I Co-Parent. I Have A Nanny. Do I Still Deserve the Title “Single Mother”?

Single Mom

I was driving my daughter to school when we got into a *spirited* discussion. My daughter told me I can’t really call myself a ‘single mother’ since I have a nanny and supportive parents, who often help me out. The truth? I was irate that my daughter, who I lived with alone, and raised on my own for seven years, with only intermittent visits from her father, would say such a thing.

And I let my daughter know I was irate. I asked her, ‘Who drives you every Monday and Tuesday mornings to swim practice for 7 am? Who drives you to school and picks you up every single day? Who organizes your tutors and takes you to get waxed and to the dentist and to the doctor and who makes sure you don’t make any stupid decisions?’

I was also very offended.

Apparently, according to my daughter, if I wasn’t getting some financial support from her father, didn’t have a nanny, and didn’t have my parents, then, and only then, could I refer to myself as a single mother. Let me begin by saying to all you single mothers out there, it’s not a competition. Again, it’s NOT a competition.

Sure, you may not have the same support, but, that doesn’t mean I feel any less of a single mother than you do. I think I deserve the right to call myself a single mother if I want to, even if I have support.

I have two children. My daughter’s father lives in Calgary, and, while we have joint custody, my house is her primary residence. Aside from his now frequent visits, I have my daughter all the time. And then I have my son, whose father lives nearby and we share 50/50 custody. Which also begs the question, can you still call yourself a single parent, if you share custody? Can you call yourself a single mother if you co-parent? Can you call yourself a single mother if you see your child only 50 percent of the time? Yes, I think you can. You don’t STOP being a parent, just because your child is only with you 50 percent of the time.

This weekend was a perfect example of why I consider myself a single mother. And I let my daughter know it. My daughter had a hockey practice, that I had to drag my son to, since I didn’t have extra help (just because I have supportive parents, doesn’t mean they can always help.) My son was not pleased, so I had to bribe him with a trip to Toys R Us, to get him to come to watch my daughter.

No, my nanny does not work 24/7, and my parents often have plans, so, yes, comparatively to many single mothers, I may be blessed, but I still do most things for my children on my own. On Sunday, my son wanted to have a friend over in the early afternoon, which meant I couldn’t drive my daughter to a volunteer fair she wanted to attend. I had to tell her that she’d need to find another ride, from one of her friend’s mothers, or take an Uber, since I couldn’t leave two six-year-olds alone.

On Saturday morning, I really wanted to go to a yoga class. I had thought that my daughter could keep an eye on my son, for an hour, but she had made plans to sleep over at a friend’s house, the night before and wouldn’t be home in time for me to get to the class, and, again, my nanny doesn’t work on weekends, and my parents were busy. Damn right, I thought, ‘Being a single mother sucks! I just wanna go to a yoga class. But I can’t! I’m a single mother!’

I know I am very lucky that both of my children’s fathers aren’t deadbeat dads. But does that mean I’m less of a single mother? Are there different levels of single mother-ness? One of my best friends had a child at 18, lived on welfare for years, and not only put herself through school, but managed to buy a house, and pay off her debts. Her child has never once met the father. My friend never once got any support, physically, emotionally or monetarily. She definitely deserves the status, bragging rights if she wants, and obviously, the right to identify herself as a single mother, if she chooses, because, well, she really was a single mother. When I compared myself to this friend, even I started to question if I was a true single mother.

Still, when I lived with my son’s father, I still felt like a single mother to my daughter. It was very rare, over the seven years my son’s father and I were together, that he would offer to drive my daughter to school, or pick her up from a late night dance class. I can count on two hands how many times he helped out with my daughter, over those seven years we were together. So, even though I had lived with someone, I still considered myself a single mother…to one of my children.

My babies! As a single mother, I think we need to re-brand ourselves…

Just because I get along with my children’s fathers, for my children’s sake, I’m still not convinced that I’m not a single mother. Can I not be a co-parent, while also being a single mother? My son is with me 50 percent of the time. So am I a single mother to him, HALF of the time? See how confusing this gets?

Let me be clear. I don’t walk around announcing, ‘Hi! How are you? I’m a single mother, in case you were wondering!’ or have a bumper sticker with the words, ‘Single Mother On Board. Please Drive Carefully!’ Being a single mother is what I am, but it’s not my entire identity.

I had no idea that the semantics of defining yourself as a single mother was such a debate. But it is. A lot of women, who are married to workaholics, or just jerks, like to joke that they are ‘single mothers.’ Why? Because they think they feel like single mothers. Honestly? I don’t care what you call yourself, but a lot of single mothers will stone you for joking about this. Why? Because, the reality of being a single mother and actually being a single mother are two different beasts.

It gets even more confusing, because I’ve never been married, by choice. I didn’t choose to be a single mother, but, you know, life. And, of course, there are many women now who are choosing to have babies on their own. They are single mothers, by choice, and I think they should wear that as a badge of honour, because being a single mother, even if by choice, and even if you have a great support system and a ton of money in the bank, is still fucking hard.

To my daughter’s chagrin, I still identify as a single mother. And anyone who thinks otherwise, because I have a nanny and parents who help out when they can, can go screw themselves.

Emma Johnson has tackled this topic on her website, wealthysinglemommy.com. I’m a fan. She titles one blog, Who deserves to call themselves a ‘single mom?’ and writes, ‘…It is an interesting and relevant debate — one that speaks to how unmarried moms move forward with our lives as individuals, but also how we collectively define with our place in the world.’

She asks, ‘…what if you’re living in reality and fall somewhere in between? What about families where custody is civilized and shared 50-50? What if you get a fat support check every two weeks? Or the parent who is saddled with 100 percent of the responsibilities, but remarries into a supportive relationship? Or you get no financial support, but lots of logistic and parenting cooperation? What if you’re doing it all on your own, but have the financial means to hire extensive help with the kids and house?’

I disagree with her on a few points, however. She writes, ‘If you happen to have a trust fund, inheritance, or cashed in on a tech start-up, you keep your pie hole shut and keep your lifestyle in line with your middle-class friends (or go find rich friends).’ I find her statement a lot judgmental because a) shouldn’t we always support other mothers, especially single mothers, who still worry about their kids constantly whether they have a nanny or money or not? And b) just because I may have a middle-class lifestyle, why can’t I self-identify as a single mother? I mean, what’s it to Johnson? Why is it anyone’s business what I choose to describe myself as? Johnson can shut her pie hole, because, trust me, I’m sure we have way more in common as single mothers than she thinks.

I also disagree with her statement that she’ll stick with her title of single mom, ‘but not too tightly’, she writes. ‘After all, to toss off a casual ‘I’m a single mom‘ can suggest a belief that you are automatically deserving of respect — an attitude that pisses off pretty much everyone.’

Um, I’ve never, ever felt that I deserve automatic respect, nor have I met one single mother who thinks they automatically deserve respect because of our single mother-ness. That would be insane. Even with a nanny and supportive parents and the help of my children’s fathers, I have felt overwhelmed, lonely, and sometimes cry in the shower because there’s no adult partner’s shoulder to cry on, and no other adult to vent to about my shitty day.

There probably needs to be another word, in this day and age, with so many different types of family makeups, then the words ‘single mother,’ to describe oneself.

We single mothers, apparently, need to re-brand ourselves. Ideas anyone?

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