I have gotten the following question from a few people. It always comes at weird times and in various prose. But the core is always the same. Sometimes I answer it with pure positivity. Sometimes I don't answer it at all. But this time it came in via Facebook Messenger, from an old friend I hadn't spoken to in years. It was earnest and knowing her from college, she deserved an earnest response.
Hey Meghan! I'm 35, and I want to have a baby. What's single motherhood like?
This came in a day after I landed back in New York. No, not to move, but for a trip so my daughter could visit her father. It was weirdly emotional, to go back to the city that I felt so wounded by. The flight was, in short, not good. My daughter had been an amazing flier for the 7 flights we took when she was an immobile, adorably squishy baby. As a highly spirited almost-two year old (side note: HOW?) it was more 'caged drug addict after a two week bender' than 'placid lap child smiling at strangers'. So, I was traumatized, emotional, and jet lagged when it hit my inbox. I downed a giant glass (bottle) of wine and decided to answer.
Here's what I said:
Hey! So, I've had some wine so this may be long and rambling. Being a single mom is hands down the toughest thing I've ever done. It takes strength and patience I didn't know I had. It's a constant uphill battle of lows and moderate ups. You will feel more alone than you ever had in your life. You'll feel like everything is a struggle and that you can't do enough, be enough, ever. I feel like I am failing on a daily basis. Knowing that I, alone, am responsible for her emotional, mental, and physical/financial well being weighs on me at every step of my day. But. I also get all the love. So, if you want a child and the above hasn't deterred you, if you have a support system in place that you can cry to, lean on, and share the joy with, then do it. Because she's, and it, is worth it. I hope you're well. Whatever you decide I support it.
What I didn't say but wish I had the guts to do so:
This will kick your ass in ways you didn't know were humanly possible. You will, more than likely, have weeks where you are barely holding it together and it's only after your child goes to sleep that you can breathe and cry. You will rage against the world in those moments. You will cry harder, longer, and deeper than you ever have in your life. Your very soul will leak out. You will be angry. You will ask why you had to go this road alone. You will be jealous, oh so jealous, at every turn, when you see families with a loving and supportive father. When you see moms who have partners, who get breaks, who get to take care of themselves, you may actually vibrate with a weird rage you've never felt before. I haven't gotten to work out in almost a year. Why? Because childcare is expensive. When I'm not working I'm with my kid because I simply can't afford not to be. I would love to go work out, to burn off all these feelings in a fit of cardio, to get it all out, but when you're paying $20 an hour for someone to sit on the couch while your child sleeps, well, that becomes less important somehow. So you make it work. You shove down those feelings of worthlessness and sadness and rage and you swallow them like a bitter pill. You will, at some point, find yourself laughing less. In fact, you may not remember the last time you really smiled. Your child will make you smile, and often, but when you're wearing so many hats, and constantly just trying to keep one foot in front of the other for you and for them, well, it's not the same kind of laugh you used to have. Everything, literally everything in your life will be different and heavier. You will struggle. Oh, how you will struggle. It is a hard, broken, awful road and I wouldn't wish this on anyone. Think long and hard before you choose this path. But if you do, know that, even in your darkest moments, that child will look at you with a love bigger than you've ever felt. It will chase away the darkness and shadows of the burden, if even for a moment. And in that moment, you will know, in your heart of hearts, that you will continue to walk through hell for them. Because they deserve it. They are your very heart walking around outside your body. You will create and unleash a powerful, everlasting love. Be brave. Be stronger than you ever thought. Be a mom.