Protecting Our Young

Protecting Our Young

My very first post stirred some thoughtful conversation amongst friends and family- primarily focused on ‘what defines a single mother’. A lot of people want me to create that definition. Or they want to know why I’m not writing about single fathers as well.

I’m choosing to focus on single mothers, because that is what I know. I’m simply not able to think or write from the perspective of a single father. And I am also exploring this definition of single mothers with the intent to show the strengths. Not in an unrealistic way- I want to portray the difficulty of this role, but with the positive outcomes.

If there is one thing all parents have in common, it’s loving and protecting our young. We want the best for our children. I truly believe, barring mental illness or disruptive addiction, that every parent deeply loves their children, in a powerful and instinctive way that we never knew until we had them. We defend them, support them, encourage them, and work to send them into the world as happy healthy humans. Hopefully with the skills to lead productive lives and add something positive to the world.

One little step at a time, just like the doe that nudges the spotted fawn into the first wobbly steps, we continue protecting our young while nudging them into the world. It’s a long journey- once we start, we never stop being parents. And the journey single moms take is different. Not worse, not better, just different. Do I think it’s harder than if you have a supportive partner helping? Yes. But do I think it can still be successful and rewarding? Also- yes! And there are some powerful stories to be shared, and some amazing young people going into the world from these moms.

I’m tired of media, politicians, and various religious ‘leaders’ portraying single mothers as a constant negative. As if we each intentionally chose this path in some socially and morally destructive way. And I think some of the strongest single mothers are too damn busy to spend their time and energy fighting that narrow and uninformed perspective. And I’m not looking for a fight. But I am looking for the reality. The tough roads, the stories of the journey to single motherhood- and the positive outcomes. The success, strength and beauty of these families.

Don’t get me wrong- I think there are some terrible mothers out there. But they aren’t specific to being single, there’s many a dysfunctional married couple with poor parenting taking place. Whether it’s mental illness, psychological damage, addiction or some other type of trauma that has disrupted normal parenting, it has nothing to do with being single or married. Growing up on a cattle ranch, my grandfather used to say “Well, she’s just a bad cow.” In his observations over more than 80 years, he watched cows abandon calves, and mothers abandon children- whether literally or emotionally. But it was the exception, not the norm.

If there’s one thing I have learned beyond a doubt- ‘mothering’ is an action verb. It is not a passive role or a part time role. No matter how old our children are, emotionally healthy mothers will always be active mothers. Always loving, always protecting, always there for our children. A doctor I used to have in Seattle called it “The invisible umbilical cord”. It stretches a little bit longer every year, and over distances when children move away, but it’s never completely cut. It always tugs, it always pulls, and it always connects us to our children.