writ by Gwen
A couple of years ago, I found myself staring down the barrel of ending a nearly-decade-long marriage and becoming a single mother of two small kids. There were myriad things causing me a great deal of anguish in making the decision, and it pains my fiercely independent heart to admit this, but one of those things was the idea of being alone. Though in truth I’d been alone for years, being married gave me some sense of security—mostly in that it allowed me to lie to myself about how alone I actually was. It was my smoke screen. My comfort zone—and though I was miserable there, I wasn’t excited about leaving it.
If you are staring down that same barrel and feeling that same dread of being without a partner, even if you don’t want to be with the one you currently have, know that you are normal. We’ve all been there. The idea of being a single mom can be a daunting one. However, as you are going to learn, there is a lot to appreciate about your uncoupled state. Look harder and you may find that being alone isn’t just something that you can be okay with, it’s something you can fall in love with. Here are seven of the countless upsides to your new circumstance:
Control is a word often saddled with negative connotations, but in this sense it is entirely positive—because you will have all of it. You are going have the opportunity to order your life as you see fit. Whether that means getting your finances in order, moving to a different home, accepting a different job, or going back to school, you can do that—no negotiations with a partner required. Being in control gives you power over your current reality as well as your future as never before. It is empowerment.
You may not equate single motherhood with freedom, but there’s more of it than you might imagine, especially if your kids’ other parent intends to stay involved and exercise some custody. And what can you do with said freedom? Anything you damn well please. Feel like sleeping until noon and ordering pizza for breakfast? Nobody to say no. Feel like spending the day reading or hiking or mastering a complicated recipe? Go for it. Feel like dancing the night away in a club full of inappropriately-aged singles? Have at it. Even when your kids are home, you can take advantage of the ability to declare tonight movie night or go to the neighborhood pool past bedtime. Welcome to freedom.
Something unexpected happens when you’re alone: you gain a lot of confidence. Out of necessity, you start doing things you didn’t think you were able to or you forgot you could. You start stepping outside of your usual habits and routines and start surprising yourself. Suddenly, you feel bolder, more capable, and less insecure. As your confidence snowballs, so does your willingness to take risks and take on challenges that would have felt insurmountable in the not-too-distant past. You will start realizing that you have been underestimating yourself for a very long time. This is good for you, but it’s not just good for you. Think of what your kids will learn from witnessing this change in you. Seeing you reach beyond your previous limits and reach new heights without depending on someone else to get you there may inspire them to do the same, instilling them with newfound confidence as well as the rightful notion that being alone doesn’t mean being broken.
Remember that scene in “Runaway Bride” where Richard Gere asks Julia Roberts how she likes her eggs—and she doesn’t know? Remember thinking “How can you not know what kind of goddamn eggs you like?!” (Or was that just me?) Maybe you (I) owe her character an apology, because as you may have discovered by now, it is not uncommon for a person to lose themselves to some extent in a relationship. Maybe you lost yourself in small ways, like forgetting that you prefer your coffee black or no longer listening to your favorite music because your partner hated it, or maybe you lost yourself in monumental ways, like forgetting you were a liberal feminist and then voting Republican. Twice. Or maybe you got married before you ever had a chance to figure out who you really are. Whatever the case may be, now is the perfect opportunity to rediscover yourself—or find you for the first time. Learn what you like. Develop your own opinions and conclusions. Figure out you. It will help you find greater peace within your heart and mind as well as your life.
5. Growth and Healing
When you don’t have to focus on nurturing a romantic relationship, you have a lot of extra energy that you will be able to redirect toward your own growth and healing. Doing so will enable you to be a better mother, a better lover to someone else someday, and most importantly, a better version of yourself. This isn’t always fun. In fact, it usually hurts a fucking lot—because the only way to really heal and grow is to look inward and find the things that have been holding you back—old hurts, damaging beliefs, your own misconceptions and prejudices and biases—and rip those bastards to shreds. Sometimes these things run deep, and dismantling them means gouging holes into your very foundation. It sucks. But once you’ve rid yourself of these things, you get to rebuild with positive things that will move you forward in your life. And that’s what’s known as healing.
6. A New Beginning
The idea of being a single mom may make you feel like your life is over, but in actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. You know what’s over? That part of your life that made you feel like you were living with a 50-pound weight on your chest. That part of your life that made you wonder how you ended up where you did. That part of your life that made you wish it wasn’t your life. That’s over. What you have now is the most magical thing in the world: possibility. From here, anything can happen. That’s not new-age-feel-good bullshit, it’s fact. There is no telling where your life will go from here—a truth both terrifying and thrilling. You will meet new friends and new lovers, you will be presented with new opportunities, and you will do things you never envisioned. Anything and everything is possible.
7. Alone is a Misnomer
There is a difference between being single and being alone. Unless you live in a vacuum, or on an island with a population of one, or in the International Space Station, you are not really alone—even if you don’t have a significant other. Even if you don’t live near family, or you don’t have the kinds of friends who are better than family, even if you imagine no one else could possess or understand your particular quirks, you are still not alone. Look around you. There are seven billion other people on the planet. SEVEN. BILLION. Your people are out there. If you feel alone, it’s time to start looking for them. Get involved in things, be it volunteering or meetup groups for your particular interests or professional networking groups or online dating or drum circles in the park. It’s not just your people waiting for you, it’s your life.