On Grace and Grit: The Resilience of Solo Moms
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An honest reflection on parenting alone by a mom of older children
I remember feeling jealous of my other mom friends who had husbands. Seeing them show up at church or at the summer barbecue always left me with a taste of slight resentment. I didn’t like that my son had to tag along with the other men and their sons to play catch. I always felt it was my fault that my son wasn’t great at sports as a kid. Having to show up alone at Parents Night at the beginning of the school year was a real drag, as I thought the teachers pitied me. When I met new people and talked about my kids, I was often asked the same soul-churning question: “Is the father involved?”
I never really had time to analyze or respond to other people’s perception of me as a Solo Mom, as I was too busy living and surviving it. And the stress of wanting to be the highest performer at my job and not be overlooked for a raise or promotion (because I was a Solo Mom) was always threatened by a phone call from my child’s school, which could throw my entire day into upheaval. Pressure to work nights and weekends at a retail job as an assistant manager meant I often had to leave my kids at my mom’s house, and it felt like I never saw them. It took me a long time to forgive and make peace with myself for that, for simply doing what I had to.
I always felt like I had only one leg to stand on but more to juggle than most people. Constantly being treated by men as if I had the plague, my frustrations with dating reached an all-time high when I was told, “Verse, you’re already a ready-made family.” It’s one thing to manage raising kids alone, but it’s another to be treated as if I were an outcast; I was not willing to date if it meant enduring that. I had my own self-criticism to manage. Life was like a merry-go-round, so many cyclical feelings to contend with, so little emotional support. Those overwhelming feelings of never quite having it all together, of guilt for having not given my children a fair chance in life, and that everyone was judging me. For me, those feelings were heavily exacerbated by the fact that I am a woman of color, and it was difficult not to feel like a statistic.
I was depressed a lot, especially during the holidays. On Christmas morning, the kids and I would open gifts, enjoy breakfast and hot cocoa, and head to the movies—that became our ritual. I had to create something special because by midday, they’d both be gone to spend the remainder of the holiday break with their dads. This often left me with conflicting emotions. On one hand, I had lots of free time to just enjoy being a single woman with a clean house; on the other hand, I felt guilty and broken, with a nagging sense of emptiness. Tormented by own dispirited thoughts, I’d question myself over and over again: How did I get here? Why couldn’t I stay married? How could I be doing this to my kids? It felt unfair that they had to split the holidays between me and their fathers. I’ll never forget one Christmas morning, after returning from Alvin and the Chipmunks and a delightful breakfast at Wildberry Pancakes, my 11-year-old son broke down crying. He just wanted his family to be all in one place. I felt horrible, and years later I still have tear-soaked memories of me spending that particular Christmas day completely alone, after day drinking and binge-watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
When I look at my kids, who are now 17 and 19, I am extremely proud of the young adults they’ve become. I watch them navigate high school and college while working part-time jobs with a lot of grace and determination. They’re creative and hardworking, and genuinely compassionate people. Despite what it felt like back then, I can see now that I raised independent, self-sufficient people who can cook a meal, wash their own clothes, save money, and even give their old mama an encouraging pep talk when I need it.
I’ve learned so much from witnessing their growth. They have always had an amazing amount of empathy for me and are extremely well rounded. Some of my fondest memories are of us driving to a cabin in Michigan and enjoying the lake and sand dunes, the peace of the wilderness, and quality time together; playing board games and UNO; and watching movies curled up in my bed. And our road trips to the South, laughing hysterically and singing loudly together, and just having fun. I learned that it didn’t take much to make my kids happy, just time and effort. Despite what we didn’t have, I was creative in how we spent our time. That effort fostered a lifelong love of nature, art, exploration, and wonder. But what resonates with me the most is that no choice I ever made, from moving every year or two (which resulted in them changing schools a lot) to questionable romantic partners, could deter my kids from being great. I suppose they’ve learned a great deal from watching me navigate life. They are simply the best humans I’ve ever known, and watching them grow older has given me deep satisfaction.
The most powerful revelation I’ve gained from my journey as a Solo Mom is that in the midst of our struggle, resilience is born. There is an armor that comes from running a household, raising kids, working a job, and being primary caregiver and problem solver all rolled up into one. It takes grit to survive, but it also requires grace. We are warriors. Yes, we will fall short at times, but the tenacity and relentless love for our kids gives us courage to get back up. We continue to push when we feel we have nothing to give. A Solo Mom can accomplish more in a few hours than most get done in a week. And although we often may feel as though we are not doing enough, sometimes the best thing we can do is extend ourselves a little grace just for showing up. Being a great mother isn’t a contest with a judge waiting to give us a perfect 10. There is simply no way to measure the role of your life because in the end, we are going to love our kids wholeheartedly and give everything we have to see them happy. And as I have seen in my own children, that is more than enough.
What would you tell a Solo Mom who’s just starting this journey? Let us know.
Former Solo Mom VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia, ESME’s Resource Guide for Domestic Violence, is a painter, published poet, speaker, and facilitator. Through her business, Soul Revival Healing Arts, she offers original paintings and products, and teaches workshops. Her first poetry collection, Butterfly Spirit, was published in 2015. VersAnnette is passionate about empowering women, eating great food, and traveling the world. She and her family currently reside near Chicago.
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