The author offers advice to other single women with children, including how to spend your time on work trips, the best times of day to date, the types of men to avoid, and the kinds of friends to keep close.
I offer this list not as an absolute. I don’t profess to have any expertise. I live by my gut, my heart, my soul, and my intellect. I am flawed. I make mistakes. I am a bit narcissistic, a bit combative, and sometimes I make sweeping generalizations. I’m sure many will critique my vanity.
So I remind you that this is my personal policy statement designed to help me manage and regulate my own lived experience as a single woman in her 40s raising two small children on her own. I am quite clear that I do need help, that I know little, and that I have nothing figured out. I’m making it up as I go along. And, when I think I’ve got it sussed, I have an epiphany and realize I’ve got it all wrong.
But within the parameters of my personal policy, I move seamlessly through each day with dignity, grace, and integrity. And, I never lose sight of who I am as a woman and what I bring to the table.
On Work and Travel
1. Suck the life out of every second you have when you are away from your kids. When I travel for business, I work hard and I play hard. I choose not to sleep and I skip meals all to ensure I jam pack the days and nights. I’ve got to live a month’s time in the space of 24 hours or three days depending on the extent of my travel.
2. Go to New York City as often as possible. I am absolutely certain that my hometown is a mecca for single working women/moms. It’s the city that never sleeps. Men waste no time communicating their interest and attempting to actualize it. In NYC, men stop me on the streets, hand me their business cards as I step off the subway, and just take a moment to acknowledge something they like about me. In NYC, I feel like a pot of sweet nectar to a nest of bees. In L.A. where I live, I feel like a can of Raid.
3. Before you travel for work, decide with your children how you will spend a little of the money you make while away. Include them in your success and ambition. The courage, strength, responsibility, and patience my children practice in my absence make it possible for me to travel for work. They make it possible for me to pursue the ambitions that will allow us to create wealth and opportunity for our family. And, they make it possible for me to simply be a woman building her career if for just a few days.
4. Be present when you are away from the children. Don’t let yourself get consumed with guilt. Sure I miss my children when I travel. Scratch that. That’s a flat out lie. I don’t miss them when I travel. I get to be my sexy, independent self 24/7 when I am away from my kids and I love it. More importantly, I know that being apart is good for all of us. My children are incredible at moving seamlessly in and between social spaces, because it’s not just me in their orbit. I am thankful that their internal compass doesn’t point entirely toward me.
5. When a man wants to whisk you away for a weekend fling, be very clear that the babysitting cost is a financial burden he must share. The first time a man invited me away for a weekend, I was so uncomfortable navigating the shame I felt for my economic insufficiencies, I resorted to texting him. I didn’t have the guts to say it out loud. He, of course, offered to share the babysitting bucks. And, if a man doesn’t offer, he’s not worth the babysitting bucks. I’m certain of that.
Dating and Sex
6. Rethink the structure of dating. Dating is truly a waste of time and babysitting costs. I have few precious hours and resources that I spend away from my kids. If the man doesn’t deliver with witty conversation, a great meal and some enticing swagger, I curse him upside down, backward and forward (in my head of course) and then, I curse for myself for wasting valuable resources. I form friendships with men and if they evolve into something more, great.
7. If you do date, reserve that first date for lunch or breakfast. Kids are in school. When a man asks me out, I immediately suggest breakfast or lunch. No babysitting dollars to spend and I can suss if the man is worth the evening investment.
8. Enjoy giving up the lead. I enjoy men who are powerful, embrace responsibility, and have swagger. Some people say swagger is arrogant. I find it delicious. With all the control I maintain each day at work and home, I like to relinquish the responsibility and hand over power to a man who is confident enough to lead the way. Letting go of the reigns from time to time is delightful.
9. Love a man who understands that to love you, he must love your children. I realized recently how deeply I want my children to see me in a loving relationship with a man who includes them in his heart. Now, I’m not certain where to find that man, but at least I know the type of love I seek. Of course, I’m also realistic that ideals need modification and if anything I’m adaptable.
10. Avoid dating breeders. Men in their 40s who have no children will inevitably want to have children. When I left my husband, male friends I’ve known for years who had yet to marry and have children expressed interest. And why wouldn’t they? I can hold the household down and I am fertile. I make good babies. But, I’m 40. After breast-feeding two children, my nipples are finally standing up perky again. My ass is defying gravity and I’ve got a flat stomach despite two c-sections and laparoscopic surgery. I’m thankful to have my body back and I’m happy to have children who are growing more independent with each day.
Let the Woman Thrive
11. Dress for work and play. I overdress for everything. I always wear that dress that is tight enough to show I am a woman, but lose enough to show I am a lady (thank you Edith Head for the time-tested guide to feminine style). The dress provides relief from the casual playground clothes that are ever present on weekends. Besides, the fitted style reminds me that I am indeed an intelligent, driven, sensual woman first and foremost.
12. Embrace solitude. In being a single woman and single mother, solitude does exist. Neither good nor bad, solitude just is. I’m OK with being alone. Where once I felt struggle in solitude, I now find my own grace and joy. At night after the children go to bed and the office stops blowing up my phone with emails, I am still with myself whether sad, lonely, happy, enthusiastic, or apathetic. I am present with my solitude.
13. Be generous with your time and share your resources. In the initial phase of single parenthood, I was in survival mode and I didn’t think too deeply about the needs and stresses of the friends and family around me. Now that our lives have grown whole, I do what I can to add ease into the lives of the women and fellow single mothers who are my family. By helping the women around me to thrive, I thrive and our children thrive.
14. Make friends who make you laugh and hold judgement when your moral compass falters. My friends laugh alongside me, mock me, and make me laugh at myself. I am so incredibly flawed. Who isn’t? But, my friends have the richest, most compassionate hearts. They walk alongside me with no demands on me to grow in a certain direction. And, they give me the space and dignity to let me forgive myself for my weaknesses.
15. Know that the most beautiful, powerful, attractive thing about you is that you are both a woman and a single mother. I know I hold all this responsibility and independence down with dignity, grace, and tenacity. Nothing in the world is more beautiful than a woman who knows her capacity to move mountains, and as a single woman/mother/executive/educator, I do daily.