The term, “single mom” just won’t suffice anymore. The time has come to place a jauntier hat on our heads and upgrade this worn-out title to “independent mom,” or dad. For the last few years, I’ve called myself a single mom as way of explaining that my marriage dissolved and the bulk of parenting rests on my shoulders. The term encapsulates the responsibility of raising kids without another adult with whom to make family decisions. Yes, the role can be exhausting and sometimes piercingly lonely. But, I strongly believe words matter, and the coupling of “single” and “mom” increasingly makes me uncomfortable and sad.
For starters, the word “single” attempts to define a person through division. It describes us solo parents as half of what we once were, when in fact almost everything about life has doubled. Raising kids alone means assuming dual roles. We are both the comforter and disciplinarian, the scheduler and minister of fun, the chef and dish washer, the home decorator and garbage person. Each of us can ramble off moments that required us to draw on unknown reserves of energy and skill, like standing tip-toe on ladder in the middle of the night to change a smoke alarm battery that won’t f*ing stop beeping. That’s because we exist at 200 percent almost all the time.
Then there’s also the ick factor of defining a person through partnership. Instead, why not place emphasis on the reward of raising kids autonomously? Within my home decisions aren’t split. The days flow like a semi well-oiled machine. Well, sometimes. And through necessity my children entertain themselves for long periods, and are responsible in ways never imagined. Now don’t get me wrong, if a stunning individual appeared in our lives, he would be welcomed with open hearts and arms. That said, I don’t want my role as a parent to be defined by having or not having a partner. I want my role as a mother to be defined by my relationship with my children and my relationship to the role itself.
I love being a mom. I adore the increasingly complex ideas and emotions my children verbalize. Their loud and restless bodies fill the house with kinetic energy. And they constantly remind me to laugh, play and be silly. At the same time, I’ve grown adept at managing a home and being the boss of almost all decisions. So, as the Chief Everything Officer for my household, I’m giving myself a promotion to independent mom. Independent, not because I don’t need anyone else, I certainly do, but because I’m reveling in my own freedom and strength. Strong, independent moms and dads raise strong, independent kids. More power to you.