Getting Real With Sara Haley

I was married once. It didn’t work out. It just doesn’t always work out if both people aren’t committed to fixing what’s broken. I decided to cut my losses and leave.

And I couldn’t be happier.

When people think of single moms, they often have this sense of pity for us. I can’t fathom how many times people have told me, “Wow, I just don’t know how you do it!” My answer?

I do it because I have to.

I have no choice.

But over the last few years as I watch my daughter blossom into a beautiful young little girl (she just turned five, going on 16…), I look back at how different my life has become. But not different in a bad way. Different in a GREAT way.

I did not “sign up” to be a single mom. Believe me, being a single mom is not what I envisioned when I pictured my future life about five years ago. It just happened. I realized that my marriage was dragging me down, keeping me from becoming the person I knew I could be, and was suppressing the person I once was. Catering to another adult’s desires–one who did not appreciate my efforts even as a stay-at-home mom to our own child as well as his–was emotionally exhausting. Trying to make him happy was impossible, though my life was directed towards his wants and desires. I found that as the marriage fell apart and he took less and less interest in repairing it that it was time to stand up for myself and for my daughter. I knew there was something much better on the other side.  In this particular situation, the grass was indeed greener on the other side—and stayed that way.

I have been a single mom for over two years. I love it. I don’t feel as though I am overwhelmed or that I am “missing out” on being married.  I do think that part of it may have been the fact that during my marriage, I felt like a single mother anyway, as I was the primary decision-maker when it came to the children and never received the support one would expect from a spouse. Maybe that happened on purpose, to prepare me for what was to come.  But over these last few years, I have found out the wonderful benefits of being a single mom, and why I feel that this lifestyle is much better for my daughter and for myself.

My home, my rules, my decisions.  I make the rules in this house.  There is no back and forth between parents (“Go ask your dad!”), there is no one around to undermine my authority and cave in to her gorgeous baby blues, and there is no one to argue or make fun of the choices I have made for my daughter and myself.  If I want to bend the rules and let my daughter stay up a little later to curl in my bed and watch a movie, I can.  I can keep my apartment as cold or as warm as I want.  I can make dinner on my own time, and can even decorate my apartment exactly how I want without anyone passing judgment.  I don’t have to defend my decisions or compromise if someone else doesn’t like them.

I benefit from more mother/daughter time.  Practically every morning I get to see my daughter’s smiling face.  Almost every night I get to tuck her into her bed and kiss her goodnight.  And everything in-between is just as rewarding.  I get to spend entire days doing nothing but playing house, enjoying tea parties, building obnoxiously tall Lego houses, and coloring the day away with my daughter.  We can head to the zoo, enjoy the children’s museum, and spend a day shopping if we so desire.  I benefit from the joy of spending almost every waking moment with my daughter.  As time passes, I will become even more grateful to have had this time with her.

Less stress, less mess.  While some single parents find that life can be difficult, overwhelming, and completely demanding–both emotionally and financially–I have found the underlying benefits of not having a spouse.  I no longer have to do unnecessary laundry, make “special request” meals, or deal with cleaning up after another “child.”  I no longer feel resentment, which was a constant in my life as a married parent. I don’t have to check in with anyone, or get approval for anything that I want to do.  If I want to do something, I just do it.  I don’t have all the stress and hassle and nonsense that comes along with cohabitating with a male counterpart.

I am able to lead a less materialistic lifestyle.  My daughter cannot be “bought.”  She will take a day at the zoo with Mom over a toy.  She will choose building a fort in the living room over a new Xbox game.  She will pick an afternoon at the park over any electronic device.  I have been able to teach my daughter that time equals love, and I hope that this philosophy carries into her life when she becomes a mother.  I can only hope that I am leaving a positive, long-lasting impression on her that memories are more important than money.

I can enjoy and choose my own lifestyle.  I am able to balance my checkbook now without having to figure in negative balances, and I am able to purchase (or not purchase) items at the store without having to defend myself or justify my shopping. I am able to lounge with my daughter on a Sunday and make it a pajama day if I want.  I am able to enjoy peace and respect in our home.  We are able to live our lives without having to worry about what someone else thinks or requiring us to live a certain way to make someone else happy or impress their family.  We can, finally, be fulfilled.

I am enjoying the experience of independence and self-confidence.  I struggled, yes.  I barely had money to pay the bills, and racked up an enormous amount of debt.  But I stepped up to the plate and took control of my life, and had the strength and resourcefulness to begin to bury out.  I have enjoyed the benefits of self-reliance.  I have never felt more independent and confident as I do now, knowing that I was able to rise above a difficult point in my life and come out on the other side stronger and more resilient.  As a stay-at-home wife, I had lost myself and my self-confidence and esteem.  As a single mom, I have regained that, and earned so much more in return.

While this may come across as some man-hating essay, believe me when I say that I do not have an aversion to men at all!  I just have an aversion to someone else who crushes my spirits, holds me back, and doesn’t provide positivity and encouragement in my life, or that of my daughter.  Nowadays, I laugh more, I love more, and I embrace my life for the blessing that it is.  And now that I have experienced what it is like to be a single mom, I’m really in no hurry to have it any other way.