance, but I suppose she was processing her distress. I told her I write about being a single parent, and that my divorce was not my idea either.

Men do shitty things in marriage that lead to divorce. Women do shitty things in marriage that lead to divorce. And sometimes, a partner might just decide they’d rather seek happiness and fulfillment with someone else. And then divorce happens. We all struggle with the fallout of divorce. And as we recover we begin to heal the broken parts of our own lives, forgive the broken parts of our former partner, and find the will to move on with our lives, our priorities, and our decisions to date or not date again. Keeping a loaded weapon in your back pocket to fend off potential male suitors is probably an indication of the work you still need to process.

Dear single mom, I am not the enemy. I am also not in pursuit of you when I smile or ask you how your day is going. I understand divorce is a bitch. Single parenting is a bitch. And sometimes our ex-spouses are bitches and bastards. And we move on. The only way forward is to move on. If you’re still carrying your anger and your weapons of defense, you might not be ready for a relationship.

Afterword: I know I have some beleaguered single moms in my readership, I’d love to hear what I’m missing, or if I’m full of shit. I’m just conjecturing here. Wayfinding.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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