A couple of days ago, I stopped by one of my beloved colleague’s office for a chat. She is one of my favorites for a myriad of reasons—she’s kind and funny and ever-so-stylish—not least of which being that she is a former single mom. She gets me. In fact, it is almost as if we are living parallel lives, just a few years apart.
We always discuss a variety of topics, and we eventually landed on my recent foray back into dating. I explained that I had been on a couple dates and that there were a couple of interested parties but that I had fallen off the wagon again. I kind of chuckled and shrugged and expected the customary sympathetic response or cliche, “It will happen when you least expect it.”
I should have known that she would offer a much different, more insightful, and encouraging response. She told me she remembered the days I am currently living—days that seem challenging and unending, at times. And while she admitted that they were difficult, she remembered them fondly as some of her best days.
During our conversation, I was reminded of JK Rowling’s quote: “I am prouder of my days as a single mother than of any other part of my life.” What a statement coming from one of the most successful authors of our lifetimes, a woman who single-handedly left her mark on pop culture for generations to come.
I had a flashback to the article I wrote last summer, “My Best Days are Ahead.” In this piece, I mentioned my goals for that summer that I had very professionally written down on a yellow post-it note and stuck to the front of a red spiral notebook.
I wanted to apply to a PhD program, apply to conferences, and start a book proposal. Somehow, with the support of wonderful family and friends, I have begun to start checking some of the goals off my list. And it feels great.
During our conversation, I had somewhat of an epiphany, and I blurted it out: “This phase is kind of magical.”
Would it be easy to just classify this as an in-between phase on my way to my next long-term relationship? Sure, but yikes, I don’t want to do that. Could I just count these as the difficult years and assume that my hard work would pay off in some sort of dividends later? Maybe. But what would I be missing? The magic of how singleness and single parenthood has challenged me and shaped me for the better.
Parenting my two children from the ages of 2 and a few months old by myself has given me a sense of confidence that I have never had. I am raising good little people. They are not without their moments, but, for the most part, they are kind and loving humans.
Parenting is never easy no matter what, but it is something entirely different when you all have the stomach bug and there is no one there to help you clean up in the middle of the night or let you sleep away your own illness. Plus, if you can potty train two kids and break one from a pacifier, you pretty much feel like you have superpowers. Sign me up for the next Avengers movie.
This sense of confidence has flowed over into other areas of my life. I am OK with taking risks now, even if there is a chance of rejection (which in writing and in academia, there always is). And I know my own worth and value myself and my time.
Because of this, I have developed the strongest of friendships because I simply don’t have time for acquaintances or one-sided ordeals. The same goes with dating. If I don’t see it lasting past a couple of dates or I don’t foresee myself having the time or energy to devote to the relationship, I put an end to it early on, and I like to think that is out of respect for everyone involved.
I would simply rather take myself out to sushi or binge Netflix or catch up on my sleep than waste my time or someone else’s. I understand myself so much better now — what I am looking for, what I’m unwilling to deal with, where I envision myself in the future — all things that I apply to my career, friendships, and potential relationships.
Am I tired? Delirious. Would I love to find companionship again? Of course. But it’s not number one on my priority list these days (though some people feel it should be). I am exhausted, yes, but “my cup runneth over.”
Being a single mama has revealed a different side to me: a stronger, bolder, more ambitious side. I feel like a more authentic version of myself with each day that passes, and I am kind of loving the transformation.
I am excited for what the future holds for my kids and me. I have no doubt that it will messy and lovely, challenging and rewarding.
All I know is that life is extraordinarily good right now, and I want to revel in the now instead of waiting idly by for someone or something to come along and change my circumstances or last name.