As a lot, moms are a sensitive bunch. We're all trying to do our best against seemingly insurmountable odds and, because we recognize the monumental importance of our task, we're understandably concerned with how well (or not) we're doing. We review and critique our performance regularly, obsessively. We want to be better, want to accomplish more, want to enjoy it more. We rarely meet our own expectations, and it leaves us a little edgy. We're prone to finding insults and criticism where none was intended, and to judging our peers to make ourselves feel better. We've created the mommy wars we all purport to despise: working mom vs. stay-at-home mom, single mom vs. married mom, clothe diaper mom vs. disposable mom.
We all probably need to lighten the hell up, and I think we all know this. I know this. And yet, as I read this post this morning, my feathers began to ruffle.
It's a tale of a woman, Ellie Hirsch of Mommy Masters, whose husband travels for work, often Monday - Friday. It's a tale of the difficulties inherent in such a situation and, ultimately, a tale of why she prefers it that way. That is the point of her post, the twist: she's in a situation that seems undesirable from an outsider's viewpoint... and yet, she prefers it that way.
Her point was not to compare herself to a single mom. And yet, she did.
"Add to the mix a traveling husband or a partner that works insane hours, and you are pretty much a single mom."
She said it almost in passing, and I doubt she put a whole lot of thought into it. It seems a simple, concise way to describe her situation: married single mom. She's alone with the kids the majority of the time. I totally get where she's coming from and why she would choose to identify as such. I swear. I really, really do.
But I've been a real single mom. And it's different.
This woman is married. She has a partner. Even if he's not always (or even often) physically present, she has a partner. I can not begin to stress how important that part right there is in distinguishing the two scenarios.
There are, of course, plenty of other factors that feed into single parenthood (financial woes, missing child support, emotional divorce baggage, strained co-parenting relationships, absent fathers, trying to date, and so on and so on). Unless you've been there, you don't know what it's like. Even if you've been there, you only know what it was like for you.
That works both ways. I certainly can't claim to know what it's like to live Ellie's life. Which is why I would never compare my set of circumstances to hers.
(Except that's kind of exactly what I'm in the process of doing, right? Comparing her set of circumstances to those of a single mom, and insisting that they're not the same. It appears I am a pot. "Kettle, you're black!" I say. Still, I shall forge ahead.)
So while I can acknowledge some similarities between her situation and that of a single mom (extended periods alone with the kids) taking care of the kids alone is one symptom of being a single parent. One out of about one thousand. And I think that's why we single moms (and former single moms) get our panties in a bunch when such comparisons are made: it feels like a very difficult situation is being over-simplified. I sincerely doubt that was Ellie's intent, and yet I'm sure that's how it made some of us (sensitive bunch) feel.
It's a little like suggesting that throwing up for a week straight with the stomach flu gives one insight into experiencing chemotherapy treatment.
Of course, a woman who uses cancer treatment as an analogy probably isn't fit to give advice on appropriate comparisons.
Check out Ellie's blog, Mommy Masters, and her Facebook page. (Since I've singled her out unfairly, it seems only right that I give her a plug.) And, since I've only barely scratched the surface of the Sometimes Single Mom topic, check out a couple of Singlemommyhood.com's posts on the topic: "Do Sometimes Single Moms Offend You?" and "Married Moms Who Feel Like Single Moms? We Understand."