We first met Lauren Sweeney when she joined our International Women's Day event at the United Nations (you'll love her post entitled "What happens when a few hundred moms, babies and toddlers take over the United Nations.") Since then, we've loved following along as she sheds light on the challenges, surprises and triumphs of single parenthood. We asked Lauren to share some of her insights with the Mindr community.
Two and a half years ago, I broke up with my daughter’s father and became a single mom overnight. Early on, I was afraid. But my fear quickly disappeared, and now - just a few years later - I can say that the single mom chapter of my life has been the best one yet. How has this been possible? Well, with the right mindset, anything is possible.
Understand your own potential
I would bet that nearly every single mom has at some point gone down that deep, dark Google hole researching opinions on single motherhood. It’s not hard to find the negative stuff. If you are the rare single mom who’s never done it, here’s the gist: we are ruining America and perhaps the world, and our kids will most definitely not be alright.
I don’t want to be delusional about the state of single motherhood. Plenty of single moms do not personally identify as “thriving.” Still, reading a study on negative outcomes related to single motherhood won’t change that fact. Changing the way you think, however, can be the key to creating a shift - both in your life and in society.
To some extent, what you believe is what you become. If you believe single moms are bound to struggle, you will see that belief reflected in your reality. Even if single moms at large are struggling, you can personally aim to thrive instead. One by one, we’ll change those statistics by believing in something better.
I believe our perceived limitations are exactly what we need in order to grow. Had I not been challenged with the momentous task of raising my daughter on my own, I wouldn’t have grown in wild, wonderful directions in every area of my life over the past few years. We are all trying to figure out how to unlock our unlimited potential. Single moms are no exception.
Had I not been challenged with the momentous task of raising my daughter on my own, I wouldn’t have grown in wild, wonderful directions in every area of my life over the past few years.
Find role models and be a role model
If you are familiar with New Age thinking, you may already be aware of the idea that in order to manifest something into your day-to-day reality, you need to truly believe it’s possible. According to the Law of Attraction, you simply can’t create something if you aren’t entirely convinced it can really happen. Makes sense, right?
It’s why so many of us get stuck, especially as single moms. When we’ve grown up in a culture that stigmatizes single motherhood, it’s understandably difficult to cultivate the belief that a single mom can live a deeply fulfilling life. Here’s the good news: there are single mom role models out there. If you don’t know any in your own community, join a Facebook group. I’m lucky I found a few single moms to look up to early on in my single motherhood journey, including a bestselling author and a startup founder. Seeing these women live the kind of life I aspire to as a single mom helped me get to that “I truly believe it’s possible” point.
When we’ve grown up in a culture that stigmatizes single motherhood, it’s understandably difficult to cultivate the belief that a single mom can live a deeply fulfilling life.
There’s another piece to this, too. Whether or not you know it, you are already a role model yourself. Other women around you notice the way you live your life. Your everyday decisions can provide another woman with the much-needed proof she needs to develop her own beliefs around single motherhood. Maybe you’re already showing someone going through a rough divorce that eventually, it will get better. Maybe there’s a woman out there considering adopting a baby on her own, and you are her proof that it’s possible to do it alone.
Be your best self by not putting too much pressure on yourself
Whoa! Being a role model to that woman at work/on the playground/sitting across from you on the L train sounds sort of scary!
There’s no pressure to be perfect here. If you ask me, there’s nothing more inspiring than a woman who’s not afraid to be herself, even if that means being a little imperfect. In fact, I’ve discovered that tossing away my fear of imperfection brought me so much closer to the best version of myself.
I’ve always had a lot of ideas. and a tendency towards a stressed-out perfectionism. Before I became a mom, I was often so paralyzed by the fear of taking the wrong action that I stepped very slowly and cautiously towards becoming the woman I wanted to be.
Suddenly, I needed to take care of a 6-month old baby and provide for her on my own. At the same time, my boss was giving me some exciting new projects, and even though I had less time than ever, I couldn’t slow down in my career. As a newly single mom, I recognized that building my career was essential to becoming the kind of mom I wanted to be - a mom who could provide well for my daughter while exploring my passions for tech, publishing, and progressive values.
Three years in, I’m grateful that I dove right in and didn’t look back. I’ve made mistakes along the way, and I know I’ll make more. I’ve learned that the only way to progress is through trying and failing a few times before finding success. Like every working mom, I’ve learned that letting other people help out so I can focus is okay. I’ve found a perfect, Swiffer-reliant level of clean I can maintain with minimal effort. I’ve discovered that if dishes are left in the sink overnight while I catch up on some work or even some self-care, the kitchen doesn’t actually explode.
As a single mom, you’re going to need to prioritize. You need to go after what will really bring you closer to the person you want to be. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking you need to co-found the next unicorn startup, throw Pinterest-worth parties, make Instagrammable vegan dinners from scratch every night, and run the most lucrative preschool fundraiser ever seen on either side of the East River. Do you even want to have time for all of that? Choose what matters most to you and go after it, hard.
Turns out, living your best life as a single mom isn’t too complicated after all. Don’t forget the happy thoughts. Connect with single moms you look up to. Know what you want. Understand that you’ll mess up a little bit as you go after it. Go after it anyway. This is your life! You deserve to live it to the fullest.
#MINDRMAMA Lauren Sweeney is a single mom who blogs about single motherhood, tea, goal-chasing, and more on her blog Millennial.Mom. She works at a tech startup and advises on political social media strategy on the side.