You’re Not a "Single Mom" Unless You’re a Single Mom


I was a single mother to my oldest son for four years, before my husband and I got together.

My husband was recently gone for a couple weeks for work, and I was parenting alone.

I was parenting alone, but I wasn’t a single parent.

I ruminate on this after witnessing a strange phenomenon where partnered or married mothers call themselves single moms because their partners are gone for any amount of time.

“My hubby’s away this whole week, so I’m a single mom!”

It has been expressed by those of us who are or have been single parents that this is inappropriate.

Stay with me now– I know what some of you are thinking.

“You’re too sensitive!”

“Get over it!”

“I can call myself that if I want to!”


I can see the dismissive comments now.

Because I’ve seen them several times before.

But, in the spirit of letting the voices of marginalized people speak louder than those who wish to speak over them, please consider not calling yourself a single parent unless you truly are one.

Of course you’re free to give yourself that title whether or not it’s true. Some people wonder why it matters, why there is weight to it. Consider this: would you think it’s right for a single mother to call herself a military mom? Or a married mom to call herself a widow?

I’ve actually heard a married woman — whose husband is alive and well — call herself a widow. Because hunting season started. How fortunate to be able to use that title as a joke.

Everyone has their own struggles. This isn’t about who has it worse.

Parenting as a happily married mom is tough. Parenting as a military mom is tough. Solo parenting is tough. I have two kids now, and it’s definitely harder to balance things with my partner gone. But there are differences between solo parenting until your husband gets back, and being a single parent.

While my husband is gone, I can still have contact with him. We email and text. Even when he was in the military and went overseas, I got letters from him.

When I was a single parent, there was no partner for me to share milestones with. No partner to giddily exclaim “He took his first step!” to. No husband for me to send a letter to, expressing how difficult bedtime is without him. No texts and phone calls to check in. No supportive words from a distance.

While my husband is gone, I still live in the home we have created together. His temporary absence does not leave me to support our whole family on my own. He supports me, emotionally and financially, to be a stay-at-home mom. While he is gone, I still have his support.

As a single mother, I was solely responsible for the food we ate, the clothes I put on my child, the roof over our head, every bath time, every bed time, every boo boo — it was all me, and only me, all the time.

While my husband is gone, his blankets are still on our bed. His clothes are still in the closet. His smell is still on his shirt. His image is still in my heart.

When I was a single mother, there was none of that. I was alone. Sometimes it was wonderful and empowering, and other times it was excruciatingly painful and lonely. It was my choice to embark upon parenting on my own (as much of a choice as it can be when you find yourself with a surprise pregnancy and the biological father simply walks out of the scene). But it was hard in ways you cannot understand unless you’ve been there.

When you call yourself a single parent even though you’re not, you treat it like a costume you can put on and take off whenever it’s convenient. The casual treatment of something that is very serious to many of us who have been there is dismissive of our experience. It’s also something of an insult to your partner to claim to be a “single mom” just because they’re out of town for a bit. I’m not single as a result of my husband being gone for work– work that he does to support our family.

Harm reduction is important. Harm reduction is assisted by people being aware of the words they use, and how they impact others. Now you know it is hurtful to some of us. Will you stop?




6 thoughts on “You’re Not a "Single Mom" Unless You’re a Single Mom

  1. thank you for saying so… I am a single mother for about a year and a half, although it feels basically the same as it did when I lived with their dad. SO I say I was a married single mother the entire time, but yes the difference now is there is not a man who supports me, who comforts me, who loves me-ever. Whereas there were small windows of time that i did feel those things from my ex. My youngest has never known a father, he will be 2 in May. Although his dad is not here physically (and IT IS safer that way) I am very blessed to have his financial support right now. So that is a huge weight lifted off, though I work hard to support myself because I don’t know how long it will last. It would be easy if it were cut and dried…. I don’t guess it is. I am excited to hear you found happiness in marriage, I hope to someday as well:) Until then, my 4 boys and I will kick it in peace and style and enjoy life:) Blessings and thank you for sharing your gifts and talents with others and writing this piece !

  2. Was nice to read this, thank you. My partner died before our daughter was born so I have been a single mother from the start. Every now and then my partnered friends say they feel like they are single parents sometime. Although I don’t really say anything it actually really hurts. They have no idea how it is for my daughter and I. We face things they never will and it’s not always easy watching their little families.

  3. Thank you for writing this article. I’ve been alone (without partner) for 4yrs; it was my decision to leave because l thought it couldn’t get much harder than it was being stuck in a toxic relationship. And there are many times, if l had known the struggle before leaving l might have thought twice about leaving. But l did for all of our sakes. I have only one 12yo daughter and thats been hard enough so hat’s off to all the single mothers and fathers out there that go it alone with multiple children. I’m 52yo, work 3jobs to make ends meet as the father of my daughter is unreliable and unaccountable for our daughter’s financial, psychological and emotional wellbeing; only part of the reason why l left. Everyday is a steep climb that requires resilience and the motivation to keep going but its a climb that l gladly accept l must do to keep a roof over both my daughter and my heads. Its bloody hard but l’m free and in charge of my life. And no amount of money from a partner can ever compensate! To all the truly single mothers (and fathers out there) doing it tough, be proud of yourself and everything you manage to do, set good examples for your children and they will hopefully thankyou for it one day ?

  4. I’m a single Mom and I’m telling it is not an easy road, it’s definitely a road that I did not want to walk alone but I had to, I was given no other choice as my EX husband was not supportive and very difficult to be with, for this same reason I had to move away to another country so he would not longer be a threat. I’ve had severe depression, financial crisis and I can name a couple of other issues that I’ve had to deal with while adapting to my new environment but we do pull through in the end. I love my two children and would not change anything, I’m currently studying and more than half way through a bachelor degree, I’ve had to start from scratch and it has not been easy while trying to work and look for more work as financially we are still trying to make ends meet but we do get there, I would love to have the support of a partner would give you but this will do for now…All the best and blessings everyone!

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