What It Feels Like To Be A Single Mom

By Jen Minor // As Told to Megan Helgesen

You can’t have an abortion so I will give you two options: you stay with her and you stay with her forever, or you can leave her, and leave her forever; this is my decision and that is yours. Take it or leave it.

Everyone craves a perfect senior year experience, the good times and the bad times, and everything that senior year is supposed to be. Evidently, I ended up with solely the bad times, all from two short and simple words:

“You’re pregnant.”

I was devastated; I had just completely ruined my life. All of my plans, my whole future, everything I was supposed to do, was about to change entirely. This couldn’t be possible. I was a band geek, I was in all honors classes, I was invincible. Soon I came to realize denial wasn’t an option any longer, but acceptance was. But, the idea of acceptance had to go way beyond me. It began with my boyfriend, then my parents, and onto my peers. But let me tell you, there is a reason I kept them last. No one was nice, yet everyone wanted to know everything.

I think it was the rumors. Those were the worst part and it seemingly came from people I didn’t even know. But the ignorance that came with each word that was forced through my ears and into my memory, you don’t forget things that.

Here, take this bible. You definitely need it to make the right decision, slut.

I heard you got an abortion. Good choice, you would have never been able to raise a child. You’re kind of stupid, no offense.

So you’re pregnant? Good luck finishing school. I’d pay money to see that one happen.

Seven months later, I graduated, but I graduated alone. My boyfriend and I broke up in the middle of the pregnancy, and at this point I wasn’t really sure if he was going to stick to his word, but I also wasn’t going to put my life on pause either. I committed to University of Illinois-Chicago. I did it, and I proved everyone wrong.

College was a hell of a lot different, but way more accepting. I knew everyone was coming from different backgrounds, so I felt a lot better about being a single, pregnant college student, but my situation still wasn’t ideal.

I doubted him, but he stayed in the picture. He stayed with baby Emma while I went to school during the week, which was a huge help. However, there were days where I couldn’t bear being apart from her, and those were by far the worst days. I eventually started taking her to school with me so I could spend more time with her on the weekdays. During the times I had class, my girlfriends on my floor would always want to watch her, and I couldn’t be more thankful for them. The sense of security and kindness that they gave me was indescribable, and I knew at that moment that those would be my lifelong friends that I would keep forever, and boy was I right.

I ended up getting a house with my friend; it was just me, her and Emma. Emma got to go to her dad’s house on the weekend, which allowed me to gain some of the young adult experience back. So by the time I was 21, I got to live it up a little bit. Yeah, the weekends were fun and all, but when the it was over, there was always something else more important, something that kept me grounded; Emma. That little girl kept me tamed.

By the time Emma entered grade school, I pushed myself away. I didn’t want to get involved with helping at her school and with the other parents because I still looked like a baby. For me, it was just flat out embarrassing. The parents there were old enough to be my parents. It felt so wrong. I feel so bad looking back now, wishing I could go back and change it all. I was a fluke, it was entirely in my own head.

She kept growing and he still kept his promise, but as time passed things began to change. I began to play the role of both parents more heavily. I was the funny one, but also the disciplinary one. I hated it. All I wanted to be was her best friend. I was tired of being the one to constantly yell and push her to do her chores. I just wanted to do mother-daughter things with her. Except, she wanted nothing more than to not talk to me, and I couldn’t figure out why–until her freshman year. It came to my realization that she was only a few years younger than me. I was sick to my stomach.

I decided, ‘I’m going to parent a little less, and relate a little more.’ I couldn’t shelter her from experiences, she needed to see the world on her own. It automatically brought us closer from there on out, and that meant so much to me. My little girl brought me so much joy and inspiration. I no longer felt so isolated from her, I felt like we were one.

I’ll admit being a single mother is difficult, but at this point I’m not sure I would want anything else. It sounds so clichė, but I mean it when I say that it truly is the simple, little things that make it all worth it. The little things, like watching her sleep, the sense of peacefulness I get when I see her so soothed and undisturbed. It’s her smell, Emma’s smell, it just smells like home to me. It’s the unconditional love I have for that girl. There isn’t a single thing I wouldn’t do for her. However, there are times where you wonder if you are doing the right thing or not, if you’re raising a responsible, involved member of society. But all I have to do is look at her and realize, she wouldn’t be sleeping this well if I wasn’t doing an okay job; I feel okay again.

Sometimes you have a path for yourself, but sometimes God has a better one, and I was pushed down it. My path has become very intense and full of love and life. My world revolves around that girl; I seriously never knew I could love someone so much. I’m not ready to be an empty-nester at 37 while she’s at college, but I am going to embrace that change, like I have with everything else. It will be weird. I’m going to find out what it’s like to just be me. My whole life I have solely been Emma’s mom, and I’ll still continue to be her mom, but just a little farther away. But she knows she has me no matter what.

I don’t know what the other shoe is like. I don’t know what it’s like parenting with someone else. What I do know though is that this was my purpose, I was meant to do this. I was meant to be Emma’s mom and I wouldn’t change a damn thing.