A Letter to the Solo Moms Who Grew Up in Foster Care
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On being in it truly alone
You have been through many hard things in your short yet long life. And you may be surprised to find that solo parenting, at times, is one of the hardest. Solo parenting without family means you are alone in this role in ways that married friends and even other single parents will find impossible to understand. It takes a while, but you eventually stop trying to explain. You understand that it is too overwhelming for others to try to comprehend exactly how unearthly strong you must be—as they struggle to get through their own hard version of things. Solo parenting with no family and a difficult background is an ominous journey. But you take it on, every day, as strong and as proud as you have ever taken on anything. All those times along the way you have had to pull yourself up from nothing—you are simply amazing. Reflect on all you have overcome.
You are equipped for this job in ways most others aren’t. You are creative in building your own family and support network from scratch. You have experience that tells you that you can and will land on your feet no matter what comes your way. You know how to turn a dime into a dollar, your side hustles have side hustles. You have seen a lot, so your intuition is exceptional. You know what hard work is and the true value of the things it can get you.
While being a Solo Mom who didn’t grow up with her own parents can feel like crossing the Amazon River while blindfolded, it’s also an opportunity to redefine parenthood for yourself. What results from the kind of pain you have known is a different perspective on parenting—that is, while some see parenting without a preexisting map to be a weakness, I think it makes the possibilities a limitless choose-your-own adventure. You have thought long and hard about the family life you would have wanted when you were growing up, which perfectly positions you to customize the life you want for your kids. From the warmth of your home to your holiday traditions to your “secret” family recipes—it’s all up to you.
At times, you are hard on yourself because you have to be. At times, there is literally no leeway. At times, you may be hard on your kids because your hands are so full you just really need them to step up. You would never want parts of your childhood for your own child, but the value of the good parts that come hand in hand with the bad—the freedom, autonomy, ability to turn on a dime when resilience is required, the superpower of being self-made—is as high as anyone’s highest hopes for his or her child.
In the loneliest moments, all you can do is breathe and remind yourself that this, too, shall pass. Say it, and say it again. Paint it, bejewel it, and stick it on the wall if you have to. It’s true. The bad will pass, and the good will, too. Talk it out, walk it off, and give yourself a pat on the back. Even if you’ve had no one to rely on to see you through, thank that lucky star you made it this far along. You’ve got one of the hardest versions of things and yet here you are, showing up in this community, bettering yourself, and seeking better for your own kids. They are lucky to have you.
And know that there are those of us out here who know exactly the path you walk. It’s hard to find one another in this world, but we are out here, doing the same amazing things you are.
Beck List is an environmental scientist and writer living with her five-year-old future comedian in California. She has lived through plenty of her own trials and tribulations—and you can read more tips on her blog, BeckList.
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