I am a 23-year-old single mom. I have a high-need, extremely intelligent daughter who is nearly three. I don’t have a college degree. My income is limited, I have almost no time to myself, and my daughter hasn’t seen her father in six months. From the outside looking in, I may look like just another casualty of modern society– another single mom, raising a fatherless child in less-than-ideal circumstances.
The funny thing is that, in my mind, we have an ideal family. I can honestly say that, if given the opportunity to live my life again, I wouldn’t change a thing. As crazy as it may sound, I absolutely love being a single, young mother. Here are just a few of the most wonderful things about my life.
1. I’ve got pep. While older mothers can certainly find the energy to care for their children, I’m glad that I had my daughter in my prime. During my early twenties, I could (and still can) function on as few as three hours per sleep per night. I’ve got energy to chase my toddler all day and then stay up working from home all night. I know very few moms in their late thirties or early forties who have this amount of energy.
2. I don’t have to share. While I don’t– and don’t want to– stop my daughter from bonding about other people, I enjoy the close, special connection that I have with her as a single mother. No one besides me got to witness the homemade Valentine that she made me last week, or the proud smile when she sounded out the word “pig” today, or the song she authored yesterday about cars that can talk. There’s something special and heartwarming about the fact that I get to have these wonderful moments to myself.
3. She doesn’t have to share. Not only does my single-mom status make it so that I don’t have to “share” my daughter; she doesn’t have to share me, either. If she needs my attention– be it late at night or in the middle of the morning– there’s no one to gripe about a neglected marriage or relationship. I get to devote my life to raising my kid and taking care of myself, without the added burden of a needy spouse.
4. We get to grow up together. As a single, young mother, I am still learning and growing every day, often in ways that older moms have outgrown. I still take joy in learning new things, from the fine details of child development, to home treatments for speech disorders in toddlers, to my daughter’s own fascinating questions: “Can penguins get cancer? Why are sunsets red? What do you call a tree doctor?” (The answers are, in order: “Yes./ Because the atmosphere scatters longer wavelengths in indirect sunlight./An arborist.”) In this way, my daughter and I have the joy of learning new things at the same time. And, fortunately, I have a career as a writer that enables and rewards my own self-education.
5. I set the standards. I nursed my daughter until she was two and a half. I sometimes feed her graham crackers for breakfast. We follow a stair-stepped but complete vaccine schedule. We are not religious. Although these would all be arguing-points in many households, they’re not in mine. While I’m always open to discussion and feedback from friends and family members, the fact is that I’m the only person with a final say in how I parent my child. I know that I’m not perfect and won’t make the right parenting choices 100% of the time. But I don’t have to deal with a co-parent who undermines or argues my choices at every turn.
6. She’s a happy kid. Stereotypes tell us that kids with single moms are clingy, neglected, depressed and otherwise troubled. While this may be true for some children, it isn’t for mine. Her life is not free of emotional challenges, but, overall, she is loving, happy, bright, and steadfastly confident in my unconditional love for her. My daughter draws pictures almost every day of happy families– a smiling mama-rabbit and her smiling baby-rabbit; a smiling mama-cat and her nursing kitten; a “happy happy mama train and her sweet little baby train who loves her!” She loves the tiny family that we share, even if mainstream society views it as an unideal model.
7. I get paid back. Young, single moms often feel unappreciated– like the job we do goes unrewarded. This isn’t consistent with my own experience. Parenthood is, for me, its own reward. see those first glitters of empathy shining in her charcoal-gray eyes. I watch her make friends with strangers. I see her make the conscious decision to donate a quarter to the animal shelter instead of using it to buy a handful of M Ms.; I hear her dreams of becoming a railway conductor, a tree-doctor, a mechanic, a writer, a mommy. And I have the joy of knowing that I, alone, am responsible for creating this person who will do so much for the world.
She kisses my forehead to chase away the headaches. She hugs me when I feel sad. Handing me a stick-figure portrait of a mother and child, she tells me that I am the best mommy in the world. I smile through my tears, realizing how lucky I really am. I am a young, single mother, and I have no regrets.