Me and Simza, taken when she was about 10 months old
At age 26 I decided to start the journey to become a single mom. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to parent. I also knew that romantic relationships had not been easy for me and I doubted whether I’d find a long term partner that I’d want to have a family with any time soon. And frankly, I wasn’t actually sure I’d ever WANT the marriage component of family anyway. So, against the judgement of friends and loved ones who thought I was hellbent on a life of self-sacrifice, I set off on the adventure of getting pregnant.
I found a wonderful donor. I threw a huge dance party on the night of my first insemination and had a community ritual to welcome the baby’s spirit to come earthside. It’s probably the best party I’ve ever thrown. My friends got wasted on damiana margaritas and danced with all the hope and joy of true possibility. A few raided my bedroom and piled on the bed with laughter and love as I waited the prescribed half an hour with my legs in the air. When I joined them on my living room-turned-dance-floor, I knew in my bones that this was the right life, the right path.
But the road was longer than I thought it would be; I didn’t actually get pregnant for another four years. Medical emergency, saturn return / emotional distress, heartbreak of various kinds and a donor change brought me on a wide arc away and then back to a new beginning. Finally, my daughter, Simza, was born in the summer of 2013.
I think all people who become parents must have the experience of facing “scarcity stories” - the litany of things we learned or believe we will never have. But I think single parents must face this in a unique way because we are not teamed up with someone else who will shoulder the load or help us see the ways we’re just freaking out unnecessarily. Scarcity stories can sound like “I’ll never have enough time/support/autonomy/etc.” In my case, it was money. Although I never doubted whether I’d be a ‘good’ mom, or whether I’d be happy with this choice, I did worry about how I’d be able to swing the costs. I found myself saying things like “I’ll never be able to send her to a really good daycare.”
Luckily, I have been training for years in self awareness, and how you talk to yourself is a huge indicator of that. Once I realized this intense agreement I was making with scarcity, I started to question it. What was the longing underneath the “never?”
I discovered that what I really wanted was not the prestige of a certain “top tier” daycare or the privilege of a private nanny. I just wanted to know that my baby was being loved and cared for and having a good tiny baby life. I sat with that longing, and with a long list of other things I wasn’t sure how to manage. And I made my first super excellent decision as a single parent. I called for help. Two good friends sat down with me and made a spreadsheet of all the help I’d need and the things I couldn’t do alone. They helped me reach out and coordinate a team of friends who would help care for Simza in the evenings while I was working my non-traditional-hours job. Another friend helped me comb through my finances. She looked at my bank accounts, my spending, my bills and really assess the possibilities. WHEW. Even thinking about the vulnerability that took, considering my scarcity stuff around money felt huge. And you know what? It was such a relief!!! It was awesome. I felt validated, supported, and the isolation that had been quietly building was broken open.
Asking for help with Simza during her infancy called in a group of friends to show up for us as family. My own blood family doesn’t live nearby, and while they have offered endless love and encouragement, figuring out the day-to-day logistics of support has challenged me to ask for help from my community over and over. Over the past few years, some of the faces have changed as friends have moved or their lives have changed. New friends have stepped in and other friends have been a steady support the whole way through. What I found is that people like being asked for help, as long as the pool is big enough and there’s not an over-reliance on just a few. And these friends who have shown up for us have built relationships with Simza...she has her own community and connections with people who love her.
A few months ago Simza came home from daycare talking about a friend who drew a picture of their mommy and daddy. I asked if she wanted to draw a picture of her family. She did. I offered to help write names down, and she proceeded to list the many local friends who make up her network of love and support.
Before Simza was born, I spent years cultivating community and strengthening friendships. As a mostly non-romantic relationship person, community has always been central to my time and my values. But being a single mom has pushed out the boundaries of what I even imagined could be possible. My family - Simza’s family - is so far from the two parents and a kid unit. But it’s not the “Super hero” single mom who has to battle the world to create a decent life for her kid, either. Our life and our family feels way more like the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” Proof is that occasionally I meet someone new in my neighborhood and after a while of talking they’ll say “Oh, you’re Simza’s mom?!?! She’s so great. I met her through ______ (insert one of Simza’s caregiver friends here)” Since she’s only three, this feels sort of hilarious and backward. Like, my toddler has a cooler social network than I do.
Looking back now, I feel sharply aware of the way I was positioned in the world and in time as I set off to make this choice. I am thankful to all the single mothers who didn’t choose this role intentionally, past and present, and the ways they have made this role more visible and therefore, more viable. I am aware of my whiteness and the truth that I have not had to contend with stereotypes and stigmas around single motherhood in the same way that is imposed on black mothers. I’m aware of my class privilege. While I have inherited scarcity stories around money, I also have the reality of a safety net in the form of my parents, my education, my work history. I don’t feel like a “superhero” doing it all, but there have been and still are so many single mothers who do. And finally, I have the advantage (hard won by those before me) of deeply rooted queer and feminist communities that have pushed back on patriarchal family structure norms for a long time now, and have paved the way for alternative families to thrive. And with the awareness of those things, I am humbled to be able to share this celebration of a choice I made to make this leap into the motherhood club trusting that I would land in safety net of love.
And there are SO many things I have loved about being a single mom. I love that I didn’t have to debate with anyone about what her name would be. I haven’t had to compromise about something I feel strongly about. I haven’t resented a partner for something they did or didn’t do. But mostly what I love is the barriers it has broken down about what constitutes family. And the ways that my scarcity stories have been healed by having so much support, even if I still don’t make a ton of money. I’d rather have friends than money any day. I’d rather Simza have all these grown ups who love her than go to some fancy school. And the best part, of course, is Simza herself. I love her. I love being her mom. I love the way we are a team.
A few months ago I fell back in love with someone I was dating right around the time I was conceiving Simza. It didn’t work out at the time, and that’s probably for the best. But it’s working out now, and I’m having the totally amazing experience of a lover who also adores my kid. It’s so cool. I feel so tender about it all...another scarcity story (never finding love) crumbling away. Maybe this means that family will grow to include this new love(r). But I don’t think it will shift the foundation of our community and the network we have poured so much love into and received so much back from. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have felt so empowered by this path. I truly feel like anything is possible now. All the dreams are possible. All the love is possible.