The Joy of Single Motherhood
By Arianna Schioldager
I first met Arianna when she reached out to me for Create and Cultivate’s Top 100 list. When she shared her story with me, it hit home. As the product of a hardworking single mother, I understand how different the path of parenting is when there’s only one parent present. Single mothers are fueled by strength and love, and this piece truly highlights that.
I never wanted to be a mom.
*THUD. Earth shatters. Truth is out there. Everyone still OK? OK…*
Let me repeat: I never wanted to be a mom. It’s not a secret amongst those closest to me. When I told my younger sister I was pregnant her response was a blend of elation mixed with confusion. “You??” she stammered. “But you don’t want kids.”
To boot, I certainly never wanted to be a mom enough to be a single mom. The narrative surrounding single motherhood is unpleasant and stressful, at best. Women living off the government, their children the product of failed relationships, the daily struggle of making it. The idea of single motherhood is so often weaponized: the tales we read are hard and unforgiving, too exhausting to even possibly consider.
And yet, at 30, I found myself a single mother with a one-and-a-half year old in tow, permanently propped up on my hip while I tried to figure out how not to break. Break down. Break in half. Break mad at her father. And yet again, at 30, I found myself in the most beautiful, powerful, heartbreakingly, staggeringly, gut-checking-ingly important relationship of my life. Instead of breaking down, I broke up. I broke all the way up.
I got an apartment. A sweet two-bedroom in a fam-friendly neighborhood in Los Angeles. It had a working fireplace I never used. A parking spot so I wouldn’t have to worry about carrying my babe on dark streets late at night. There was fake hardwood in the living room and a bathtub. I needed a bathtub, not a shower, for my baby.
She’d be there, snuggled up against my thigh as I typed away in the darkness.
That same baby would prove to be an incomparable source of inspiration and love over the next few years. One night while watching Pixar’s “UP,” she looked to me, one single tear dollop beneath her eye and said, “It’s OK to cry,” and promptly looked back to the film. I knew we got each other in that moment and that we would have each other forever. As the result of single motherhood I have spent more hours alone with her than I ever would have. We have experienced joy and fear and excitement and love, just the two of us. Sure, it’s been hard. I certainly don’t want to downplay the financial or socio-economic tribulations of what it means to raise a child alone. I have often relied on the goodness of friends and family, and have spent many nights working long after she’s gone to sleep.
She’d be there, snuggled up against my thigh as I typed away in the darkness. I’d look down and see her tiny nostrils, slowly taking in air, and I’d breathe easy.
It never felt dark.
I never felt unmoored or that being a single mother was a burden. The opposite in fact. How else would I have run through sprinklers fully clothed? Figured out how to travel solo with a baby? Dealt with vomit and potty-training, 6 a.m. wake-up calls, giggle fits, Santa’s first visit, the times she had done my makeup, more importantly the times she’d done hers, the tears, the first ER visit, the tiny warm body in bed next to me at night, the songs, the smiles, the endless kisses…? That list is endless.
Had it not been for the gift of single motherhood, I would have done all those things with a partner. Everything would have been different. Shared. The landscape of this precious experience would have shifted, dramatically.
See, I never wanted to be a mom. But I am certainly the world’s luckiest single mom.