I’m a “Selfish” Single Mom & I’m Not Sorry

Artist: Unknown

Artist: Unknown

Right now, I’m sitting in a neighborhood Brooklyn pub. You know the one. String lights, terrible acoustics, communal seating. There’s a dead raccoon on the wall. It’s too loud to think. But the IPAs are juicy and hazy. The food is way better than the ambiance says it should be. The company is mixed but usually unrivaled. I’m working on a myriad of things. I’m also writing this article.

My 11-year-old son is right across from me, developing the next series for his YouTube channel. He’s wearing my giant gold Beats phones, orange-and-black Ray-Bans, and a t-shirt with a picture of a rabbit doing The Dab (“it’s a Dabbit, mom.”) He wants to be a computer engineer, a video game designer, and a famous YouTuber when he grows up. He just started middle school in Brooklyn. He’s sweet, smart, stubborn, and in every way superior to the 11-year-old version of me.

I can tell by a few glances and whispers that some people wonder what we’re doing here at 9:30pm on a school night.  

But this is one mom who’s used to giving the middle finger to judge-y eyes. After all, I got some really good practice about 18 months ago when I decided to move to NYC.

After a decade building my career as a single mother, I uprooted myself and my son from the quaint, the clean streets, the newly purchased home and backyard and irrigated garden, the land of milk and honey and clean living in Salt Lake City — to what is incontestably the center of everything, New York City.

Why? Because I wanted to.

Trust me when I say I’ve gotten all sorts of shit for this decision. How could I take my son away from familiarity, family, and friends to a place like New York City? How would I make it on my own? How could I be so selfish? How dare I nurture my own development — emotionally, professionally, or romantically, as a single mother?

As if my own self died the moment I gave birth to another.

Then there were the questions I asked myself: Was I doing this just to check a box off my bucket list? Would it be a growth experience or simply traumatic? Who was I really doing this for? Was it OK that I was doing it for me?

Art by Sammy Slabbinck

Art by Sammy Slabbinck

Please recognize this type of internal and external judgment is something almost specifically reserved for women. For all the talk of women empowerment and crushing the patriarchy, the brunt of parental responsibility still sits squarely on women’s shoulders— and moms of every variety absolutely face a constant shit-stream of public opinion for almost every decision.. When it comes to ambition, it’s a world where men’s goals and passions are praised and encouraged, while women’s are generally scrutinized and qualified. Oh, all the fucking qualifiers.

It took me too long to recognize and reject the universal dialogue about motherhood, and single motherhood, in particular. It’s one that qualifies accomplishments. It’s one that glorifies “selflessness” while insisting you’ll only ever be known for what you accomplish “despite” your primary role or circumstance. It’s patronizing. It’s feigned compassion. It’s fucked up, and it has no place in my life (or yours).

So here we are. Eating french fries and jamming out work in a Brooklyn bar on a school night. He’s now got friends on each side of the country. I’ve made friends that will last a lifetime. I’ve also made bad decisions, and broken my own heart a time or two.  At times, the loneliness has been almost unbearable. But as I marinate in these NYC moments, I’ve never felt more empowered, sexy, and free. I’ve always wanted my son to know a woman who looked a “shouldn’t” in the eye and pushed forward anyway.

I also like to think that I’m giving him the space and trust to go and find whoever he decides to be. But I guess that is selfish of me too, right?

BRB — just got a notification that he published his latest video. I gotta go check this  out.