Sometimes Solo Parents Have To Be Selfish — And It’s Good For Everyone

About nine months into solo parenting during a pandemic, I came across information about an online fiction writing class. The course description noted that the class was time intensive. Indeed, the application was time intensive. And due within the week.

With COVID numbers climbing in my area and no end in sight to the cold, snowy weather, I made the almost impulsive decision to apply. A week later, I found out I’d been accepted.

The warning in the course description proved true. The classwork was demanding and required that I devote several hours per week to assignments and readings. The classwork was also a breath of fresh air after nine months of solo parenting in a pandemic. The instructor and other students were inspiring, the work was stimulating, and for the first time in too many months, I felt motivated to pursue a dream.

But time is a limited resource. Even before a global pandemic brought the world to a screeching halt and turned it all upside down, I added things to my to-do list faster than I could scratch them off. It’s the nature of parenting in the twenty-first century, and even more so, the nature of solo parenting during the twenty-first century. There are just not enough hours in the day. Which means, from the moment I wake up, to the moment I go to bed, every hour is accounted for.

To make room in my life for this class, I had to pull back in some areas — sorry, sleep — and cut corners in others. I also, sliced a little time away from the time I always make to just “be” with my kids. That’s separate from the time when I’m overseeing their homework or refereeing an argument or reading with them at night.

That first night when I was logged onto a virtual class — headphones in, world tuned out except for sounds of an emergency — and told them I couldn’t watch the show we were binge-watching all together on Netflix, I was ravaged by guilt. As far as parents go, I’m all they have. I’d been busy the entire day either working, nagging them to do schoolwork, or doing the administrative things to keep us afloat. Taking the class during my downtime with them felt like choosing me and my dream over them. And I never want them to feel like I’m choosing anyone or anything over them. It felt selfish.

But then they told me to have a good class and disappeared into the world of Roblox, and I was struck by another thought. Yes, technically I was choosing me, choosing my dream, over them in order to take that class. And yes, that is almost exactly the definition of selfish. But it was so much more than selfish, too.

In making my choice, I showed them what it looked like to reach for a dream. In choosing me this time, I showed them what it looked like to strive to get better at something. What it looked like to have ambition. I showed them that even adults have more to learn.

In choosing me, I was teaching them to support me in my goals, like I support them. Because, even though I’m the parent, we are a family, and families support each other in all the ways. Not just parent to child — though, that’s the primary. But also, child to parent and sibling to sibling. Family support is dynamic, and in this way, I was teaching them that.

I frequently get hung up on the word selfish. I tend to fall into the trap of believing as a solo parent, what I want doesn’t matter as much as what my kids want. My kids watched their father disappear, first in mind, then in body and soul. I’ve held them while their hearts were breaking and wished I could absorb their hurt. There is very little I wouldn’t do to protect them from feeling that kind of hurt again — or any hurt. Very little I wouldn’t give to them. So making a choice that might hurt them, that takes something away from them (namely, my time) goes against every instinct I have.

But the truth is, they need to see me be selfish. Selfish, in this small way, isn’t a bad word.

For me, those few extra stolen hours made me feel less invisible during the pandemic, reminded me there was a future outside of the pandemic, and gave me something to look forward to at a time when I’d forgotten how to do that. The class was a lifeline back to myself. Now, weeks after the class is done, I feel motivated, productive, and more present with them than I have in months.

For them, those hours watching me devote myself to a goal, will (hopefully) be the reason they one day know their dreams are worth pursuing, their wants are valid, and their family will always be there to support them in all the ways.

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Single Mothers Of Teens Are The Real MVPs

My son sent me a text after he got off work the other night. He was going to stop and get gas, a bad slice of pizza, then be home. I went up to bed and was fighting off sleep until he was home safely.

After brushing my teeth and doing my lengthy skincare routine, I knew he’d be home soon so I turned on the television to keep myself awake. 

After an hour, my son still wasn’t home. He works 12 minutes away from our house and I knew his stop didn’t take long. I was sitting alone in my bedroom and called him. No answer. I sent him a text telling him to call me. Nothing.

Maybe he was talking to a friend. 

Maybe he had to work a bit later and forgot to text me.

Maybe his car is flipped over on the side of the road and he’s not going to call me but a police officer will any second now.

These are the thoughts that go through a mother’s head. And when she’s a single mother, they go through her head alone. There’s no one sitting next to her on the sofa to calm her down. There’s no one there saying, “You stay here next to your phone with the other kids and I’ll go out and look for him.”

You sit and marinate in all your worst thoughts without anyone there to bounce them off of.

A few minutes later, I got a text saying,”Mom, I got pulled over for speeding. I’ll be home in five minutes.”

When he got home, I had to be calm enough to not yell at him so I wouldn’t wake up his brother and sister and scare them, yet stern enough to remind him he had screwed up and I was really worried.

I had to process all my thoughts and feelings alone. I had to be the mother and the father. I had to be the voice of reason and the support system for my son. 

When you are a single mother of teens, there’s no one to share these duties with. There’s no one to say, “I’ll handle this, you are too upset.” There’s no one to talk it through with you when you find out your teenager is having sex, smoking pot, vaping, or just being an all around asshole.

Even as a divorced woman who has a healthy co-parenting relationship with her ex, I can tell you raising teenagers is lonely as fuck.

Sure, there’s people to talk to, but they have their own lives.

Yes, I can reach out to my ex and he will come over, call his kids, and do whatever it takes to share this parenting burden of raising teenagers in this day and age. But single parents are still doing it alone. Because when something comes up suddenly —  which it does, because your teenagers don’t say, “Hey mom, I’m going to miss curfew tonight,” or “Just so you know, I’m going to start cutting myself,” or “I think I’m going to stop doing my school work and see what happens” — you have to think quick. You have to deal with it. You can’t ignore it, or postpone your reaction until you dial up your ex.

You don’t have someone standing next to you to reach out and grab your hand because they sense you are going to lose your shit.

Nope, it’s all you.

There’s a lot of things that can’t be put on hold when you are a parent. Catching your kids drunk or having one of them fall apart because they got their heart broken doesn’t allow for you to step away and say, “I’m dealing with this alone, so I need some extra time to process this and think about what to do.”

Teenagers need you immediately. Teenagers get into big shit. Teenagers have huge feelings. Teenagers can fuck up your day faster than ten toddlers. Teenagers can make you feel like you literally don’t know what you are doing as a parent.

And as their mother, you want so much for them. You want to do right by them. You want to handle it all. 

But this is exhausting — this taking everything on alone, without the second opinion of someone you love and trust. Someone who sleeps next to you, and them, and wants it all to be okay just as much as you do. 

Even if you have a supportive ex-partner, it’s extra work to keep them in the know about what happens when the kids aren’t on their watch. It’s a lot of back and forth and explaining. It’s an energy-suck to constantly check in with each other and make sure you are both on the same page. And even in the best of circumstances, it’s rare that you are both going to handle things the same way or agree on how to fix something.

Single mothers of teens, you are the real MVPs in this life, especially as we head into another phase of this pandemic and try and take care of our families and keep our teens close and safe. Don’t you ever forget it. And don’t you ever feel like you suck as a parent. This is the toughest shit I’ve ever been through, and while my kids are completely and totally worth it, that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize its challenges.

Lord knows being a single mother to teenagers has a ton.

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I Need (And Want) To Be A Mom First — Not A Nurse

The enjoyment of my son’s first steps, his first words, and every other special moment after that were partially stolen because of the constant worry that comes with being the mother of a child who suffers from a seizure disorder. Every interaction left me wondering, “What if this activity will cause a seizure—or worse?”

Massiah is medically fragile and suffers from life-threatening seizures and other complications as a result of Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). TSC is a rare, incurable genetic disorder that causes tumors and tubers to form on the brain and major organs—he currently has dozens of these on his brain, five behind his eyes, and three left in his heart, plus numerous cysts on his kidneys that have resulted in a stage 1 kidney disease diagnosis. Since 2015, Massiah has undergone routine monthly bronchoscopy and laryngoscopy to remove airway growths. Those growths have slowed down due to beginning chemotherapy in July of 2020, but they have not yet gone away.

Courtesy of LaToya Martin

While the PTSD and anxiety of being a mom of a child with disabilities have drastically overpowered the enjoyment of being a first-time mom, it has not stopped me from making sure that Massiah has the best life—and the best healthcare—possible. Shortly after Massiah was born, I moved away from Virginia where all my friends and family live to Delaware to access AI Dupont Children’s Hospital. One of the major fights I continue to battle is Massiah’s ability to have professional medical care at home. He has been able to grow up at home and thrive due to the in-home nursing that he has received through Delaware’s Medicaid program. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and me being a stay at home mom, I have not been able to access full-time home nursing care for Massiah. If full-time nursing were available, he would have the necessary medical care he needs, and I would be able to have the relief I need to provide myself with the self-care I need to continue to be the best mom for him.

Courtesy of LaToya Martin

Since I’m a single, stay at home mom, the state only authorizes eight hours of in-home nursing respite care per week for Massiah. Don’t get me wrong—I am so grateful for Massiah’s nurse, and for the two days a week I am able to run errands, deep clean, and practice some self-care while she is there keeping my son medically safe and healthy. But, I am beyond exhausted. It’s simply not enough. Massiah is going through chemotherapy and multiple other appointments and therapies. As his mother, it’s my job to keep him alive. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Massiah lost his 55 hour per week authorization for nursing care because he was no longer in school. The state’s justification is that he can only qualify for care when school is in session. This makes no sense. His condition has not changed. I am a mother, not a doctor or a nurse.

Courtesy of LaToya Martin

This pandemic ought to serve as an illustration for the state of how important home care is in keeping vulnerable and medically-complex children like Massiah at home. Delaware can ensure Massiah and others like him continue to be healthy and safe by recognizing that state programs like private duty nursing (PDN) need to be prioritized and adequately funded! This is especially true in times like this, when even taking him to the grocery store and laundromat could result in a serious infection or worse. State home care programs must be better funded so that there are enough nurses to fill the hours Delaware kids truly need. I have fought for years and will continue to fight for Massiah’s care for the rest of my life. But, that care is not eight hours a week. Massiah and I are beyond blessed to be able to have him grow up and thrive here at home, and I can only imagine how much more he would learn and grow if he were able to receive consistent medical care safely at home while I provide for him as I am meant to—as a mom. I need to be a mom first, and Massiah needs me to be a mom first too.

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This Pandemic Is Eviscerating Single Parents

From last Sunday morning to this Friday evening, I totaled a whopping 18 hours of sleep; that’s just a smidge more than three hours a night, on average. But we don’t live in averages, so it really played out as not sleeping for 40 hours straight, with a couple of five and six hour nights and three hours here and there. I don’t have an illness or anxiety, but just work, and kids. And to be honest, weeks like this happen a lot.
As a single parent, there is no one else in this pandemic to hand a task off to. There isn’t another adult to manage the emotional wounds of social isolation inflicted on my 9- and 11-year-olds, or a partner to take the trash out or make dinner or do the dishes or sweep. There’s no one here but me.
So I stay up late and get up early. I hustle through the kids’ school emails at 3am (why are there so many!?) while waiting for the washer to finish so the laundry can dry while we sleep. I look ahead to plan around what’s next: materials pick-up for fifth grade, the dog’s shots, orthodontist (are they open, or is there another delay?), car registration, the city’s leaf collection, and updating the budget.
I stopped for a moment to point this out because we are all living this pandemic together, each in our own ways, but so often single parents disappear. It’s not because we’re lazy or don’t care. We’re just totally overwhelmed normally — and this pandemic, this is next-level steamrolled. The mess alone that has accumulated while having kids home uninterrupted 24/7 for eight months is something out of my pre-pandemic brain’s worst nightmare, and here we are — living in it.
filadendron/Getty
I know it’s hard for everyone. And I know I’m very very lucky to have a job from home. But I also know when we get through to the other side of a successful vaccine, we won’t be healed. It will take so much time after that to get better. There’s a lot of recovery and growth and healing to talk about outside of the home. But I’m focused here on inside right now. Because inside, I’m so exhausted, and as I’m facing the prospect of another all-nighter to reconcile last week’s missed deadline, I just can’t see the end in sight. Even knowing a vaccine is coming. Because a vaccine can’t replenish how dry we’ve been drained.
Single parents are not okay. And there’s nothing to really do about it except stay home and mask up. There’s no time to talk on the phone, no meals to send, no hugs or get-togethers to attend. The deep cuts we all feel are eviscerating your single parent friends.
Please remember this when it lifts. Because I won’t be better right away. I won’t call or return to school pick-up or join a bar night or gather around the bonfire. I won’t go camping or be up for a sleepover. I won’t be out there at the park playdates or staying late to sketch out the next PTA fundraiser. I won’t be anywhere but here, still in my robe sopping up the leftover tears of mom-guilt and tween angst, and processing the cost of this pandemic on my life-years (yes, single moms die sooner), and then I’ll just sleep.
And I’ll sleep extra for months, or more. And I’ll go to my sisters’ homes and sleep in Chicago. And I’ll sleep in my parents’ home when I visit. And I’ll sleep through Easter and Memorial Day and the 4th of July. I’ll sleep like the Grinch of daylight. And you all just have to be okay with it, and forgive me — and all your other single parent friends — while we sleep off the pandemic hangover that will likely last for a year or two longer than yours.
And please answer when we call in 2023, because we loved you through it all, but just could not find the time, or the energy, or the daylight to tell you.

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Check On Your Single Mom Friends—Like, For Real

Being a single mom is hard. Being a single mom during this nearly year-long pandemic is especially hard.

Last night, after I put my kids to bed, I sat at my kitchen table and wrote my to-do list out on individual post-it notes. Then, I stuck those notes to the top of the cake carrier where the cupcakes my kids had baked and decorated days earlier were getting moldy inside. I sat back, proud of myself: I’d successfully made my to-do list the centerpiece of my kitchen counter.

This was my new brilliant plan to tackle my to-dos, which seem to multiply exponentially as the days of this nearly year-long pandemic tick by. (And yes, one of the items on my to-do list is to throw out the moldy cupcakes and clean the cake Tupperware.)

As of this writing, only two post-it notes have been pulled off the cake carrier and three more have been added. And, as it turns out, the problem isn’t that I’m forgetting to tackle these tasks. The problem is that my day is being constantly derailed and interrupted because, as a single mom in a pandemic, “completer of to-do list” barely begins to name the hats I wear daily.

I am mom and completer-of-to-do-list and remote school’s teacher assistant and finder-of-all-lost-stuff and chef and cleaner and disciplinarian and emotional cup-filler and pandemic-life-and-death-decision-maker and receptionist and IT support and mediator-of-arguments and shopper and accountant and repairwoman and bug killer and trouble-shooter of all the things—alongside the whole actual job that pays hat.

To be fair, as a single mom, I was most of those things before the pandemic, too. It’s been a long time since I could ask my partner to fix a wonky WiFi connection or help negotiate a peace treaty between two angry kids. By now, I’ve figured it—whatever “it” happens to be in the moment—out. In fact, most single moms I know have figured “it” out. We’re used to doing and being all the things.

But the pandemic has changed the equation and stacked it in the wrong direction by subtracting the babysitters and moms’ nights out and adding doomscrolling and a constant underlying fear that the world is in a freefall. It’s a lot, even for single moms used to doing it all.

Which is why I would urge everyone to check on the single moms in your life.

Check on your single mom friends that you haven’t heard from in a while. Friendship should be a two-way street, of course, but right now your single mom friends need you to come to them.

Check in with your single mom friends who don’t have a co-parent and are feeling the weight of holding down the fort alone. Check in with the ones sharing custody who some days are coming home to an empty house—it might seem like a vacation at this point to have your house to yourself for the night, but not when you’re wondering whether your kids are safe during a global pandemic.

Check on your single mom friends who have a difficult relationship with their children’s other parent, and along those lines, check on your mom friends who have a fine relationship, because this pandemic is putting strain on even the best relationships.

Check on them and then really listen to them—do they need you to drop off some dinner on their porch, can you run an errand for them so they don’t have to drag their kids into a store, or is there another COVID-safe way to help lighten their load?

One of the most helpful and COVID-safe supports I received was from a friend who called me up to let me know that most of the kids in the grade were in a group chat and playing a game together. I downloaded the game on my kids’ iPad, and suddenly they were virtually connected to friends they haven’t spoken to in the last few months. They were social and engaged and allowed me a few minutes to decompress without guilt, all thanks to my friend who realized my kids hadn’t been included. That heads up meant more to me than I can express. She recognized that sometimes (well, all the time) single moms are wearing so many hats, we’re just spinning from hat to hat in our own orbits and completely missing anything outside.

Let’s be clear: living through a pandemic is hard. It’s not a competition. Moms—partnered, single, divorced, widowed, or anything else—are all being pushed to their limit. Nobody needs more added to their to-do list right now, but often times—I would venture to say most of the time—much of what a single mom wants is to know she hasn’t been forgotten underneath all those hats she’s always wearing. And maybe the best thing you can do for a single mom is to let her know she is seen, maybe even heard, and certainly not forgotten.

And when it comes to single moms, that small check in, that little bit of acknowledgment and help, is the invaluable reminder letting them know that if they stumble, there will be someone there to (virtually) reach out a hand or root for them as they struggle back up.

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If You’re A Single Parent Of Teens Dating Someone With Teens, They Might Not Be Besties – And That’s OK

Dipping my toes in the dating world with teenagers was going to be a piece of cake. Or so I thought. I remember the moment I agreed to go on my first date; I figured since my ex-husband was already seeing someone, and my kids were up in their rooms or with friends most of the time and wanted nothing to do with me, they probably wouldn’t give a damn what their mother did.

I figured since they had such a large life of their own without me, I should start getting one myself. 

I also thought since they were over the temper tantrum stage and able to be left alone for a few hours dating would just be… easier.

However, getting into a new relationship and falling in love with someone other than your child’s father always brings its own set of challenges. 

For me, it was a long time before I introduced my kids to anyone — three years to be exact. I’d had one relationship and dated two men exclusively but never felt a pull to introduce them to my children because I wanted to make sure they would be around for a while after I did that. 

I know now that I did this just as much for myself as I did for my kids. I wasn’t ready to share the new life we’d built for the past few years with anyone else. It felt too young, fresh, and really vulnerable. 

When I did meet — and fall in love with — the man I’m with now, I knew after a few months he would meet my kids. 

We had a lot in common. We were the same age which meant a lot of fun ‘80s and ‘90s memories to talk about. We both love the same restaurants, music, and have the same core values. The cherry on top was he had a teenage daughter who was the exact age as my teenage daughter. As soon as I met her I thought, She and my daughter will be inseparable! I know it!

That was well over a year ago and I can tell you that’s not how it went down at all. They are both teenagers who share the same style and their personalities are so much alike it kills me. They both adore hair and makeup products. They are both shy and can be anxious in social situations. The thing that shocks me is sometimes I look at my boyfriend’s daughter and she looks and acts so much like my daughter I think they could be sisters. 

I figure she’d get along with my other kids too. After all, the first day I spent time with her she told me she wished she had brothers and sisters and was looking forward to getting to know them.

The fact of the matter is, they aren’t up for more siblings. My children don’t really want much to do with her and she feels the same. They are cordial and tolerate each other when we get both of our families together (which is very rare because it’s so forced and tense), but it’s obvious no one wants to be hanging out together. 

She has accused her father of loving his “new family” more than her when she’s seen texts he’s sent my daughter.

My kids put up a fight every time I’d propose doing anything all together, so I stopped.

At first I had a really hard time with this. But after taking a step back, I put myself in their shoes. I realized when I was a teenager, it would have been pretty hard for me to befriend my parents new partner’s kids.

I had very different visions for us and never once thought they wouldn’t be excited to hang out with each other but here we are. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, but if they don’t want to make room for each other in their lives, I can’t force it.

There was a time when it made me doubt my relationship and I wondered if I was doing the right thing for my kids by bringing someone into their life who had a child they really didn’t care for.

Then I remembered we all have free will, kids are resilient, and they could deal with this.They love my boyfriend and have fun with him. As long as they are polite to his daughter, I am fine and my boyfriend said he’s fine too.

We both agree our kids get to choose their friends. They get to choose who they spend their time with. And that in no way measures how good or bad our relationship is.

I am allowed to move on and fall in love. That doesn’t mean it has to be a damn Hallmark movie where everyone is shiny and happy all the time. 

If you are a mom with kids who is dating someone else with kids, they might not like each other. There will be feelings of struggle and jealousy. They might not be able to process all the new changes going on, at least not right away, and that is okay. 

Perhaps down the road things will change. In the meantime, I am going to focus on my relationship with my kids, my relationship with my partner, and my relationship with his daughter. 

These things are allowed to be separate. If and when they come together a bit more, I will be ready … but for now, I’m letting go of all expectations and accepting what is. 

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Do It For The Single Parents

When I was given the opportunity to adopt my daughter just a few months shy of my 30th birthday, I knew that saying yes meant saying goodbye to my dating life. At least, to the dating life I’d had up to that point.

Goodbye to the wild nights out.

Goodbye to the freedom to meet up at the last second with any potential love interest.

Goodbye to the potential for something easy and uncomplicated.

And certainly goodbye to the “u up?” texts that never turned into anything substantial, but were always good for a few hours of fun.

I was starting my life as a single mom by choice, which meant I wouldn’t have a parenting co-partner to trade nights and weekends with, and dating would, from that point forward, involve a lot of planning and money spent on babysitters.

I didn’t care. The second my daughter was placed in my arms, I knew I had made the right decision.

That was seven years ago. For the most part, my intuition about what my dating life would become after embracing motherhood was spot on. I have a career I am passionate about, an amazing friend group I can always count on for support, and a daughter who is the absolute love of my life.

And I can’t remember the last time I went on a second date.

The truth is I just haven’t tried that hard. My life is full and happy and I have yet to meet someone worth complicating things for.

But that doesn’t mean my lady bits just shriveled up and died. I am still a sexual being with all the same desires I had pre-motherhood. I just don’t have the same time or freedom to give into those desires.

Once a year or so, since my daughter was born, I’ve found a night or two here and there to be intimate with another person while my little girl has spent the night at an aunties house or, more recently, gone to sleep-away camp. And that’s been enough.

Until 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All of a sudden, for the first time in my journey as a single mother, sex and dating are no longer just slightly out of reach, they are legitimately forbidden.

I can’t just get on Tinder and pick an attractive potential out for a night of flirting and fun. I haven’t been inside a restaurant in 9 months, or been within 6 feet of another adult. And kissing through masks isn’t really a thing.

There’s no room for casual hookups, or even PG-13 dates, when the risk is possibly bringing a deadly disease home. There’s no way to justify my need to get laid while public health officials beg people to keep their distance.

And so, I haven’t. My Tinder profile has been shut down, my legs closed, and my vibrators charged.

It is what it is. I’ve put dating and sex on the back burner before, and I’m more than willing to do so again in the name of protecting myself, my daughter, and our community.

But I’ll tell you this much: 2020 has definitely made me question my independent woman status, wishing I’d maybe just settled down with someone nice before this whole pandemic began.

Someone I could curl up beside in bed without fear of contracting the plague.

And sure, most of my friends are sick of their partners by now. Working from home, side-by-side, while also trying to manage their kids’ virtual schooling, trapped in seemingly tiny houses without any opportunities to simply be alone—it makes sense that so many marriages are struggling right now. That’s a lot of pressure and togetherness.

But as I keep telling all my friends: it’s still another adult to crawl into bed with at night.

Someone to talk to.

Someone to process with.

And yes, someone to fuck. On the occasion that one is not way too exhausted to make that mutual orgasm worth pursuing.

So if you have a partner, even if they are driving you crazy (assuming they aren’t abusive or otherwise awful—because if they are, take 2020 as your excuse to leave), just climb on top of them tonight.

Naked.

Simply because you can.

Do it for the single parents. Take advantage of your ability to safely get laid, and don’t take that gift for granted.

Sure, your partner may have a terrible habit of leaving their dishes in the sink or talking too loud on their Zoom calls.

But it’s another adult. In your home. Hopefully aware of all the places you like to be touched.

So let them touch you there. Because there are far too many of us not being touched at all this year.

At least, not touched in the ways we want to be.

And we aren’t even sure when that might be able to happen again. So we need to know you’re not wasting the sex that is otherwise always (or mostly always) available to you.

You can thank me when you’re done.

(Psssst… hey you! Yeah, you—the one struggling in a million different ways right now, just trying to keep your head above water, incapable of thinking of anything but survival. If sex is the last thing on your mind right now, I really do get that. I’d like to think of everyone happily getting laid, simply because it feels like the one simple pleasure those in relationships can still cling to. And because I miss sex so much myself. But if that’s just not what you want at all, honor that. And know you deserve to have a partner who honors it too.)

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I Signed Up For A Dating App During A Pandemic — Here’s Why

About two weeks before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, I wrote an article about how after my husband died, I found myself looking for someone to save me from a zombie apocalypse. In the article, I concluded that maybe I could actually save myself, and rather than a savior, I needed a partner.

That was all well and good…until what felt like an actual apocalypse hit. Within days, the world that I knew fell completely apart. Schools shut down. Businesses shut down. Life seemed to shut down.

Without any warning or time to prepare, it was just my two kids and me, in the house, all day long, as the world teetered on the edge of crisis. It was terrifying and isolating, and with no other adult anywhere in sight, I suddenly was less sure that I could save myself.

Like most people, I was filled with anxiety, stress, and an intense inability to stop doomscrolling. In a normal world, anxiety, stress, and a serious obsession with doomscrolling don’t signal that it’s time to download a dating app, but that’s exactly what I did.

I did so despite the fact that I had deleted the apps and vowed to take a long break from dating, because dating as a widow and solo parent had proven harder than I’d expected. I did so with no expectations because I couldn’t imagine letting a stranger within six feet of me.

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only single parent signing up for dating apps. Anecdotally I knew this to be true because in the last weeks of March and early weeks of April, it seemed as if every match was a single dad, and they were all swiping faster and messaging more frequently than usual. Quantitatively, it seems it’s true, too. Recently The New York Times reported that several dating sites saw an increase in the number of single parent registrations. “Hinge has seen a 5 percent increase in single-parent registrations, Elite Singles has seen 6 percent, and Match has seen a rise of almost 10 percent.”

It would seem almost counterintuitive for single parents to sign up for a dating app (or two or three) during a pandemic. Why, when you can’t meet anyone in person and, even if you did, you had nowhere to go, would you sign up for a dating app?

Well, I can’t speak for every single parent who signed up for a dating app during a pandemic, but I can attempt to explain my reasons. The most obvious, of course, is this: it did feel like I was staring down the beginning of the apocalypse and while, yes, I could face it alone, I didn’t want to. It was lonely. Day after day without another adult in my home, I was lonely.

But there were other reasons, too.

Distraction is at the top of the list. Distraction from all that stress, anxiety, and doomscrolling. The latest fun match or message from a match was a distraction from all the gloom and doom in the world. Hopefully, regardless of whether we chatted for a few minutes or a few weeks, we were a distraction for each other for a little while.

Also, it was easy, at times, to feel as if the world outside my neighborhood had disappeared. We (my kids and I) were lucky that we were able to stay home. I could work from home and they could school from home, but as a result, it could sometimes feel like we were the only people left. The dating apps were a reminder that the world outside my neighborhood hadn’t disappeared.

Staying home 24/7 with my children meant that I was in the role of mom 24/7. A few minutes spent messaging with a match took me out of that role. I was just a woman, and not mom (emphasis on the whine, for effect.) I truly believe a few minutes of not being mom helped maintain a thread of sanity on some days.

And while most of the conversations I was having focused on the pandemic and quarantine-life, because no one was going anywhere or seeing anyone, there was something nice about commiserating with a stranger, hearing a new perspective—or at the very least getting new ideas for ways to pass the time. I’ve always believed there’s something nice about learning that your singular experience is actually universal.

Technically I could have called up a friend to chat. But I’m the only non-partnered person in all my various friends groups, and while many of my friends who were suddenly at home with their partners 24/7 would have happily chatted with me for their own distraction, I found there was something nice about talking to someone who also didn’t have “their person” to speak with. In that way, despite being strangers, we had something in common that none of my partnered friends had. When I did call those partnered friends to chat, it was nice to regale them with adventures in pandemic online dating rather than focus on our stress and doomscrolling and distance learning frustrations.

And also, almost most important, signing up and using dating apps during the earliest days of the pandemic was a touch of normalcy in a world that felt anything but normal. And that’s what I’d needed at the time.

The post I Signed Up For A Dating App During A Pandemic — Here’s Why appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Dear Single Mama, Don’t Be Afraid To Rest

I always take my kids out to eat on Saturday afternoons. These past six months, that ritual has involved getting takeout and sitting in the car. It’s something I look forward to like Christmas morning because it means I have my kids all to myself and can eat greasy things before dropping them off with their father for the next twenty-four hours or sosomething that has not gotten any easier for me.

Last Saturday as I was driving, I realized on my way I’d forgotten to put in our online order and was trying to instruct my son on how to do it. This didn’t go well, to say the least. 

My mind had been caught up in running the vacuum and gathering a load to take to Goodwill on the way. I was also trying to mentally prepare a grocery list because I’d left ours sitting on the table near our doorway—which is ironically the place I always put things I need when I’m leaving because I’m sure I won’t forget them.

He couldn’t figure it out and was overwhelmed trying to put in our orders (without messing them up) into an app so I told him to dial the number and I would just call it in. The woman on the other end of the phone was having trouble hearing me and I started to lose my patience. 

Why is everything so hard?

Why can’t it just go smoothly?

Why do I have to manage everything?

Why the hell am I so damn tired?

I was doing it again—that thing I do when I pull on my martyr pants and think that just because I am the only parent in the house, things have to be done and taken care of as soon as they come up or things will blow the fuck up. I had to physically and mentally pull myself out of this state, and it wasn’t easy.

It was okay if I forgot something at the grocery store. If we screwed up our order, so what. If I didn’t make it to Goodwill before it closed, oh fucking well.

It’s been over three years since my ex-husband has moved out, and I am just now learning something: Just because something needs to be done, it doesn’t mean it needs to be checked off the to-do list that moment, or even that day. Also, it doesn’t need to be done perfectly.

When you become a single mother, you feel like you can’t stop. There’s no one to ask to bring home toilet paper. There’s no one to sit down and pay the bills with. There is no one to ask to help your kids with homework while you have a big work project or are trying to make dinner.

When the floors get dirty, they call your name.

When the dog needs food, it’s all you.

If the kids need a lice treatment or a doctor’s appointment or they are having friendship troubles, you come in and take care of it because you are the only parent there. There’s no passing the buck. You are the banker, always. 

Even if you have a good co-parenting relationship with your ex; even if you have help, you still somehow train yourself to cross the t’s and dot the i’s because you know how it feels when you let things slide and realize it’s your job to pick it all up.

That’s it. Just you.

So, you keep plugging away. You keep going with no joy, no battery, no hope for a rest—because you just won’t allow yourself that, for fear you won’t be able to catch up.

But let me tell you something, single mother to single mother: when you need your rest and to press the pause button, you should. Things will not fall apart, I promise.

Believe me, for a very long time every time I thought about watching a show, or calling a friend, or just skipping the damn dishes, the alarms went off and all I could hear were all the things I “should” be doing.

I’m here to tell you that is the number one reason why you will burn out, feel agitated, and be pissy. 

I still drive myself to a point where I feel like I have to keep all the plates spinning or things will crash all around me, but I now know better.

I know if I simply stop and do what I need—whether it’s to plop on the sofa and nap, or leave the bed unmade, or ignore the laundry for a while—it’s an investment in myself. And when I do that and take the rest I need, my energy always comes back organically and I’m able to tackle my life in a way I just cannot when I’m running around acting like there is a siren waiting to go off if I don’t get things done in a timely manner. 

No one cares when the clothes get folded except for me.

No one cares what I feed my kids for dinner except for me.

No one cares if I nap three days in a row instead of cleaning out the closet that’s overflowing except for me. 

So, my message to you is let yourself rest if that’s what you need. This shit is hard, and you’re doing it on your own. Let yourself take a breather if you start to feel like you are losing it on everyone who talks to you. Let yourself sit for a moment instead of telling yourself you can rest when it all gets done because the truth is, it’s never going to be done.

And if you don’t get the nourishment you need from taking a break when you need it, you are never going to get the fuel you need to feel energized.

Everything can wait, except for you. Remember that the next time you think you have to drag yourself around just to “get it all done.”

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Social Media Makes Me Jealous 

I have a really good friend who has started her own business, and these past few months it’s exploded. Every time I see one of her posts to promote herself go viral (which almost all of them have lately) I get this twinge that starts in my chest and bleeds into my entire upper body.

When I see her in person, we have a great connection, and she’s not forgetting who she is with her newfound success. Our friendship is based on shared experiences like divorce, children, and the fact we have both been in the dating game with kids.

I love her dearly and am genuinely happy for her. But when I scroll through my feed and see her seemingly perfect life — her new business, her insanely fit body and perfect white teeth, her happy marriage that is far from perfect because she tells me so, I feel guilty.

If it weren’t for social media, I probably wouldn’t feel this way. But when I see a highlight reel of her life against my life, I can’t help comparing the two, even though I know it’s going to take me down each and every time.

Since my divorce, I not only compare myself to influencers I see on my Instagram feed — modeling perfectly matched outfits and handbags I could never afford, with oversized mirrors and plush rugs in the background — I compare my single mother status to their happy families.

I realize I am in my mid-forties and have had kids, but that doesn’t stop me from looking at myself differently after I see fitness models in their 20s share their fitness routines, or post a side-by-side picture of them sticking out their non-existent gut to show people what “real life” looks like, as if it’s supposed to make us feel better.

Before COVID-19, family vacations were always a trigger for me too. I’d see turquoise waters or city lights with hashtags like #familyvacation and I’d think, Will I ever be able to do this for my family now that I am divorced?

Then I’d feel inadequate and tell myself I needed to work harder, try harder.

When I first started dabbling in the social media game years ago, it was because I felt like it was fun, everyone was doing it, and I was inspired by mothers who had large families and dressed their kids in coordinating outfits.

I didn’t start out having feelings of inadequacy until I started scrolling more and seeing what was out there.

The inspiration turned to coveting and feeling like I was either missing out, or missing something, because how did these women do it all?

How could they afford this modern house, have three beautiful children, and curate such beautiful, flawless posts with a full mane of hair and a manicure?

Even though I know most people only post the good stuff (hello, I’m the expert at this), it never fails: when I see something like a husband and wife kissing on date night, or a mom posing in her car with her handbag and salon pedicure looking fresh as a daisy, I don’t feel motivated any longer.

I feel like I don’t, and will never be able to, measure up.

This isn’t a proud moment for me. Admitting this goes against everything I’ve been taught, and everything I am trying to teach my kids, who are obsessed with all the apps. 

I’d like to think I was above all this nonsense and I should know by now to stop comparing myself to others because it only damages me, but I am a living, feeling person. 

And I guess there is still a part of me who thinks, If only

If only I had a firmer butt and better hair…

If only I still had a marriage that didn’t end years ago and we could take vacations together…

If only I could afford a kitchen renovation like that…

If only I had the energy to get off my ass and do more with my life like everyone else is, maybe then…

Maybe then I’d be happy and I wouldn’t feel like I was lacking on certain days when I can’t seem to pull myself out of the internet rabbit hole.

There’s always going to be someone who is more successful, has more degrees, makes more money, is more fit, or more attractive than you. 

I’m not alone in these feelings, I know that. I’m not the first woman to compare herself to the zillions of things to covet on the internet. 

The best way I’ve learned how to deal with it is to stay the fuck off when I’m not my best self, which is most of the time.

Seeing younger girls dance on TikTok and scrolling through my Facebook page never makes me snap out of a slump and it has the power to make a perfectly good day turn sour, even if it’s only for a bit. And I know this — so when I can’t handle it, I stay away.

This morning I met with my friend. You know, the one I’m jealous of.

And you know what she said to me after I admitted to her I felt envious of her new success and I was sorry about it?

She told me she’d stalked me on social media when we first met and decided I’d be one of her closest friends because she loved my energy and I motivated her to go and do things she’d always wanted to do, but felt like she didn’t quite have the right. 

It didn’t cure my social media jealousy by any means, but it certainly was the perspective I needed. 

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