I’m single. I’m a mom. But to some I am not a single mom. I don’t know why it surprised me to discover contention over who should use the single mom label. Women pit themselves against one another far more often than they rise up in support.
It starts at a young age with girls devaluing others based on clothing, social circles, and physical attributes. In fifth grade, I was subjected to a game called Peaches and Sour Cream. Each girl took a turn sharing what she perceived as one good trait and one bad trait about another. The girl who chose me couldn’t think of anything good to say, but had no difficulty coming up with a negative.
“I hate your laugh. It sounds weird.”
The other girls nodded in agreement.
I’m not only a victim, I’m a perpetrator. When I chose to homeschool my children, my best friend decided to go back to work and put her kid in daycare. I was appalled. How could she not see that my way was better?
Nearly twenty years later, I still remember arrogantly stating, “We have nothing in common anymore.”
She replied, “You’re right. We really don’t.”
It was months before we spoke again.
I have judged and I have been judged.
Christian vs. non-Christian
Married vs. Divorced
Stay-at-home vs. Career
Recently, I’ve been baffled by women who belittle others for their very personal choice to remain childless.
Then there is the issue of the “single mom.” I find it incredibly disheartening that regardless of which choices I make in life, other women are keen to invalidate rather than support.
My friend Kathy, a nurse, introduced me to the term “lateral violence.” LV is defined as “displaced violence (generally verbal) directed against one’s peers rather than adversaries.” One theory is that nurses do not feel valued because all power resides with the physician. This powerlessness manifests as fear, and the fearful create a hierarchy amongst their colleagues to gain a sense of control.
Who in this world is more powerless and afraid than the twelve-year-old girl whose very own body seems to betray her on a daily basis? The girl who stands at the threshold of womanhood, with one foot still planted in childhood. The girl who can say the words “yes” and “no” but has no control over whether her answers will be respected.
Creating a hierarchy amongst her peers gives her some control in her world. Often, that girl becomes a woman who still feels powerless. Rather than show vulnerability, she continues creating a sense of power by invalidating others.
I wish when my friend had told me she was returning to the workforce, I had said, “I respect your decision, and I support you.”
I wish I’d told her I was worried about living on one income, and afraid that I wouldn’t be able to adequately educate my children. In reality, I feared her way was better.
I never again want to invalidate someone else due to my own fears and insecurities. And I have many.
I am afraid I will completely lose my weight battle.
I am afraid my current rate of hair loss will result in visible bald patches.
I am afraid of appearing ignorant in social settings.
I am afraid that those whom I love will stop loving me.
I am afraid that I will never be enough for any man.
I am afraid there will never be a man who is enough for me.
I am afraid I will end up working a dead-end job until I am too old to work at all.
I am afraid that the pre-cancer they discovered last year will return as full-blown cancer.
Sometimes…I’m still afraid to laugh.
But I’m no longer afraid to laud other women.
Whatever decisions you make
Whichever path you choose
Whatever you decide to wear
Whomever you love
Whether you have children
Whether you decide to marry, divorce, cohabitate, or live alone
Regardless of your parenting methods, politics, or religion
I recognize your beauty
I see your unique contribution to this world
Woman to woman
I support you.