Please don't say it

I could be the only one, but nothing gets me more riled than a married woman claiming single motherhood.

“I feel like a single mother.”

“I’m a single mom this week.”

“&* !# , I’m doing everything! I don’t know how much longer I can handle being a single mother.”

Words thoughtlessly uttered by married women everywhere - and worse yet, in conversations with actual single mothers.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I have convinced myself, in an effort to excuse the insensitivity, that, just by claiming temporary membership, they’re making an attempt to appear stronger, busier, more necessary, more capable, more responsible, more organized, and, as such, more of a mother. But, in fact, because they’re typically whining about handling only a partial load of that of a single mom, it really ends up serving the opposite purpose.

The most recent scenario that comes to mind went something like this:

Jackie’s husband had been out of work for a month. He was offered a consulting job three hours away. He had to accept, but it required him to be away from home during the week, only coming home on weekends. They have two children, nine and seven. About three weeks into the arrangement, she was worn out. I’d never seen her look so tired and frazzled.

“Joe’s working out of town is just so hard. I have to do everything. I have to get up, get breakfast ready, get the kids up, get them to school, clean the house, do the laundry, run errands, pick them up from school, get Joe Junior to soccer, get Lisa to ballet, get dinner on the table, help with homework, get them bathed and ready for bed, get their clothes ready for the next day, read them their bedtime stories and then make lunches for the next day and straighten the house before I get to bed, if I’m lucky, at midnight.”

She continued, “I don’t know how much longer I can be a single mother.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

She looked more than a little surprised and almost angry that I had found her situation funny. So, I tried to explain.

“You would need to add a lot more to that list to begin to qualify as a single mother:

Find a job,
Go to work,
Find reliable and safe babysitters while you work,
Be able to pay a babysitter,
Pay every single bill with your paycheck including Junior’s soccer and Lisa’s ballet fees,
Make sure everyone has health insurance,
Get the kids to the doctor’s and dentist’s offices while you work a full-time job,
Be able to afford the doctor and dentist,
Keep a job while navigating the kids through all their activities,
Keep a job when the kids are sick and you have to be at work and have no babysitter.

Until you can do all those day after day, week after week, month after month, and then year after year, and come to do them happily, proudly, and almost effortlessly, your thinking you are anything close to being a single mother is funny and I couldn’t help but laugh.”

She seemed to understand…for a second. “Oh, I know. It just feels like I’m alone. It must be so hard to really be a single mother. You guys don’t have a choice – you have to do everything.”

“Again, you really just don’t understand at all. We do have a choice. We have the same choice you do. We just choose to be single. We choose not to add the husband to the picture because we don’t really need or want one, whichever the case may be. It isn’t our priority. We are capable, strong, independent, thinking women who have chosen to live our lives to our own standards. As a result, we do typically demand a little more from people. And, thankfully, we seem to be raising grateful, independent, contributory, upstanding, rational, respectful, and thoughtful human beings.”

I don’t know if she really understood – she was super-busy after all. But because I believe single moms deserve much more respect than being so casually and thoughtlessly used in assertions such as hers, I will continue to correct anyone who falsely claims membership in the club.

And, somewhat proudly, know that she could never be one of us.