by Anna Davies
As part of the Unlabeled series, StereoType will share raw and authentic stories and perspectives from parents and caregivers from many different walks of life who have challenged their own stereotypes and mindfully transformed as a result of seeking a closer connection to their children. Unlabeled will highlight stories of learnings, breakdowns and breakthroughs, transformations, and so much more, as parents and caretakers seek to become more attuned to their own selves during their parenting journey.
A few years ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, stopping at one of my favorite local parenting groups. A woman had posted a question. She was a single mom by choice, she wrote, due in the next few months and was looking to meet more solo moms. I responded, my fingers eagerly flying across my phone, oversharing in my excitement.
"Hi! I’m a solo mom of a 2-year-old named Lucy. My daughter’s father isn’t in the picture, as she was conceived during a backpacking adventure around the world, so I like to say I’m a solo mom by not-accident. I’d love to connect." She reached out via DM. "Sorry, but I’m really just looking for solo moms by choice."
I felt embarrassment flush my face. Like my message had said, my daughter was conceived while I was backpacking around the world as a single thirty-year-old. I had always known I had wanted children, and even once had joked that if I was still single by the time I was 35, I would backpack around Australia and make it happen. As it was, Lucy was conceived in Ireland, five years ahead of schedule and due to a birth control mishap, but as far as I was concerned, she was meant to be. Still, I never felt like I fit anywhere in the mom world. I wasn’t a single mom by choice — not exactly — but I also wasn’t divorced, separated, or co-parenting with a partner. I wasn’t partnered at all. And I didn’t know who or where my mom tribe was, or who it would be.
When I first became a parent, I had been nervous about becoming a single mom. I knew people held about the role: Overwhelmed. Struggling. Unhappy. I made it my mission to be the opposite of every solo mom stereotype people may have. At the new mom group I went to in the neighborhood, the facilitator would always ask about everyone’s high and low points of the week. Other people would talk about missed sleep, miscommunications, and exhaustion. When it was my turn to share, I’d talk about magical solo stroller walks, hanging out with other parents in cafes. I would never, ever admit to a challenge. Another time, when Lucy was five months old, my new mom friends organized a potluck barbeque. I offered to bring desserts, making five desserts in the early morning hours while Lucy was watching me from her bouncer on the kitchen floor.
I wanted everything to seem easy, effortless, fun, that being a single mom was no big deal. And I gradually fell into a group of married mom friends. I’d listen as they commiserated about their partners and talk about their goals for the future. I didn’t realize how little I was contributing regarding my own challenges and goals. On the surface, I fit in. Who needed the solo moms? I had found my mom group.
But during the course of the pandemic, I realized that fitting into the married moms meant losing touch with other parts of myself. I didn’t want another child. I didn’t want to move to the suburbs. But I found myself caught up talking about Zillow listings and pediatricians, sleep training and school ratings. In avoiding the “single mom” stereotype, I’d fallen right into another one.
Now, I’m still figuring out who I am — and realizing how fluid that definition can be.
“You’re not a single mom, you’re a woman with a child,” my boss said offhandedly, when I was talking about my realization that I needed a life that felt more expansive than the one I’d created. And that’s the most accurate description for me. I love being a parent. But I also love being a woman, exploring my passions, desires, and goals, and how everything can fit together to create a life I love. I don’t know what that will look like. But I know that it won’t be stereotypical.
Anna Davies is an award-winning writer, editor and content strategist. She has written for The New York Times, New York, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Elle, Parents and others. She is a proud solo mama to her 7-year-old daughter, Lucy, and lives in the New York City area.