Motherhood

On Single Parenthood

On Single Parenthood

This weekend I read a fantastic essay by a single mother:

“Living outside the nuclear narrative will create so many jarring moments with others that soon you won’t speak, only nod. You will do The Nod when the nursery sends your kid home with a Happy Father’s Day card that she’s been made to copy her name on to. You will employ The Nod when other mums say they know exactly what it’s like being a single parent because their lovely husband works abroad for up to two weeks at a time. You will employ The Nod when 20 of your friends offer to babysit — three will actually do it and the rest, when they see you at a party, will ask what you have done with the baby, to which you must always reply with these exact words: ‘I thought I left it at your house?’ Gradually, you will realize that you, too, have made other people do The Nod all your life…”

My friend, who is a single parent, can’t help but notice when people say, “My husband is out of town, so I’m a single mom this weekend.” She’ll think, “Oh, but you can text your husband at night, you are a two-income family, etc…” Another friend, who has a child with special needs, says it’s like a punch in the gut when someone will say, “I don’t care if we have a boy or a girl, as long as the baby is healthy.” Of course, she knows that her loved ones are well-meaning, but she can’t help wondering, would you not want my wonderful child? It’s a good reminder to be conscious of and caring about where others are coming from.

Find the full essay here, if you’d like. Definitely worth reading.

P.S. My motherhood mantra, and surprising parenting advice.

(Photo by Alain Bachellier. Article via The Shortlist Daily)

  1. Heather Robertson says...

    I 100% commend single or only parents, the bravest people I know are doing it all on their own. I am going to say this though- being the only parent available four days a week when you work full time is also hard. Like single/only parents you miss out on a lot of “you” time and you make a lot of sacrifices. You’re the good guy and the bad guy. You make a lot of decisions on your own because there are time differences and country codes and so on. So I think the important message here is that everyone struggles and there is no way that you know what is weighing on a particular person at a given moment. We all must choose our words wisely and forgive when others don’t because eventually we all say the wrong thing and we all warrant a head nod.

  2. Tracey says...

    I prefer to refer to myself as an only parent. To me a single parent has a sense that there is another parent around somewhere. In my case that is not true and has not been true since the day my son was born. His father passed away from liver cancer when I was 6 months pregnant – 8 weeks to the day he was diagnosed. Therefore I am an only parent. I get rather defensive when other moms say the ‘I’m a single mom this week’ bull. You are never a ‘single’ mom until you are really a single mom. Sure, your spouse is away and you are on your own but you still have someone to share everything about your child with. First steps, sitting up on their own, crawling, first words, which daycare to choose, which foods to try, which book characters are good and which ones are not, the list goes on and on. Do I feel sorry for myself being an only parent – HELL NO! I would honestly not want it any other way, because, I get to make those decisions because I know my son better than anyone else because we are together all the time. My son is 15 months old now and he is amazing. We have some challenging roads of explanation ahead and understanding of why he was born without a dad but I’ve managed to nurture a happy healthy boy so far, I sure won’t let him down in the future.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you sound amazing, tracey.

  3. Thank you for this article Joanna.

    I often hear people from two-parent, two-income households complain about having no time or money for anything.

    As someone raised by a single mother who was working as a waitress and going to school for her master’s degree when she had me (with her sister living 7 hours away and her parents living 11 hours away), I always think that people need to put things into perspective.

    When you are a two-parent, two-income household, with a network of friends and family around you, you are in an easier situation than a lot of people. I think it’s very important to acknowledge that and be grateful for it.

  4. kristin says...

    My mom was a single mom and not too long ago, one of my friends had her first child. It wasn’t soon after when her husband started working an early shift temporarily for a week and wasn’t able to be around for the usual wake up and have breakfast routine. She made a comment that “She knows how single parents feel now!” and even though I wasn’t (nor am) a single parent at the time, it made my hair bristle. I should have said something, but I believe I did The Nod.

  5. :)

  6. Wonderful article! I lost my husband to leukemia when I was 26, and had 2 small boys to take care of. I always tried to think of the positives, like loving grandparents to help out, but hearing other couples complain about their spouses being gone a few days for work was one of the hardest things for me to deal with.

    I remember thinking so many times, all I wanted was to have someone else to help me make big decisions.

    But through all the hard times it was helpful to remember everyone has something, right? I guess that’s why we make other people do The Nod too…

    https://eemmllee.wordpress.com/

  7. CathyW. says...

    that essay is fantastic. Thanks for sharing. I know and love a badass single mom – my sister. This is lovely. xo

  8. Like many other commenters here, I, too, am a full time single mother. That means 24 hours a day, 7 days a week I am responsible. There is no down time or break. I have no financial help nor do I have any physical help. But I never wanted nor expected it. I am so happy to have my son and wouldn’t dream of my life any other way. But it is hard.

    I think the hardest part of being a single mom is the expectations you put on yourself more than anything. I expect myself to be perfect all the time – to have the right answers or know the right thing to do. But the truth is, we don’t. We don’t always say the right thing or do the right thing. We don’t always sit to dinner at the table like a proper family. Or have special dates or family outings. But I try hard every day to do the right thing. And I can’t tell you how much more balanced we are because I have no bitter expectations of anyone. It’s not good for anyone to be raising someone around a base of bitterness and anger.

    Thanks for this amazing post. I love that despite what the world thinks of what I am doing, there is someone silently cheering for me out there.

    • Neko says...

      I love your comments. I’m in the same boat and I really needed to read your words today, that we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be perfect. It’s a lesson that I’m slowly learning but I know I’ll be a better person and parent when I finally do. Thank you so much.

    • Neko…we are all in this together. Loosen the expectations you have on yourself. Chances are you are doing a spectacular job.

  9. Jo, thank you so much for highlighting this article on your blog. I am on my morning commute with tears in my eyes.

    I am a single mother. My son is one. I left my fiancé when my son was 5 months old. There was no love or support and he was controlling. He wanted a wife but never wanted to be a husband. Life is hard, but it is so much easier than it was before. I rely heavily on my parents who are my superheroes and I thank every day for the fantastic life that I do have now.

    No ones life is perfect, but sometimes it is the imperfections, the deviations from the course, the hiccups and obstacles that make life perfect, because it is these experiences that make us see the other point of view, make us realise who we are and ultimately make us better ppl. These experiences make us aware of The Nod that we have been blindly doing for years. Thank you!

  10. Elz says...

    Ok. I have a genuine question that will go against the grain here. Do you think that perhaps it is better (or at least equally good) to learn how to shrug off comments such as these – that may not be well thought out, but are also not meant to be mean or biting?

    People will always say things that you can take offense at. Learning resilience and simply not sweating the small stuff can make you a much happier and more contented person in the long run.

    • Exactly. Very eloquently put!
      Being able to shrug off hurtful, unsolicited comments without actually feeling guilty or sick to my stomach afterwards or driving myself crazy from overanalyzing the circumstances of each instance is a mature attribute I feel I need to add to my mental arsenal of skills, I think, which I sadly do not seem to completely master yet.
      I’d be such a happier person if I could CHOOSE NOT to be worked up about every little thing that other people think or believe, because at the end of the day I have enough self respect to trust my own instincts and decisions more than anyone else’s. The struggle continues…
      Thanks for that, Hugs from the Mediterranean

    • Sarah says...

      She sounds to me, honestly, as if she does shrug them off and the whole last section about how she realizes that other people have given her “the nod” about other things made me tear up. I think it’s more about appreciating what you have and being empathetic. Really a wonderful essay, I thought.

  11. Whit says...

    I feel really grateful to live in an age where THIS conversation can happen. I’m feeling the urge to have a child more and more with every passing year, but have been on the fence because I haven’t found a partner ;) I’m tired of all the eyebrow raising, unsolicited advice and blatant negativity when I mention the idea of having a baby on my own. Will it be hard? Overwhelming? YES. But I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be a mom…moreso than I’ve wanted to be a wife…

    • Lucy says...

      I too, have been contemplating the decision to have a child on my own. The clock is counting down (I’m 38!) and I think it’s increasingly likely that I will not have my own biological child. How comforting then, is the knowledge that I can adopt! Regardless, years ago, when I first started thinking about becoming a single mother by choice, I researched support groups and found this wonderful group of women http://www.choicemoms.org/ who come together for the express purpose of supporting each other through the choice to become a single parent. I’ve never taken that next step, but I still subscribe to the site. I just don’t know if I will ever work up the courage to go through with it on my own. I’ve said before that I won’t necessarily regret never having been married, but my heart will always regret never having a child.

  12. Joanna Goddard says...

    These comments are moving me to tears tonight! You are all so amazing. It is really incredible to read these comments from such wonderful women.

  13. Allie says...

    Thank you so much for mentioning the “we don’t care so long as it’s healthy” comment. As a child I was very ill, and even now have an invisible physical disability, and it ALWAYS hurts to hear that comment, even when you know there is nothing malicious behind it. It always makes me think, “so what they’re saying is that they wouldn’t want a me…” or any number of the wonderful children I know who came to this world “not healthy!”

    • Mariana says...

      When people say that, they aren’t saying they “wouldn’t want a you”, they are simply hoping their child will be healthy (and happy, of course). They wouldn’t love their child any less if it had any illness, but hey, a parent wants the very best for their babies and being healthy is the start of that…

  14. what gorgeous post, essay, conversation. i sometimes thought of myself as a single mom when my husband was working 2 jobs for the first couple years of our boy’s life, but i always stopped myself from saying it aloud as i know the real thing is much harder. a grad school professor of adolescent literature once said “pain is pain” when comparing circumstances. simple but i always think of that. xo

  15. Chelsea says...

    Thanks for sharing! That’s helpful as I think of my single mom friends.

  16. Lois says...

    Beautiful essay and comments- and they come at a perfect time for me! I am currently 34 weeks pregnant as a single mother- excited and nervous and anxious about doing this on my own…

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      congratulations!! we will be rooting for you!!! xoxoxoox

  17. I find the same being true for adoption. Too much emphasis is placed on family being about blood and genetics. I have brothers who are blood-related to one another who are not close at all. Being adopted I struggled as a child, not by my own insecurities (my parents did a good job) but by the constant explanation to others that I don’t have a bloodline for the family tree project, or my mom’s eye color, or my dad’s nose. Society has come a long way but we could go further.

  18. Shannon says...

    I can’t wait to read the essay. I’m glad you posted about this because there are so many situations people should and need to be sensitive of when they ask questions/inquire/give their opinions. There are too many sensitive and unique situations out there.

  19. Oh man that essay just made me cry. So very human. xoxo

  20. What a powerful post! A friend of mine lost her newborn son at one week old and, from her experience, I have learned never to ask a stranger if a child is their “first,” how many children they have, etc. While it’s true that we can’t walk on eggshells, we can be mindful that that you never know someone else’s struggles.

    Jo, I’ve noticed several readers asking for posts reflecting more diverse family structures and I’d like to make a request of my own. I would love to hear from adult children of divorce, broken families, etc., particular as we inch closer to the holidays. Now that I am creating my own family/traditions, navigating the holidays feels more complicated than ever. I’d love to hear how other children of divorce manage it!

    • Alexa, I love your idea about a post re: children of divorce/broken homes navigating the holidays and creating their own families. I’m living that, too!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, that sounds great, thank you!

  21. I was married in my early 20’s & had my first child at 28. At 31 my first husband of 10 years walked out on us and since than has seen our daughter maybe 5 times, so I remember doing the nod when a single mom who got a break once a week and every other weekend would compare our stories and I’d think to myself it wasn’t the same story, there was no break for me. On the bright side my daughter was a really easy baby. I remarried when I was 37 and became pregnant 5 months later, than we lost our twin girls at 28 weeks and then lost another baby girl a year later at 29 weeks, I nod when I’d hear they weren’t really babies or I was lucky they weren’t 3 or 4 when they died. I finally gave birth to a baby boy when I was 41 and would nod when I would hear comments that woman in their 40’s had no business having babies because they would be too old when their kids were in their teens. Now I nod when people say I’m so lucky to be a stay at home mom never mind that my husband also travels 2-3 weeks a month and I’m left on my own with our son (who is 100% boy) and as much as I longed for this sweet boy, guess what it’s still hard. I’ve parented every which way and the end game is this parenting is hard no matter our circumstances and we all need to be kinder to one another.

    • Laurie, this is beautiful. I don’t know you, but you are amazing!

    • Shannon says...

      Thank you for sharing your story. I also have a 100% boy and you are so right when you say it is just hard. I read and read and try and try all kinds of parenting styles. He’s only 2 so here’s hoping.

  22. My husband and I both acknowledge how we share the work of our 2 small kids. We often talk about what it might be like to be a single parent and how we couldn’t do it–how much work it would be for one person. It’s so much work for 2 people!

    Joanna, if you are looking for topics for Motherhood Mondays, I would love to see one about mothers having babies over 40. I had my 2 kids right before 40 (36 and 39), but I have three acquaintances now who are pregnant with their second child at 40, 41, and 42. Many others who had their third child at 38 or 39. It seems worth noting!

    Analog House
    http://theanaloghouse.blogspot.com/

    • Shannon says...

      I would love this as well! I was 36 when my son was born and hoping to have another soon. I am now 39. I laugh (or do the nod) when I hear younger women tell me their time line for marriage and babies. They are so set on having their first baby by 30. Sometimes life isn’t always what we plan for. More posts about having babies in the late thirties and forties would be appreciated!

  23. God, the healthy baby comment made me catch my breath. It’s scarily easy isn’t it to insult someone without meaning it at all? I really must be more mindful of the words I choose…

  24. Alex McKellar says...

    I was ready to be defensive reading this article, being a 40 year old single woman. Sometimes the complaints of the single mum aren’t any easier to hear than those with partners. They may do it tough, but look at that beautiful child they can hold, whilst I cannot. And then I read the last paragraph and I remembered something else. People who know loss, people who do it tough are often the most compassionate and the most feeling of other peoples’ pain. Thanks for sharing – a great reminder to be loving and mindful with every word I speak. xx

  25. despina says...

    (with typos amended)
    Speaking of accidentally hurtful remarks, I lost both my parents in my 20s and have found it hard to come to terms with the idea for a very long time.
    At a friend’s bbq a few years back, which happened to take place on Mother’s day, I was asked by another guest, if I had called my mum to wish her happy mother’s day.
    I disappeared in the bathroom and broke down in tears. It was not the woman’s fault, it was not my fault either.
    We cannot stop communicating or trying to connect with each other for fear of “hurting” or “offending” one another.
    Human interaction entails all that. When we are hurt by someone’s remarks, we just need to think and try to understand why we actually felt hurt by that remark.
    We may then find out truths about ourselves that we might not be totally comfortable with.

    • Erin says...

      I love what you write here, especially:

      We cannot stop communicating or trying to connect with each other for fear of “hurting” or “offending” one another.
      Human interaction entails all that. When we are hurt by someone’s remarks, we just need to think and try to understand why we actually felt hurt by that remark.
      We may then find out truths about ourselves that we might not be totally comfortable with.

      Beautifully said.

    • Georgia says...

      I’m happy to read your response; in fact we all need to be able to evaluate someone’s intention with his or her words. It’s impossible to account for everyone’s private narrative before you speak aloud but if you’re a decent person, you will think before you ever say anything to anyone with ill will or malicious intent. “I’m sorry” can’t always unring the bell.

    • Sarah says...

      Ok–this whole thread is making me cry! Happily though–these are all wonderful comments and thoughts. Having lost my mother eight years ago, I wince when people complain about their mums but then again, I’m reminded that not everyone was as lucky as I was to have a mum I adored. And of course I know other people whose mothers are alive but terribly I’ll or suffering from dementia. Pain and loss come in all shapes and sizes. Talking makes it better.

  26. Therese says...

    What a lovely post! So grateful to read that you are going to have a focus on different types of families, I’m sure you are going to find great stories and great people to highlight on this topic also. And after all, there are a lot of families that are “different” in one way or another!
    I am a singel mom with teens, and have some thoughts on how to be that in a good way.. for instance, I do not like the sentence that you have to be both a mom and a dad. To me, it feels like setting myself up for an impossible task mentally, and I also do not think it is correct. Yes, you will have more chores and more responsibility. But if we could translate it to the work life, one could say it is like a job with a lot of responsibility where you are the boss. But it is still possible to delegate, to get resources other places, to find connections that support you in a great way. And I don’t mean just paying others to do your practical work, but rather get mental support and find your tribe that supports you and your family. It can actually be kind of rewarding and cool to see that you manage that. That your kids can be happy and healthy and thrive, even if you don’t have the normal family structure. To me, being both a mom and a dad creates this notion that you are a family that is in lack. I do not believe that needs to be true. I rather think this comes from a kind of strict and very conservative idea of what a woman and a man is, plus sadness of loosing the relationship one had to the other parent..

  27. RecoveringLovingMama says...

    Beautiful essay. I’m a newly single mother with a bouncing 20-month-old boy. What would I do to have someone here at 6:30am to understand how truly magical it is to watch him learn to eat Cheerios with a spoon?!

    As I became a mother, I also confronted my husband’s addiction, much like another woman who commented. I credit the fierce love and protective instincts for my child with helping me make some of the toughest decisions of my life. I now feel hyper aware of all the radical things parents have done for their children (for themselves and their families too) throughout humankind’s existence.

    Now to put that respect into action when I speak with others …

  28. Joanna, thank you for featuring a different side to the parenting story. One of the things that draws me to your blog again and again is the sense of real community fostered here…that we are really all in this together! All of our families function a bit differently. My husband is amazing, but he’s worked 90-hour weeks with full nights for the past four years. It’s been awful and crushingly lonely and heartbreaking, but, at the same time, it’s given me great insight into the difficulty of being an only parent. While I can’t wait for his work situation to change (which will greatly benefit my company as well), I am thankful for the lessons learned that I would never have experienced otherwise. There are profound sadnesses and deep joys to be found in all types of families. I pray that we can all build one another and be real light and encouragement for the roads ahead for all of us!

  29. Alexandra says...

    I read recently, I think, (you never know with me) that a true “nuclear” family – where all the children are from both parents in the marriage, where the parents are married for the first time (to each other), and children from the marriage are genetically “theirs” – exists in only 17% of American (US) households.

    WOWSERS.

    Thats a marked minority.

    xoxo Lovely post.

  30. Jo Chan Smith says...

    I lived upstairs from a single mum when I was at uni. We became close friends, and I saw at close hand, how tired she was all the time, how much she had to deal with. But never truly, truly understood the challenges/burdens (and-rewards) until I had my daughter. Hats off to single mums everywhere.
    On the topic of unfortunate comments – here’s one I used to have to grapple with – when we lived on one income as new parents, we had to go without things that we used to take for granted. Like hair conditioner, facial cleanser (whatever was really a non-essential, had to go). We rented a cheaper home. Unfortunate comments came in the form of conversations with other people who complained how poor they were. A standout moment was when someone moaned that they could only afford THIS MUCH in rent. THIS MUCH was about twice our rent, at the time. Or, in another conversation, again a mum moaning about how poverty stricken she was, because she could only now afford to shop at chain stores, rather than designer. Meantime, I’d be shopping at Kmart or just making do. It struck me that these women had no idea how fortunate they were, no idea that others could be struggling as well, and…had no idea how insensitive their words can be. So that was a lesson I learned – to never ever complain about ‘being poor’, no matter how tough things get. Someone will always have it tougher.

  31. Lauren says...

    I read this in bed this morning and it compelled me to text my friend who is a single mother (I’m single and 24). We hadn’t talked in a while; I texted to say hi and to offer to take her dear son for a day when she needed it, inspired by what this author had written . She texted back almost immediately: “I am having surgery next week and I need someone to babysit him AND me.” She hadn’t found anyone who was free to help. And so now it’s me :) I normally don’t comment but it was just too perfect. Thanks to you, I have a date with two of my favorite people.

    • This is just…. the sweetest. If you were here in person I don’t think I could help myself and I would just have to squeeze your face. You have no idea how much this means to your friend. And by your last comment, she probably doesn’t know how much they mean to you also. <3

  32. Kate says...

    That last paragraph in the piece is so beautiful. I myself have recently become quite sensitive to what others might be struggling with below the surface, one of the few positive effects of my two-years-and-counting fight to become pregnant. It’s an invisible struggle in many ways and as thick-skinned as I try to be the thoughtless comments and questions I get about this private and painful issue hurt every single time. The worst is when pregnant friends or new mothers complain to me about morning sickness or how difficult it is to breastfeed or their sleepless nights. So, so, so hard to hear when it’s all you dream about. I end up doing the “nod” too, there’s nothing else to do.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’m thinking of you, kate! and rooting for you xo

  33. Lena says...

    I really enjoyed the tale of single parenthood. It does make me grateful for an opportunity see dual parenthood in a different light.

    On the topic of words that have the potential to hurt, I’m definitely a believer in grace. Life is better for both speaker and listener when both people assume the best and allow for a little (or a lot) of grace. I like the Nod as a simple gesture of grace.

    I had three pregnancies that didn’t result in a live and healthy baby. The pregnancies were brutal and traumatic, as were the miscarriages and still birth. When the question of gender frequently came up, in part because we chose not to know the gender, I would say all we wanted was a healthy baby and I REALLY MEANT IT. I wanted a baby healthy enough to survive pregnancy and breathe life at the end of the birthing process. If my two children today weren’t healthy, but survived with some health issue or other disability, it wouldn’t mean I loved or wanted them any less or that they are somehow less – that’s would be an misguided extraction of my original hope for their health. I interpret the expression of wanting health for an unborn child to be one of hope for a life that isn’t burdened with the pain and suffering that inevitably comes with age. Who wouldn’t want to hope that for a child?

    There’s a new and fascinating article in The Atlantic on the impact of the hyper-vigilance/policing of potentially offensive remarks. I have to agree with the author’s conclusions:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

  34. Megan says...

    I, too, would welcome for Motherhood Mondays from non-nuclear families….to see if there’s someone like me?

    I lived alone for 11 years and loved it and then, at age 40, moved in with my boyfriend and his 2 elementary-school-age kids. I have the responsibilities of a step mom but none of the cred but do get the negative connotations of the title ‘step mom’ and also I wasn’t a mom before, so how could I even really know about kids or what real love is anyway? I get side-eyed as an interloper, even though I wash their socks, make them pie, help with homework and read before bed. There is no one I know or see like me. The closest resembling model is Goldie Hawn’s character from Overboard. I do not have a yacht.

    • Ana says...

      Hi Megan!

      I used to be in the exact same situation as you. For 8 years, I raised a kid on my weeks with him; fed him, packed him lunches, took care of his laundry, helped him with homework, took him on every vacation and did every single thing that mothers do. Because he lived with his mother half the time, I never got invited to school plays, christmases markets, birthday parties or any other parent-related activities. I built an amazing relationship with him and we get along really well, but I will feel forever left out of his life marks. It’s really weird.

    • Megan says...

      Ana, I can’t reply to your comment directly, it seems – but thank you! It is such a relief to hear a voice from someone who’s had a similar experience. It’s an odd circumstance – so surprisingly fun and confounding to navigate. I don’t *need* outside validation (I was 40 when we moved in together and felt very grounded in my decision), but sometimes I do long for someone to say, “I see how intentional you are. I see how you’re taking care of and loving those boys.”

  35. jeannie says...

    Single moms are superheroes! Hats off to all caring parents of every stripe everywhere.

  36. Erika says...

    Wow, that essay took my breath away. Such a wonderful reminder (that I need, because I can be a talker) to just for gosh sakes – shut up, already.

  37. amy says...

    Yes! My husband was stationed away for the first three years of our son’s life. People would refer to me as a “single” mom and I was always like NO. He may not be here all the time but we have two incomes, two extended families, I have a partner in decisions, burdens, fears, etc…not the same AT ALL.

  38. Cassy says...

    When my husband was deployed and many other times when his job takes him away from home, people often say something like “so you get to play at being a single parent while he is gone.” I have always been quick to respond, “No, I am temporarily an only parent.” I have many friends who are single parents and I am very conscious of the great difference between what they face and what I face when my husband is absent. While my husband is physically absent I know that I have his complete emotional and financial support. I can call, text, or email him no matter where in the world he is and know that he will respond as soon as he is able. A single parent does not have that support or comfort of a partner. I cringe ever time I hear another military spouse say he/she is a “single parent” for a few weeks. I find it very disrespectful, to both single parents and their children.

    • Genevieve says...

      I completely agree with you. We are also a military family with a parent who frequently travels/deploys. It is tough but absolutely no comparison to being a single parent.

  39. Ines says...

    my favourite part: the hardest bit isn’t having nobody to share the burden, the hardest is having nobody to share the love. So true! Just read this to my child’s stepfather, whom not only brought joy to our lives but the incredible happiness of sharing this love with me.

  40. Nina says...

    Lovely article. Each of us have different challenges. I dont have family living close by and dont get child support and often people equate single parents with those, in their words to me. I dont want to have a great big, pity party everytime. I love my son. I love that I have him. i picked his name. I parent him the best I can. My heart is ripped to pieces when he cries tht he wants a dad. But even having a dad doesnt mean you have someone there. When he was about 2.5 his father emailed me and said how unfair I never let him see him. I told him I would LOVE to have someone celebrate his first steps, first words, brillance, charm etc but he chose alcohol over being a father and continues to do so.

    I truly try NOT to be offended by others when Im sure they dont mean to be so off-putting but someone saying “im a single parent” because their spouse is away and they are able to be a stay at home parent does set me on edge.

    How hard life is already…can’t we extend empathy by realizing we are all doing the best we can and truly dont mean to wound with our words , especially strangers? I think most of us are trying to just connect the best we know how.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, absolutely! i think we’re all agreeing here.

  41. Lauren says...

    I can understand where someone is coming from with not wanting to hear the ‘as long as it’s healthy,’ but- is a person not allowed to hope for a healthy baby? I understand the point, but every person, now and then, is going to be hurt by someone else’s completely unintentionally hurtful remarks. I have certainly done ‘The Nod’ a lot this year, after the unexpected death of my younger sister, but at times, I’ve also told people- calmly- how and why their comment came across as rude or hurtful. If you only nod, nobody has the chance to understand what you’re going through. Unless you write a think piece about it :-)

    • Jen says...

      Yes, thank you for raising that point. Not always possible to make such comments (even with respect), but when it is, it is rewarding for the hearer and the talker.

  42. Katie says...

    So, so, so beautiful & beautifully put! Thank you.

    I’d also add a note about those families of ONE. We live & work on one income, sans kids, but maybe with pets (I have two dogs), and/or dependent parents or siblings, without any division of labor or much socially acceptable representation (although the latter is getting better).

    Yes, in many ways, being a single family of one has become more common (we make up more of the population than ever), but in many ways, it is still harder than having a partner whether you’re dealing with scheduling an oil change or trying to find a ride home from knee surgery or a root canal.

    This especially comes up for me traveling, when I have been bumped as a solo traveler, or, twice, asked by couples if I would relocate on international flights so they could sit together. [Both times I politely declined & endured their passive aggressive wrath for the next 12 hours (both times I was on the 2nd of three international flights home from work, which had been exhausting and COME ON!).]

    I guess what kills me the most is when you’re at parties and someone says, “Oh, I remember those days!” And you know they got married at 23. It’s a heckuva lot different to have been on your own for 10, 20, 30 years so, no, you don’t know what it is to be a single adult family of one.

    Maybe we can all try to remember to: ‘be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’

    You just never know.

    • Ella says...

      Hi Katie, a lot of food for thoughts in your comment.

      I never thought it would be a burden to ask someone traveling alone to move seats to allow a couple or 2 people traveling together to sit together. I would love to know why you would it be an issue? Of course assuming that the seat is equally as good as the one you would swap it with?

    • jaclyn says...

      My husband and I have often been put in situations where our needs/preferences were dismissed in favor of families with children and every single time it feels so hurtful.
      My husband and I both have anxiety disorders and when we travel, I spend a lot of time and effort arranging our plane seats so that we both feel comfortable and to be asked to split up or move so that a family can sit together, is such a slap in the face.
      Adults have needs and emotional requirements just like children. But we are all too often seen as the “selfish” ones since we don’t have children.
      Or people will also often remark that it must be so nice to have all the time in the world to do whatever we want since we don’t have children. I’m usually at a loss for the best way to explain that we still have stresses and responsibilities and that just because we don’t have children doesn’t mean we don’t become overwhelmed by life at times.

    • Katie says...

      Hi Ella,
      Thanks for your thoughtful reply; I’ve never said anything about this & worried I’d sound like real grouch. So I appreciate your sensitive inquiry :)

      The short answer is: you’re right; 99% of the time, moving seats on a flight is not a burden, not even close, especially if/when the seat is equal and/or the flight is on the short side.

      Longer answer:
      When these requests and subsequent polite refusals came up, I was traveling a lot for work between west coast of the U.S. and locales in Europe and Asia – roughly every six weeks for as little as four days to as long as three weeks at a time. Relocating on flights had worn a little thin for me, whether at the behest of the airline or a fellow passenger. I found myself being asked to move every third trip or so, which, of course, none of these people knew (although Delta probably did and for that, boo-hoo). These were 10-16 hour flights through 3+ time zones, after which I needed to work upon landing, which ideally required being rested and/or working on the flight, both factors I’d taken into consideration when booking my chosen seat. It felt impertinent to be asked to move for another couple, as if their collective needs trumped my singular ones, and so I said no. And it was awkward as hell.

      On an even more personal level. . .sometimes after 10+ years of being single (or, maybe less – if we’re being as sensitive and thoughtful as we often aspire to be, it likely just depends on the person :)) the ability to care for & love yourself, all by yourself, wanes. And you’re just not as giving as you wish you were. You get tired. Exhausted. Dead on your feet. (How compounded must this feeling be for some single parents? I can only imagine.) Throw in being jet lagged and unwashed and suddenly moving to a middle seat in the back of a plane for a couple who, for some reason, don’t have seats together can sit together is just too much to ask. It’s just not at the top of your list of things to do for others, right there, in that moment. You don’t have enough love within to be the better version of yourself. I think it’s easier to be generous or selfless when you’re content (and/or perhaps being regularly affirmed & loved by another person not related to you), but on those last few trips, I was neither content nor loving enough to be my kindest self.

      Which is lame, right? I mean – how hard is it? Not that hard, I know. But I just, at that time…didn’t have it. On better days, I’d move, like I said – no prob. But on the two instances when I declined, my state was much as described above. I simply wasn’t my best, most magnanimous self. Not a great rationale by any stretch, just the truth.

      And yet. What if those people were struggling with the same thing? What if they too weren’t their best selves, and it had adversely affected their relationship of late, and one or both of them were looking forward to a little tete-a-tete on the plane? You know, maybe they were short on love & long on familiarity or bad habits and being near one another for a day on a plane would’ve helped; might have been good. Was it really so much to ask me to move & help them out? From that view, my (in)actions were insensitive and inconsiderate, too.

      As Jo mentioned, we’re all talking about the same thing – being as considerate and thoughtful as possible, as often as possible. By that standard, I succeed more often than not. The majority of the time, I’m just another human aiming for my best to be better, which I see as the great work of my life.

      And it’s a work in progress.

    • Ella says...

      Hello again Katie,
      Thank you so much for you long reply and honesty.
      ”..Throw in being jet lagged and unwashed and suddenly moving to a middle seat in the back of a plane for a couple who, for some reason, don’t have seats together can sit together is just too much to ask…”

      Well, all I can say is, of course it is, it absolutely is, and I would never dare asking someone to seat at the back of the plane in a middle seat on a long haul flight, for me to sit next to my husband or whoever for that matter, just because they are traveling on their own.
      I mean, it is just not on. You are far from having been lame in those occasions. And I am very sorry to hear that this turned out so awkward. You were without a doubt within your right.
      You seem like a very caring person, and yes it is a work in progress, for all of us.
      All the best,
      Ella

  43. Amy P says...

    As the mom of three kids and the wife of a military guy, I hear the single parenting comparison from friends a lot. I usually reply that I don’t think it’s like single parenting at all – I might not get to hear from him often when he’s away, but I know (hope!) he’s coming home and we have his support & love, and we all have the financial stability that comes with his job. If he were to die, it would be nothing like when he’s away for weeks or months. I have a lot of respect for single parents based on my experiences.

  44. Jo says...

    My husband left me six weeks ago, out of the blue… I’m gutted, lost and haven’t a clue what to do most days… Friends I have loved for years have let me down badly, people I have know for a matter of months have turned up on my doorstep with dinner. I am learning very quickly to nod and learning even quicker to hug, love and lose myself in my children every moment I can. We’re all we’ve got…

    • Courtney says...

      Wishing you many helping hands and strength during this time! That is really tough and I think it’s powerful you chose to share your experience here. Much love to you. (From another COJ reader.)

    • Megan says...

      Oh, I’m so sorry.

    • Christine says...

      Jo, I am so very sorry. I am exactly ten years out from the same situation. My husband left on what would have been our 14th wedding anniversary. I was sitting on our bed waiting for him to come home from a business trip so we could go out and celebrate. There was a phone call instead and he never came home. I cannot offer much. Only that it will be okay. Things will get better. You can do this and you will. Take care of yourself. Much love.

    • Katie says...

      Jo – I’m devastated for you. Your reply is heartbreaking. Went through hard times a lot over the past two years (house fire and two surgeries, for starters) and I’m happy to say that the only thing that surprises me now is how incredibly kind and caring people can be. May your tribe continually find you and lift you up, and if I can do anything to help, let me know.

    • Georgia says...

      You’ll definitely get through it. That unbearable pain will eventually be transformed and it’s a cliche, but the one thing that you have to give it is time.

      Regarding friends, like Katie above, I’m single and have spent most of my adult life being single. My mom raised my sisters and me to be as self-sufficient as possible, but every human being needs help at some time. A few years ago, during the worst emotional period of my life, I contracted pneumonia. At the onset of the illness everyone offered to help bring me food, walk my dog, whatever I needed. Given the circumstances, I did ask for the help I needed. No one ever actually came forward, though and I lay there alone with my dog for two weeks.

      My point is, when you offer help, whether you’re an old friend or a new acquaintance, follow through. It shouldn’t be just rhetoric. If you’ve offered and can’t do one thing, do another (even if that means asking a third person to help). Take the responsibility you verbally signed up for.

  45. Sasha says...

    Beautiful, eloquent essay. My son was stillborn, so the phrase “we just want a healthy baby” has a different meaning to me now than it would to parents of children with disabilities. It upset me after my loss when people would start complaining around me how their baby doesn’t let them sleep at night, or discussing the optimal time to have a 2nd baby. But sleeping is important, and I would probably have done the same in their situation! I think it’s important to realize that everyone is in their own bubble, and that doesn’t make them a bad person.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “I think it’s important to realize that everyone is in their own bubble, and that doesn’t make them a bad person.” = so true. grace and understanding goes both ways.

  46. Kara O says...

    I am a divorced mom, but for all intents and purposes a single one as her dad is not very involved in her life (and moving out of state this month) – that includes not paying the required child support either (can’t hold down a steady job). My daughter is now 5, so this is our norm. When it comes to our little family, it’s true that it all falls to me to make all of the decisions about school/neighborhood/Sunday school (and naturally, to pay for it all). And it’s also true that when she gets sick (insert: hurt/discipline/child care/tooth fairy/etc), it’s just me. And yes, I’ve had friends say they “feel like a single mom” because their husbands work too much. But then they always get that mortified look on their face and follow it with a “but not really” because they get that realization. My friends mean well and every one is just trying to empathize with each other, so I never take offense. And here’s the other side of the equation: being a single mom means I get to be the boss of everything, which is kind of awesome for my personality. It also means that my daughter gets all of my focus and resources (i can’t even begin to count the compliments I get about her manners on the daily). She is a happy, well adjusted, confident, and an all around amazing kid. And she knows that she is loved to the moon and back. Yes, I miss out on lots of parties because I would rather stay home and have popcorn and movies with her on the couch on a Saturday night. But that is the choice I made about the kind of present parent I wanted to be before she was ever even born (and before we were divorced). I don’t have much more to add other than being a solo parent has challenges, but so does being in a 4-person family at times. I am SO blessed to be a mother that I don’t have the time or interest to think about what we don’t have. This time is fleeting, she will only be little once. My wish always has been to raise her in a home full of love and laughter – and that’s what I can give. And frankly, that’s more than a lot of kids in the world get.

  47. Katharine says...

    I have a special needs child and just endured a long weekend with my in laws making comments right and left about how awful mainstreaming autistic kids is for others in the classroom, etc etc. they also make the healthy comments. It’s challenging! Joanna it would be so lovely to do a motherhood Monday series with parents who have special needs children, single parents, families that are doing things outside the cookie cutter norm :)

    • Erin says...

      What a fabulous idea, Katherine! I agree that it would be wonderful to showcase stories of families dealing with less standard circumstances in the Motherhood Monday series.

    • Ines says...

      Agree!! Great idea!!

    • I would LOVE to read those!

    • Jen says...

      Super idea!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!!! we were actually talking about that today! we are ON IT!

    • Katharine says...

      Lovely! So nice to hear you are considering it

  48. Heather says...

    I think that it’s incredible that so many people are caring enough to even consider watching what they say and/or changing what they say to minimize possible pain that someone is going through.

    I try to remember those good intentions during my hard times.

    One time my husband was packing up the pack and play at a family/friends gathering and lamenting about how it was a little tricky, saying “you should be able to do this with one arm, it should be that easy!” Well it turned out one of the people that was watching him do this had one arm. My husband was mortified. I’m sure he’ll be doing a limb count if he ever says that again..

  49. Marie says...

    Thanks for the acknowledgement to single parents. I love this blog, and read it long before I became a single mom. Sometimes I feel a bit left out.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, marie, i’m so glad you said that! we will cover more about single moms, and other types of families, coming up. i’m so glad you are still reading. i’m sending you a big hug. you are very very much appreciated and welcomed and included! i’m so sorry and will do more to make you not feel left out.

    • Susana Silva says...

      I agree with you Marie. I love this blog so much and had the opportunity to say how much therapeutic it is for me. I’m a single mum and, like all mums I guess, I try to do all the best to see my son happy, even when I try to show him that not everything in life is beautiful and easy and that, first of all, he has to acknwoledge and accept that. It’s difficult to get me time, because even if you think it is really easy I have great diffculty in dealing with my son’s father. I was the one who asked for separation and even if I totally recognize my reasons, not a day goes by that I don’t feel guilty for it. Anyway I love to watch and read about the happiness of Joanna’s beautiful life and feel really motivated by it eventhough that is not my reality. I really wish to be happy most of the time and to survive my suffering after almost 5 years of separation. In the meantime I will keep struggling and follow you guys. THANK YOU!

      P.S.: I always nodded and felt really angry afterwards, I’m trying to nod and look at it from another perspective. It’s like if I answered: Ok, we have different perspectives on that issue, but we can still (or not) socialize.

      xoxo
      Susana Silva.

  50. Would love to read about single moms and other less traditional families in the Motherhood Monday series!

  51. Kate says...

    How odd that we think it is appalling to say that we are excited at the idea of having a boy or girl, yet it’s OK to say that you only want a “perfect” healthy child. Not to mention it is a complete non sequitur. Like, “Do you want broccoli or peas?” “I don’t care as long as it’s orange.”

  52. jill c says...

    i had to think twice about the comment of offending someone by saying, “…it doesn’t matter as long as the baby is healthy”… For me that is all i worried about during my pregnancies…i lost my first child in utero at 32 weeks b/c he was unhealthy – his brain was filled with fluid and empty space. In a sense saying that as a response during my subsequent pregnancies was my “nod” to those that had no idea about my loss….

    • CNW says...

      I just want to say THANK YOU for this perspective. In today’s world with so many differences people are so quick to attack others for not “understanding” when in reality they probably meant no harm by a comment. It’s nearly impossible to remain “PC” in a conversation these days if we ever want to get deeper than discussing the weather.

  53. Sarah says...

    I can understand that well-meaning people can say things that are hurtful without ever knowing it. My brother is incarcerated and suffers from mental illness. People say so many things that make me wince. Can I get offended by every little comment? No way! I can only offer up a personal experience that may help to provide them with some perspective. Opening up people’s hearts and minds to different experiences and a deeper understanding of those experiences and struggles can only help to broaden acceptance of diversity. However, constantly being offended and thus limiting conversation because of this fear does absolutely nothing. So many times these comments aren’t uttered in malice. Let’s use these opportunities to start a conversation!

    • tracey says...

      YESSSSS!!

  54. Robin R says...

    I read the essay in whole and found it so, so lovely and eloquent.

  55. What a beautiful essay. Before having my daughter, I was definitely one of those people with my foot in my mouth. I wasn’t necessarily verbalizing my comments, but I would pass judgement without knowing their story. Then I became a mom, and holy crap is it a smack in the face! I instantly thought of the single moms I know and how strong they really are. I also never realized how The comment “I just want a healthy baby” could come across. This made me think of my aunt & uncle who are loving parents to my beautiful disabled cousin. Thank you for reminding us to be more open & think twice before causing a person to do The Nod.
    Lendy
    http://www.twoplusluna.com

  56. hannah says...

    I’m so pleased that you’ve posted this! I read this at the weekend in the UK, and thought it was one of the best articles i’ve read in ages. I found it so moving on many levels. Most importantly how we should think before saying things which can be unintentionally hurtful. My husband and i are trying for a baby, and it has hurt me when hearing friends (who don’t know that we are trying) say how easy it was to get pregnant/it must have happened the first time etc. But i just smiled, and adopted ‘the nod’ too.

  57. Mae says...

    I do agree that we should all be mindful of the words we say. However, I agree with the earlier comments that we can’t be walking around on eggshells all the time either. I have a sister who gets offended by EVERYTHING if it’s not worded perfectly. While I try really hard to be respectful of this, it definitely makes having a conversation with her difficult when I’m so worried to say the wrong thing. It makes it difficult to talk about real life, and real struggles, much less anything else meaningful. As a result, our conversations are “fluff” and that makes me sad.

    I realize I am guilty of getting offended at things strangers or acquaintances may say too. It’s something I need to work on as well.

    Be kind, be gracious, and give people the benefit of the doubt.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, i totally agree. i’d love to explain: my friends who said certain things were jarring for them to hear weren’t actually offended — they knew their friends meant well and were very loving — but still, you notice things. so it’s more about noticing and trying to be aware of your audience, than worrying that you might have offended someone. i hope that comes through! thank you so much for this comment and note xoxo

  58. Carly says...

    Thank you so much for sharing! I’m pregnant right now and have definitely made that comment about not caring if it’s a boy or girl, as long as it’s healthy. I never would have thought that could be hurtful to someone, but now I see it so clearly! I do feel that it’s tough to phrase things so you’re not possibly offending anyone. Hopefully we all just do the best we can!

    • I had the same realization as well, definitely something to be more sensitive about. Thank you for sharing Joanna!

  59. this is such a powerful and important post. Having grown up with a person with disability – my father, who stayed at home, and my mother worked to support the entire family. it’s key to write these kind of posts and bring them to the forefront. there are all sorts of families out there that differ from the norm..

    http://www.footnotesandfinds.com

  60. Michelle says...

    OMG. Yes. I have a child with special needs and I had to hear from all family members that expression–“it doesn’t matter what x (my sister or sister in law) is having, just as long as its healthy”. MY FAMILY said that. It is like a punch in the gut and I just think most people are flying along in their own bubble world, not empathizing with anyone. Its annoying.

    • jaclyn says...

      I have sister in law with special needs and unfortunately it’s my MIL who is often making offensive remarks to the younger generation who are now starting to have babies in reference to the fact that anything can happen and that they should be prepared in case things don’t turn out the way they hope.

      I think it’s hard for her as the mother of a special needs person to see so many of her loved ones get the outcomes that she would’ve preferred. (This is NOT NOT NOT to say she doesn’t love and value her daughter with all of her being but her own life has been drastically stressed and complicated to the breaking point due to the conditions of her daughters needs.)

      I don’t have children but I can’t imagine the feeling you’d get after announcing you’re pregnant and have someone immediately start planting fears of complications in your mind.

  61. I’m so glad to see single parenting get a mention on your blog! I love your blog so this is much appreciated!!!

  62. wow, love this.

    “it’s having no one to share the love”

    So touching …

    Joy

  63. Wendy says...

    Strange- the author of that piece is a friend of my husband’s from university. I have met her a few times- admire how well she is doing raising her daughter as a single parent.

  64. “Gradually, you will realize that you, too, have made other people do The Nod all your life.”

    I love that last bit, because I always find myself reading eye-opening essays like these and being taken aback that I may have been unintentionally offending people all this time! I’m always regretful, maybe even mortified, and it starts to make me wonder in what other ways we may be unknowingly offending one another.

    But as that last line said, we all do it some way or another. Essays like this are a great reminder on trying to be mindful and considerate in your speech, down to the smallest mindless phrase ♥

    http://oprahismyreligion.wordpress.com

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, her full essay is so, so beautiful and self-aware and grateful. i loved it, it really brought tears to my eyes.

  65. Since having kids, I’ve been astonished at how much media represents the nuclear family as 2 parents of different genders and 2 children. I guess it’s still “the norm”, but is it? I’d like to see more diversity in all things: books, cartoons, etc., instead of feeling as if I have to seek out stories where grandparents are raising kids, or a child is an only, or a parent is “single”. Slow change, I guess…

  66. I have a different take on the “as long as the baby is healthy” comment. My daughter was stillborn, and when I was pregnant with her younger brother, I often made that comment to people. By “healthy,” I merely meant “alive,” but that sounded too morbid to say to strangers. A lot of us are coping with challenges that are invisible to outsiders.

    • Calee says...

      This is what I have taken it to mean also. I do not feel saying I want a healthy baby means not born with a disability. Plus if you say you want a girl, isn’t that a nod to those who have boys?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      sarah, thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your story. sending a big hug to you. thank you.

  67. lillian says...

    wow, I never thought about the healthy baby comment like that. when we are so used to hearing these kinds of comments it makes it difficult to see it from another perspective. thanks for the reminder to think before speaking.

  68. I bet it’s hard when you are a single parent or have a child with special needs. But we can’t all be walking on eggshells all the time. I think it takes a special person to raise special needs child and God knows who to give it to. So, in a way it’s a blessing because no one but you could raise that child.
    Thank you for sharing

    Anna
    Happy Medley

  69. Deanna says...

    Thoughtful piece. I seriously am beginning to wonder if there is anything, anyone, can say anymore that could be non-offensive to someone on the planet? Whatever happened to benefit of the doubt and assuming good intent?

    • Lilly says...

      It is not about fault, not about walking on eggshells. Sure, we all say stupid things, and we all hurt others without intent. But lots of people are walking around during insanely hard times, and if there is a way for me to be more considerate and not pile on more pain on someone who is already struggling, I will surely take it. It’s no one’s fault a thoughtless comment can hurt someone, but the hurt is there nonetheless.

    • Eliza says...

      I agree with you completely.

    • Eliza says...

      I meant to say I agree completely with Deanna.

  70. Everyone is so different and it’s so hard to keep that in mind when we just say things mindlessly. This is such a beautiful reminder.
    My younger sister was the mother of four (one, an infant) when her husband was deployed to Iraq. Now, after their divorce, she’s a single mom. She hears people say so many things that rub her the wrong way but she’s so good about seeing the beauty in the hard times. I work hard to have an outlook like her. Her priorities are in order. But let’s work to decrease those times when we make another person wince in silent pain.

  71. Michelle says...

    That’s such an interesting perspective on the “healthy baby” comment – I always felt like that was a humble and respectful response, but I see the flip side now! What would be a better way to respond, I wonder? “We’re just focusing on the baby’s health right now, not its gender”?

    • That one threw me for a loop too! Frankly I think people are just meaning to express their hope to simply go home with a baby [versus not :( ] , not necessarily suggesting a baby must be in perfect health. But interesting to consider how that might be hurtful to someone with a baby in less than perfect health.

      http://oprahismyreligion.wordpress.com

    • Sandra says...

      I will try to answer that, as I have a special needs kid (although I have to say that I find that term very special in itself. My daughter has cerebral palsy, but her needs are not that special – eating, cuddling, getting rid of that air in her belly, having somebody who helps her move. Her needs do not seem that special compared to my son’s, who thinks he “needs” his parmegiono not to melt on his hot pasta). “As long as its healthy” – I know that most people imply in saying this, that they hope their kid won’t have what my daughter has. And I can totally understand that. I too had that hope, I think we all want our kids to not face the challenges serious illness or a wheelchair can bring (or at least not that early in life). We all want our kids to have a good start, an easy way. And we as parents do not want to face those challenges as well (of at least I did not want, too). And that’s ok.
      But still, today, with a kid at home who is now five years, who needs to be fed by spoon three times a day and who makes my back hurt, because I have to carry her that much – I would not want to switch her for any other kid, special needs or not. She did not have an easy start, but she has a very good life, an older brother who adores her, best friends in Kindergarten and always, always the last bit of chocolate pudding in the fridge.
      It doesn’t matter, if your kid is healthy as long as it is loved.

    • Molly Bentsen says...

      I think the comment comes up in the context of gender preference, not health, so I think it would be easy to stop with “I’m okay with a boy or a girl.” The rest of the sentence might be on your mind, but you don’t have to say it aloud.

    • Anne E says...

      I was thinking on this and thought that “…as long we they’re happy” might be a nice way to frame the sentiment

    • Anne E says...

      Just tried posting…but holy typos, Batman! What a Monday!

      Here’s what I MEANT to say:
      I was thinking on this and thought that “…as long they’re happy and know that they are loved” might be a nice way to frame the sentiment

    • I understand how this comment might feel like a punch in the gut to someone who’s baby or child isn’t healthy, but I don’ t think that makes it wrong to say. Don’t all mom’s hope for their baby to come out alive and healthy? It doesn’t mean they’ll be loved any less if it doesn’t happen. But I think it’s a realistic thing to hope for. This is definitely a different type of thing, but I recently lost my dad, and hearing friends talk about hanging out with their dads, seeing father daughter dances at weddings, talking about their dad’s walking them down the aisle (mine passed away 6 wks before my wedding), and about what great grandpas they’re going to be… that all feels like a major gut punch, sometimes it destroys me…but I don’t want them to not say those things and feel those things. I want them to wish for a long healthy life with their dads. I want their dads to grow old and be amazing grandpas. It might not happen, but why wouldn’t we hope for health?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this is such a great discussion, thank you so much. my friend, who has the child with special needs, explained to me that it seems jarring to her when people say “we don’t mind, as long as the baby is healthy,” because gender and health are two separate conversations, and she’s like, why are they adding that extra part to this question? i also assume it must be hard because, in a way, it’s like people are saying they wouldn’t want a baby like yours. they’re okay with anything as long as the baby does not have special needs like yours does.

    • Lola says...

      People usually ask “what do you want?” when referencing a boy or a girl. By saying, “a healthy baby”, you are saying, I don’t mind the gender, but I would want my baby to be healthy. I don’t see anything wrong in wanting a healthy baby. Who wouldn’t?

  72. Caro says...

    Terrific piece, I am guilty of referring to myself as ‘single-parenting it’ for the odd 2 weeks here and there- all whilst texting photos of our days to my other half, and emailing the anecdotes of the day…. Not really single-parenting it at all..

    • i “solo parent” a lot because of my husband’s schedule. i’m thinking that’s a more appropriate term!

  73. perfect reminders. i read the rest of her essay too. …. boy, life is a full time job, isn’t it?!!

  74. Sophie Proud says...

    This article is so close to home for me. After enduring this most of my childhood and hearing friends talk about their fathers, I agree that my mother too, adopted ‘The Nod’. Not enough praise is given to single parents and what they have to cope with. I am so fortunate that me and my sister wanted for nothing, and got the love we needed from our mother.

  75. Anitra says...

    Wow! Thank you for sharing.

  76. I have all the respect in the world for single parents. The times when my husband is gone, even for one night, I’m like, “HOW do people do this?!” It’s hard enough with two parents. Much respect to those of you doing this solo.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      agreed, and i love all these comments and this discussion! thank you so much, everyone xo