Typically, when we think of single-mothers, it believed that it was not a choice. I can’t think of any little girl who was daydreaming about the day she would have the joyous opportunity to raise her children alone. That was certainly not the case for me.
From a young age I was raised to wait to have sex until I was married (oops). I wanted to get married before I had kids (oopsy). I wanted my children to be raised in a two-parent home, until death do us part (oopsy-daisy). My choices did not lead me toward any of those destinations.
Pregnant and Depressed Master’s Graduate
I found out I was pregnant one-month before I graduated with my masters in Social Work. I was feeling guilty, regretful; I had many doubts, and I was so afraid of what the future looked like for me and my child.
I knew that was bringing my daughter into a world with parents who were in a toxic relationship, had no stable living situation, who were both depressed, and completely financially strained.
I had no desire to be a mom at that time, but I made the choice to have my child because she deserved life despite my shortcomings.
I remember walking across that stage at graduation feeling so proud that I did not give up but also feeling the weight of my unclear future. I hid my pregnancy from my parents for about 3 months while my boyfriend and I lived with my mother until we were able to move into our own place.
While living in a one-bedroom apartment, on my unpaid maternity leave, I dealt with a minor depression. I was fortunate enough to know that even Social Workers need counseling, so I started speaking to a counselor over the phone (I had no health insurance at the time) to help me with my symptoms (to read more about how I struggled with depression during my 9 month pregnancy, please read Maternity Leave in America: The Story of a Depressed Mother)
A Single-Mother in a Relationship
The day that my daughter was born changed everything. My goals changed, my values changed, and my purpose became clear. I was still in a broken relationship, but my depressive symptoms faded away the moment she latched to my breast as I held her in my arms.
I wanted to make the relationship work, but I did not have the energy to be the one to fix it again. We were arguing all the time, bickering, not communicating and I remember countless moments of silence.
Being compassionate, understanding, and listening to his needs were no longer priority. After suggesting that we speak to a Social Worker, but he was not interested. I definitely resented him and slowly began giving up on trying to stay strong for the both of us. I started investing all my time in my daughter and my brand and completely neglected him.
I was already behaving like a single-mother before we actually broke up.
I remember looking at him and thinking “this relationship is the complete opposite of everything I advocate for.” One night, one of our many arguments went too far, so I officially ended our relationship. Here are the five reasons I chose the single-mom life:
1. Mother Knows Best
Before my daughters father and I broke up, I took a lot of shit! Don’t get me wrong, I am not some perfect human and I played a fair role in our many breakups over the years, but I was fed up. I had no idea where I would get the strength to break up with him, because I truly love that man, but when my daughter was born all of the doubts in the back of my mind of our possible future together, were now visible.
I no longer wanted to be with a possibility.
I wanted a relationship that I was passionate about and once I realized that our life together was not benefiting either of us, I had to move on. So he moved out and I moved on. I cried for weeks, I couldn’t sleep, I was binge watchin New Girl, but I felt a weight lifted off my shoulder to not feel responsible for him and my daughter.
I became a warrior for nurturing and protecting my child. I was done arguing. Where I once tolerated certain behaviors, I now have zero-tolerance. No bullshit, no exceptions.
2. Embrace the Loneliness
I never liked the idea of being alone. I thought that if I was alone, than that meant there was something wrong with me. I hated feeling like that. Before I had my daughter, when I was single, I remember thinking ‘why can’t I enjoy my lonely?’ and ‘why am I so dependent on company?’
Being in a toxic relationship revealed to me why I was so afraid of being alone, it was because my self-love was non-existent. I learned that I could feel lonely even when I was in a relationship, and I was. I felt like I was by myself even when he was around. It had nothing to do with the lack of attention I was being given or that our relationship was failing, it had everything to do with the lack of attention I was giving myself.
I learned that even in a relationship, I cannot neglect the single lady inside of me. I wanted to feel just as confident in my singleness as I was in a relationship.
Building my self-esteem and my confidence in my singleness was and still is a major part of my self-love journey, but now that I am single and living alone, I have started to enjoy my space.
3. No More Self-Neglect
I had bad-habit of neglecting myself. I thought that I knew my worth but I allowed myself to lose the essence of everything that made me, me. I was broken in my relationship and I became vulnerable, guilty, and passive when I am the opposite of those things.
I didn’t realize that my relationship was toxic.
I did not deserve to be treated as if I was inferior in my relationship. I didn’t deserve to feel like I was always doing something wrong. I did not deserve to wake up next to someone who did not show me that they appreciated me. I deserved to feel appreciated, valued and seen for the woman I am.
but I needed a full makeover. It had been so long since I did anything to take care of my mind, body, and spirit, that I had no idea of where to begin. I deserved to feel like an emotionally healthy individual, even though I was in a relationship. Self-love had become essential in my lifestyle, and even as a beginner, I was starting to make moderate changes in my behaviors and emotional wellness.
I was an individual before I was a couple.
By focusing on self-love, I have been able to find the courage to let him go, forgive myself, and reflect on how I go to the place where I stayed in a toxic relationship for so long. Self-love is more than bubble baths, drinking wine, and eating chocolate, even though I love those things. Self-love is about tackling the though areas of the soul and embracing the past in order to thrive in the future as an emotionally healthy individual.
Now, I focus on positive affirmations, meditation, devotions, deep breathing, and writing for self-reflection in my journal so that I do not become bitter and take the baggage of my failed relationship into my future relationships.
When you are with someone who is struggling with depression, it is easy to begin feeling depressed as well. According to Farouk Radwan, in the article, “Are You Experiencing Someone Else’s Emotions?” there are three things you can do to avoid transferring the negative emotions of someone else on to yourself, including avoiding, keeping track of your own emotions, and acting confident.
Although, this is great advice when dealing with people you do not see often, when you are living with someone and in a relationship, this can be extremely difficult.
It was almost impossible to not take on the emotions of my daughters father. The love and care that I have for him caused me to want to fix it and be the savior of his depression.
We were together for 5 years before we had our daughter. During that time, I was constantly bringing new ideas to help to him find recovery. He was not interested in speaking to a Social Worker or Counselor, he didn’t want to talk much about it, he was isolated, and became cold.
I didn’t understand that I could not save him.
When our daughter was born, the most important thing to me was protecting her well-being and her development. When I found myself, yelling at him in front of her, that is when I knew that our relationship was over, but for some reason, I still couldn’t end the relationship. I felt like if I walked away during such a vulnerable time in his life, than ultimately I was giving up on him.
When my daughter was close to turning two, we had a heated argument that was everything short of a physical altercation. I no longer felt at peace in my relationship. I felt like I was not valued, needed, or cherished by him and it became exhausting to try anymore. I was done. I needed peace. I needed clarity. I needed space.
5. Healing Over Everything
Do you know the inner critic inside of you? My inner mean girl did everything possible to keep me living in insanity. She wanted me to continue doing the same things in my relationship while expecting different outcomes. I didn’t realize how difficult single-mom life really is.
In the quiet moments when all I could think about was my daughters father, my inner mean girl reminded me of how easy it would be to raise a child in a two-parent homes. The chores, bath-time, preparing meals, going shopping at the grocery store, working out, and bedtime would be so much easier with him.
I had to ask myself if settling was more important than my sanity.
I chose to be a single-mother for my daughter, for my sanity, and to truly begin making myself a priority. I realized that I remained in the relationship with my daughters father for as long as I did because I was lacking self-love and did not know my worth. I did not trust myself to listen to my intuition and started to feel guilty for my past choices.
I couldn’t forgive myself for my choice (to read more about how I started to forgive myself, check out The Journey Toward Self-forgiveness in 5 Steps) to remain in a toxic relationship after my daughter was born. I was worried that we may have negatively impacted her due to the constant arguments in the first two years of her life.
My heart required healing.
In order to be able to take care of my daughter to my best ability, I had to really begin making self-love priority by pouring into myself, and filling the holes in my heart that I had neglected for so long. By focusing on self-acceptance, self-awareness, self-trust, and self-forgiveness I have opened the door to a new me and I am truly falling in love with this woman. She is a bad-ass, and she is zero-tolerance for bullshit. She would rather be alone than to settle and she is actively removing all toxins from her life, including toxic people.
Being a single-mom, even with financial support is extremely difficult, but there is no room for settling in self-love. I didn’t plan on being a single-mother and I am no longer ashamed of my choices. It feels good to finally be showing up for myself.
You are a doctor, a teacher, a nurse, a maid, a cook, a referee, a heroine, a provider, a defender, a protector, a true Superwoman. Wear your cape proudly.” -Mandy Hale
Photographer Credit: Jasmine Adams