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This New York winter has been brutal. Mr. Groundhog found his shadow and indicated there will be six more weeks of winter, but he didn’t let us know we’d be in for record lows and everyone getting sick. As February inched into March I too started sniffling and sneezing, and I had a splitting sinus headache the other day. I decided to do something I normally don’t: lie down.

It was a weekday afternoon right before all of the good shows come on ESPN, so I found myself watching Friends. I have seen every episode so many times that within thirty seconds I can tell you which episode it is.  The other day I once again relived the story arc in which Rachel gets pregnant and doesn’t want to tell Ross. Shortly after he finds out, Rachel goes on a date again and Ross freaks out (sounds like every episode from the first four seasons but yeah…). Ross is sitting with Joey and explains how he thought that the next time he became a father, life would be different. I hadn’t seen this episode since becoming a single parent, so it kind of hit home.

Ross goes on and on about how after his first marriage didn’t work out, he had this picture in his head of what he thought his future life would be like. He would be married, they would be a family that was together – not a blended one. That made me think about when there was once a picture in my head…

All while my daughter’s mother was pregnant I told her that within eighteen months of our first child being born she would want to do it all over again. She didn’t believe me. Then September 2011, about seven months after Cydney was born, she’s staying at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, being monitored for a few days while undergoing aggressive treatments for terminal cancer. I had just gotten off work and went straight there. She did me a solid by letting me watch the Yankees game and a commercial came on about children. With just a little bit of hair on her head growing back after her chemo treatments being changed and weighing about eighty-eight pounds she said to me, “I wouldn’t mind having another child now.”

I responded with a laugh and said, “Damn, I gave you eighteen months and you couldn’t even make it eight!” She laughed and externally that was the end of the moment. But that was the day my picture changed. Being that she was undergoing chemo, there would be no more children from her. I knew that. I’d had flashes of what the night she passed away would be like, all while looking at my daughter like, “Hey, it’s just you and me and we’re gonna just make sh*t happen.” At the same time, while I thought it was a long shot, I always had faith that one day she would be all right and she, little Cydney, and I could be a regular family in the end, with an amazing story to tell. Somehow, hearing her express a wish for a second child, for that perfect picture, was my confirmation that one day the woman I loved and the mother of my child would leave us.

Going back to the Friends episode, Joey asks Ross: When he sees that picture, is Rachel the woman?  Ross responds he used to think so, but at this point that person no longer has a face. I play around and pretend that I’m going to be a single dad/bachelor for the rest of my life, but even George Clooney got married so but I don’t that’ll be me forever. I have seen a face before. I have pictures of the three of us together and it kinda looks like we’re a family. Somewhere between being a cynic, realist, not wanting to count all my eggs before they hatch, limbo, and faith I try to see it as nothing more than that, for now.  At twenty-five years old I learned what most don’t until much older in life – that there are no guarantees and tomorrow isn’t promised.  While that family of three is what I see and I want, and I’ll pursue that by all means, I’ll also just enjoy the ride. The picture could change.

All of this is to say that almost no one envisions themselves as a single parent. Whether single parenthood came to us by divorce, artificial insemination, adoption, loss, or whatever; no one thinks about themselves raising a child on their own.  We aren’t wired to have that picture in our heads. It’s a bittersweet dream deferred but you love it, nonetheless. Sometimes you need that picture in your head to be the driving force and the reason you don’t give up…even if it doesn’t turn out the way that you’d like it. We all need something to aspire to.

In the meantime, the ones with us and the child(ren) we love dearly are amazing enough.

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Photo by  Matthew Ronder-Seid on Unsplash

When my son started kindergarten this year, I set a goal to make more mom friends. Since he’ll be at his school for six years, I want to really grow with him and put down some roots in the school community. So far I feel like I’ve been somewhat successful. I’ve attended parent meetings and volunteer events, which is great because I keep seeing the same people and it feels like we’re laying the groundwork for friendship both in and outside school. As fulfilling as that feels, it’s also made me realize the importance of continuing to grow and build relationships with non-mom friends, too.
Last month I celebrated my 30th birthday and I spent the day with my son and my BFFs, neither of whom have children. And let me tell you, it was perfect. We went to the beach, rented a cabana and just chilled. We brought food, wine and books to keep us busy. We took selfies, and celebrated another year of life and friendship. I watched as my son built castles, wet his feet in the water and and threw sand in the air. I knew he was having a good time too. Single mom, child, and single girlfriends – we weren’t your average birthday celebration gang, but it was heaven.
I need my non-mom friends just as much (if not more than) as mom friends from the bake sale committee. Let me count the reasons why:

1. Even though it scares the shit out of them, non-mom friends don’t mind babysitting.

Like the cool, child-free aunt, my best girlfriend has babysat for me on a number of occasions when I have to work. Each and every time, she comments about how she “doesn’t know what to do with a kid,” and I gently remind her that most days, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing either. Turns out we both know way more than we give ourselves credit for.

Non-mom friends find the best, cheapest fun stuff to do for just us girls.

When I’ve got a kid-free weekend, I know I rely on my friends for a really good time. First off, they’re way more flexible time-wise and can rejigger their schedules to fit with mine. And they come prepared! They always dig up the best Groupon deals and scour reviews for the best new restaurant. We go to art shows, free concerts in the park, bookstores or just sit in coffee shops talking and catching up. We can hang out all day and stay up all night, since nobody has a curfew or has to put the kids to bed.

Non-mom friends help you to remember to take care of yourself.

This is so, so important. As a mom it’s so easy to get wrapped up in parenting the little ones that you forget you need some care and feeding too. And that time off from your kids makes you better parent when you’re with them. My non-mom friends remind of this fact often, and I am grateful for that. They also have stories of the days that seem so distant, when we were undergrads with no other responsibility except getting to class on time, or whip out an old photo of us at a college bar. They’ll call me out when I’ve worn my yoga pants too many times on our nights out, or remind me how beautiful my eyes are when I wear eyeliner.

Non-mom friends give you a different point of view.

My non-mom bestie is the one I turn too when I need someone who can really listen or give me a shoulder to lean on. I mean, can anyone have a conversation when you’re both yelling at your kids or trying to break up a fight between siblings? Just because my friend doesn’t have children doesn’t mean that she can’t give good advice. She draws from her own experience with her mom, her friends’ moms, and the moms she know. Because they’re not in the trenches, my non-mom friends can look at things from a different point of view, which is often refreshingly honest and practical.

DID YOU LIKE THIS POST? Please go to the Singlewith Home Page for much more, and sign up for our weekly newsletter in the box (above, right)! You’ll get great new essays, advice and ideas by and for single parents, coming to your email inbox. Also, register for our Singlewith Forums, to become part of our community and start connecting and getting support from fellow single moms and dads. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter (@singlewith) and Instagram (singlewithphotos). In short, JOIN US!

Photo by  Leighann Blackwood on Unsplash