100 percent parent

Isn’t It Tough To Be A Single Mom?

I see you with your head tilting to the side and your eyes expressing pity. I hear you with your well-intentioned “I’m so sorry” comments…your “I can’t imagine how tough this is for you” rhetoric…your “Don’t you want to get married so she can have a Dad?” questions. If I know you well enough, I’ll reply honestly and thoroughly. If I don’t, I keep it brief and extricate myself from the conversation. Not because I’m uncomfortable, but because I’m unsure if you are comfortable.

Some people value a certain type of family structure more than others. Some (or many?) people place more validity and carry positive associations with a two-parent household over a one-parent household. I find myself wondering why.

In 2015, I remember a lunch when I was out with several girlfriends and one person I didn’t know that well. We spent the first hour talking about how little their husbands did around the house and with their young children. When the person I didn’t know that well learned about my situation, she was incredulous at my relationship choices. I replied:

I just spent the last hour listening to you all vent about your husbands and giving advice for how to make things a little better. I don’t judge you for staying in your relationships. You all were partners before you were parents. So, don’t judge me for leaving someone who wasn’t in a position to parent. I wasn’t married so I didn’t feel obligated to stay with someone who couldn’t handle the responsibilities.

Five years later, I don’t regret my decision at all. I feel confident in how I parent and am thankful for my support system. I don’t see my home responsibilities as different or more difficult because I’m the only one. (As an only child, I think it’s actually easier since what I want and how I want things done are the way things are done.) Roya knows who is in charge and sees herself as having a large family of loved ones with me at the center. She knows that we are whole and complete as we are because that is how I’ve messaged my choices and our family.

I’ve found myself having to explain my thoughts a few times during this pandemic. There are lots of reasons why self-isolating with your family unit can be difficult. It shouldn’t be assumed that being a #100PercentParent makes it tougher, though. For some, it definitely is! But, for others like me, it isn’t.

So, here’s my friendly unsolicited advice… If you want to know how a single parent is doing or if and what they might need, ask them! Their answers might not be what you expect. Also think about why you view a certain family structure as better than another. Respect that your values work for you, but think about whether you are truly accepting of family units that don’t resemble your own. (You might even want to take Harvard University’s Implicit Bias test to explore your own unconscious biases even more.)

With respect to the larger societal issues, I think about what impacts families in different ways such as the gender pay gap, NCTE’s findings regarding the wage discrimination that many transgender and gender non-conforming individuals experience, and how factors such as race and ethnicity further exacerbate disparities. I also question why certain professions are valued financially more than others and who has access to healthcare, childcare, and family medical leave. And, I continue to unpack how the US criminal justice system and discriminatory policing and sentencing policies have impacted families and communities.

If you ask me what I need or ask Roya what she wants, none of our responses would have to do with changing our family unit. We are thankfully safe and well, and hope that you and your loved ones are, too. xoxo

Time To Soar, Dearest A

It was October 2014. 

Roya was up two-three times a night every night. I was in my first semester as a full-time faculty member and teaching three classes. The nanny that I had hired for the year decided to leave the DC area. I managed to piece together a schedule with four babysitters – all of whom were full-time college students.

It was clear that I needed more consistent childcare. I took a chance and reached out to Nanny A, a friend of a friend, to see if she had some hours to spare. She thankfully did, and she began to watch Roya a week later. What started as occasional grading help grew into more hours and days with each passing season.

It was October 2014. 

I parted ways with Roya’s biological father without any tears or drama. I had wanted to be a 100% parent of a little girl, and thanks to God and him, I was.

A little over three years later, I’m reflective as to what an eventful month that October was. Back then, I didn’t know then what I know now…that having Nanny A join our family would be far more impactful than having The Man leave our family.

The love Nanny A has shown both Roya and me is unparalleled. The willingness to be there for us in our highest of highs and our lowest of lows has been unyielding. Nanny A is so much more than a nanny. She is my friend, she is the closest thing to a co-parent that I’ve ever had, and she is our family. She didn’t have to assume all of these roles, but she did. And, for that, I’m truly grateful.

Earlier this year, Nanny A and I talked about her professional plans. She is a successful writer and event planner, and at some point in the future, she wanted to focus on those endeavors exclusively. I knew that she needed to spread her wings, and her responsibilities with us would make that difficult to do. Her end date was on the horizon, but thankfully, she extended her time with us through the summer and fall. In October 2017 (three years to the week after she started with us), I again asked her about her plans. Nanny A would be moving on at the end of the year. It was official.

I cried on and off for 48 hours. Correction, I sobbed. (Picture that messy crying where you can’t form a coherent sentence and your eyes are puffy when you wake up the next day.)

Nanny A’s last date is getting closer, and moving the calendar to December has brought me to tears yet again. There is so much that I will miss about her, but to highlight just a few things:

  • How I can text her at any hour of the day for advice, a laugh or just to say hi
  • How Roya can literally hug her for hours
  • All the special things that she and Roya share together from their favorite restaurants to taking the bus to reading certain stories
  • How she turns into Mama Bear when anyone tries to mess with Roya
  • Our dance parties in the hall
  • How many times we have laughed until we had tears in our eyes

I haven’t wanted to finish this post for a week because that makes this truly real. After next week, Nanny A will no longer be in our home on a regular basis. Last night, as R went to hug us both she said, “Family hug.” She knows now, and I will make sure she always knows that Nanny A is a part of our family.

Stef Woods, city girl blogs

There are no words to do justice to what Nanny A has meant to us nor what she will accomplish. But, the words of the scholar Rumi come to mind:

You were born with potential. You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dream. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You were not meant for crawling, so don’t. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly.

I anxiously await all the tales of how you will soar, Dearest A. And, until you return to visit, know you are loved and missed every day in big and small ways.