I believe there is joy in being a single mother.

Melissa - New Orleans, Louisiana
Entered on October 23, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: parenthood
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe that there is joy in being a single mother. By that I mean there is joy in being a mother and joy in being single. I don’t know when I came to believe this – ten years ago I certainly would have said marriage was my preferred status for raising children. And, truth be told, I still believe in marriage. That is probably why it took me by surprise that being a mother while single is so very wonderful in so many ways.

As a single mother, I live my daily life in New Orleans with the full knowledge that my children are my responsibility, and mine alone. My children go everywhere with me, there simply is nowhere else they can be. Whether shopping for a house or groceries, visiting FEMA or a neighbor, stopping by the accountant’s office or the post office, we are together. People in my life often say, “I don’t know how you do it” when they are witness to this reality. My usual response is a shrug of the shoulders accompanied by something that sounds like, “eh.” But when I really think about it, what I feel more than anything is gratitude. I am very, very grateful for the strong bond formed by the every day stuff of our lives. All our togetherness is not always fun, and it’s not always pretty, but it is full of love and learning for each of us. I cannot imagine being closer to my children, or instilling in them a stronger sense of security, if our family was of any other shape or size.

And from there, the gratitude goes on and on. Gratitude for my inner peace, the result of the complete absence of resentment rising up out of unfulfilled expectation. Gratitude for the freedom to raise my children according to my value system, without compromise. Deep and total gratitude for friends and family that do reach out to help me, even though I don’t expect it. Gratitude for my blissfully peaceful nights that start promptly at 8:00 pm. And, gratitude that I am there for every teacher conference, every loose tooth, and every choir performance.

The joys of being a mother are recited everywhere – in magazines, parks, restaurants, novels, and in any quiet setting where two mothers gather. It’s the joys of being single while a mother that are rarely, if ever, enumerated. And yet they abound. And why wouldn’t that be true, really? Haven’t I learned by now that it is precisely that which is most difficult and challenging that is always the most rewarding?