Love & Relationships

Being A Single Mom Might Mean Sacrificing Romantic Love. Here's Why I Think That.

There’s a lot of discourse around single motherhood. To keep it brief, people will let you know all the ways you could’ve chosen better for you and your child. I’m not here to argue that down…today.

But. There’s this hatred that single moms have been getting lately for having the audacity to choose better in finding the right one after having a baby with the wrong one. And there’s something about the online hate that just feels so misplaced to me. Almost as if the men spewing it never intended to treat any women worth a damn.

Do I hate that it took having a child with the wrong person to grow in that way? Sure. Am I going to stop myself from living? No.

There are two things everyone, mothers included, must understand. The first thing is you must date better to protect your child. It’s not an option anymore. And, whatever this misogynistic, classist rhetoric is around the desire to choose better, I won’t be made to feel bad about that decision or exiled for human fallacy. And other mothers shouldn’t allow this way of thinking either.

The second thing is, if I’m dating you, the most you’ll have to worry about is my schedule...as a mother. There is no fairy godmother to make you "daddy" overnight. So, please stop assuming a single mom putting herself out there to date wants to make you stepdaddy by default. It’s a bit egotistical and, more than that, assumptive. Anticipate the process of getting anywhere remotely near my child as one that is as thorough as an airport security checkpoint.

Anticipate that you won’t make the cut. And, if you’re just so anti-another-man’s-kid – stay away altogether. Easier for all parties involved.

What society often leaves undiscussed is the way that being a single mother can mean your love life is almost nonexistent. And that being an intentional decision. This looks like the mothers who date for years of never bringing anyone into their home, no matter how serious the relationship is. Because the mothers who get it, get that the home is or should be their child's haven. This also looks like moms who forgo dating until their child has left the nest.

Perhaps that’s the issue – we don’t witness the self-sacrificing side of motherhood out in the open enough. These mothers exist, and they offer a sobering perspective.

A reality check.

The reality is that being a good mother might mean remaining single until you’re an empty nester again. Being a mother who protects and provides (emotionally, physically, and in all the ways) may require this.

I recall my nana telling me many years before I had my child that she got into a committed relationship with a man (who the family knew and loved), and because she had a daughter who lived in that home, she never invited that man to live with her. For context, she was with that man well into my lifetime. She loved him, but she loved and valued the safety of her children more, as she ought to.

At the time, I thought she might be overreacting until I found myself starting to think about dating while being a single mother.

The part that stands out to me, in particular now, can be summarized by saying I never want to have to put my son and myself in a position where he loses me in my effort to protect him. She alluded to the fact that although she was one of the most non-violent people (and this, I know, to be true), she would have to kill in the name of potentially avenging her daughter.

So, she refused to put herself in a position where that part of herself would have to show up and show out. She refused to put herself in a position where she would consequently be taken away from her family for defending them.

She didn’t want to be placed in a position where her maternal instinct forced her out of her character. And, now more than ever I understand and share this perspective.

Part of being intentional is understanding the only controllable in this life is you, which leaves room for error even after thorough vetting and endless healing work on your end.

There is no definitive evidence that single mothers are more susceptible to the attacks of predators, but I feel like if you’ve ever watched even one episode of any true crime story – you know predators have ideal victims.

And, when you think about it, single moms fit the bill. I mean, think about it.

Not only are you vulnerable, but so are your children – perhaps due to feelings of loneliness or abandonment. Single moms are also often overworked and tired, meaning it’s assumed you won’t be as attentive but rather grateful that a man was willing to be seemingly kind to you. Additionally, there is also a theory known as the Cinderella effect. This theory suggests stepparents are more likely to abuse non-biological children.

Lastly, I want to point out that the bar is so in hell for men that women have been fooled into thinking the bare minimum is everything.

I mention this because, on paper, I had an amazing stepdad. He did for me what my father never did. But, the other side of this was that he did the bare minimum in so many other ways. Emotionally, he never advocated for me against my mother’s emotional abuse like an adult arguably should. And so often, he was the source of my mother’s disdain towards me.

This goes back to the point about children deserving a haven, and home should be it. My mom and stepdad spent many years making it work when the marriage had expired. In turn, this meant my siblings and I paid the price. Though this could and does happen often enough with two biological parents in the home, I still want to highlight it because there’s no reason to leave one poor set of circumstances to trade them for another at the cost of your children’s emotional safety.

I’m not a super religious person, but I’ve learned in motherhood you won’t have all the answers; most times, it’s a formula of prayer and awareness (and this is in all things motherhood-related). And it’s not always equal parts! But being a mom is a constant state of befuddlement where you find yourself praying for the safety and wholeness of your child more than you ever prayed for yourself on your worst days. You pray for the answers and signs because, in reality, you can’t be sure that you’re doing it right until your job is “complete.”

Knowledge is power, yes, but I also understand that James Baldwin was on to something when he implied the more we know, the more challenging it is to live in this world.

Here are some things you can do while dating to ensure the safety of your children.

1. Background Checks

If you weren’t already running background checks on those you date – now might be the time to begin. It isn’t a guarantee, but then again, nothing is. Verify the information that this person is offering, from education and employment to criminal record. And, double triple-check that they’re not a convicted sex offender via the National Sex Offender website.

2. Maintain Privacy

I’m already very unsure at what point to even tell a man that I’m a mother because of my concerns, but it’s a given that this information does have to be disseminated. However, do not allow men to know your home address or any other private information, such as your child’s school name, before you’re certain this is a person who can be trusted with that information.

3. Check in with Your Child

I know some parents feel like they’re not about to ask their child for permission, and I’m not saying you should…per se. But I think you should definitely pick your child’s brain about your dating if they’re old enough to articulate an opinion. I also think you should check in once you’ve introduced them to a partner to see what comes up for them being around that person. I truly do believe children have an untainted intuition.

4. Supervision

Do not leave your child with someone you’re dating until it feels right for everyone. A right feeling won’t hit you after two weeks or even two months. In fact, at that point, I don’t even think we’re basing it on how we feel intuitively. That’s just too damn soon, TO ME.

5. Communication

Remember, I said we’re here to protect our children physically and emotionally. As for the emotional aspect, the threat is not always abuse, but it can also be having temporary people enter their life under the pretense that this person is permanent. If the person courting you is not interested in being a parent and doesn’t want anything serious with a woman who has a child, it’s not your job to try to convince them. Let’s not subject our children to unnecessary disappointment, and it’s unnecessary because you could’ve read the room.

I’m not here fearmongering, but rather reassuring you that when it comes to your child’s safety, there may come a time when you find it safest to sacrifice romantic love. It’s not talked about enough, and somehow, I think many women may be thinking about it but are conflicted by how extreme of a measure it is.

Wrap your mind around a different fairytale ending – one where your kids don’t need saving from a prince charming because you’ve been prioritizing their safety all along.

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