Snapshot: Are you still a single mom after you get remarried?

by singlemomseeking on August 9, 2010

Family Wedding Day

Sondra from Happy Healthy Hip Parenting has been a single parent cheerleader for as long as I’ve been blogging. She is a Certified Parent Educator and Life Coach and San Diego’s Parenting Examiner. So, when when I heard that Sondra — who’s the mom of a six-year-old son — was getting remarried, I asked if she’d share her news here.

Because Sondra and the man she calls “Mr. Right” were dating long distance — he  lives in Minnesota, where Sondra’s family also lives — they took advantage of all their time together. (Yep, that’s the new family above, and you can read more about her long-distance story here.)

When Sondra’s relationship with her now-husband first started getting serious — they got married in July! — he flew out to spend time more quality time with her son. “Long-distance marriage is not easy,” she says,  “but it’s been great to see my son blossom when the three of us are together.”

“People assume that my husband is his father when they’re together. Their bond is quite strong already so it’s been interesting to hear my son explain it to people. Before we got married he would say, ‘He’s not my dad,’ with a confused look on his face but now that we’re a family, he’s embraced their newly defined relationship and is thrilled to have a Bonus Dad!”

Moreover, Sondra’s son has been asking for a sibling — and they recently found out that he’s going to be a big brother. “This will be my husband’s first child. Just seeing him with my son is amazing, knowing that already he’s a wonderful father.”

I asked Sondra why she was changing her name to her husband’s and she explained: “I changed my name when I married my son’s father and my maiden name officially became my middle name. When our son was born, we used the same two names for him as well. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly and I’m happy that my family name lives on through the two of us.”

“Although my son and I no longer share a last name, the fact that our middle names are the same is pretty significant. We have discussed using my maiden name once again for the baby’s middle name — so that both of my children will have that in common.”

“I’m a little concerned how it’ll affect things now that my son and I no longer share the last name, but this year’s paperwork for school includes room for Family #1 (Parent 1 and 2) and Family #2 (Parent 1 and 2) which was very refreshing to see.” (Yeah, that IS refreshing!)

It’s not Sondra’s new last name, however, that has her thinking a lot these days. It’s this question: “Am I no longer considered a single mom after I get married again?”

You might remember that when I announced my own wedding news, I said that I’ll always consider myself to be a single mom. That’s why I’d love to know:

If you’ve gotten remarried, do you still consider yourself a single mom?

If you think about getting married sometime in the future — or, maybe you’re already planning a wedding — do you think that being a single mom will always be a part of your identity?

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Ewokmama August 9, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Glad to see you are broaching this subject! My thoughts are that yes – I will be a single mom even when I get married. If my (new)husband and I add to our family, perhaps that will change but I am not sure that I will ever expect the things from him in relation to my first son that I do with his biological father. I don’t know if this is a failure on my part or the reality of dealing with the “hierarchy” of parental vs. step-parental relations. It’s tricky!!
.-= Ewokmama´s last blog ..Dating Profile for New BlogHer Friends =-.

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Heather H August 9, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Absolutely! I agree with you Rachel. Although my husband and I have been (re)married for over 3 years and each of us brought children from a previous marriage in to form our family, we are still two families and I’m a single mom and he’s a single dad.

Many people find that odd but the truth as we see it, is that you are taking two families and forming one. And while you do have one stepfamily – that one stepfamily is comprised of two separate families with their own head of household and their own set of traditions, holidays, sense of humor, etc.

My husband and I always discuss every matter together and typically always come to the same conclusion but on the off times when we don’t…. I defer to him when it regards his two children and he defers to me when it regards my four children. And when it comes to correcting the kids, if I’m home then I will correct my children and if he’s home then he will correct his. All of our kids know that they need to respect both parents but we feel it is important for everyone’s relationship that the bio parent of the child who has broken a “house rule” corrects that child.

In these regards, I do believe you are always a single parent. I believe that when you look at and examine the dynamics of a stepfamily life, the idea of being a single parent becomes understandably clear. It doesn’t mean you are on your own, or that your spouse doesn’t support you emotionally and love you and your children. Quite the opposite. An understanding spouse who is educated in the dynamics of remarriage understands your role and theirs in each child’s life in their stepfamily. Oh, the dynamics of stepfamily life….. often complicated yet well worth it.

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singlemomseeking August 12, 2010 at 10:08 am

@Heather: Thanks so much for chiming in!

I realize this is another post altogether, but your comment really intrigues me re: “All of our kids know that they need to respect both parents but we feel it is important for everyone’s relationship that the bio parent of the child who has broken a “house rule” corrects that child.”

Question for you: If the bio parent isn’t there at the time to “correct” the child (say, he/she is at work, out of town), do you — as the step-parent — correct the child? Or, do you wait for the bio parent to come home? Just curious. (Because we’re working this out!)

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Heather H August 13, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Thanks for asking. We had a family meeting when we got married and came up with house rules and house consequences. So when the bio parent is home and their child misbehaves, that parent handles it. However, there are many times when the bio parent isn’t home and the other parent enforces the “house consequence.”

Since I work from home, I am the one that is with my SDs the most. All the kids know that respecting both parents is norm and by setting up house rules and consequences for when they are broken, it really takes the “bad guy” stigma off the non-bio parent when they have to discipline.

Typically, if one of my SDs does something or says something they shouldn’t have, I ask them “is ______ something we allow in our home?” They answer “no”. I then say “what is the consequence for doing ______.” They reply with the answer and then I say “by choosing to do ___________ you have chosen the consequence of _____________” and then I am just enforcing. The responsibility is really on the kid. I’m not making up a consequence and I’m not punishing them for something I think is wrong – it’s a clearly understood house rule. Plus they learn that I stand behind what I say and that I can’t be manipulated.

Hope that helps. I know that disciplining stepkids can get very sticky. One thing that did help is that I watched my SDs when their dad travelled prior to our marriage. They would come and stay with me and my kids in our home and they respected my authority just like they would any babysitter or aunt/grandparent, etc… I think that really helped us form a bond and understanding before we got married. Spending time with your stepkids (w/out their bio parent) prior to getting married is a good idea. Even if it’s to run errands or go see a movie. Something low stress but where trust can be built.

Heather

Mydria August 9, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I say no. At the singlemommyhood.com site, there was a recent discussion (and consensus) about how married moms shouldn’t ever call themselves “sometimes single moms.” I think the same thing applies here. Single moms who get remarried become married moms, with the same emotional and financial support from a partner – which is what single moms are missing. Even if you just look at the words single vs. married, it should be clear that there is a difference. When married moms get divorced and become single moms, they don’t question whether they are still married moms, so why is the reverse any different?

I know it’s tricky because women may still have the single mom mindset, especially when dealing with a co-parent. I think instead of trying to maintain single mom status, I’d suggest that remarried moms look into the co-parenting and blended families communities…or just categorize themselves as moms…plain and simple!

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Single Mom Seeking August 11, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Great question @Mydria, and I appreciate your thoughts a lot: “When married moms get divorced and become single moms, they don’t question whether they are still married moms, so why is the reverse any different?”
.-= Single Mom Seeking´s last blog ..Snapshot- Are you still a single mom after you get remarried =-.

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J Hamp February 2, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Mydria, you are sooo right. I am the current and soon to be divorced husband of a woman who I loved deeply. Her son who I knew went to live with his father prior to she and I getting more serious in our relationship. We eventually engaged and got married the following year. Beautiful wedding, good times. Everything was going well the first few years of our relationship. Let me further state that my wife was the “Head” of the household and for her family as her parents are deceased. She also is the youngest of three siblings and the only one who completed college. All of her siblings and nieces depended on her. We all got along exceedingly well. In ’09, her son came home for a visit and it turned into him staying. His father stated he could no longer afford him, which in my mind was for the best because he did not invest any time into him. But, the trauma was there and I think we acted accordingly. We got him set up in his room, painted it his favorite color and of course, provided him all the creature comforts for a 16 year old. What started to happen was NOT expected. He started wearing my clothes, coming in the room whenever, or knocking at the door as if he was 5 years old. It became frustrating. I spoke with my wife about it and she assured me that she was speaking with him. He then started snooping through our room when we weren’t home. He took things from me that he had to search through everything to find and I spoke to my wife again (mind you I would ask him about where certain items were and he would flatly deny any knowledge). My wife then accused me of being unfair to him. Of course the truth would come out. I recall him one day refusing to help me do the yard work. And when he and I got into yet another exchange, I asked him if he was trying to break his mom and I up, he stated, “yes.” I spoke to my wife about it as it broke my heart. She did nothing. In fact, today she denies it ever happened. Wow.

We started having bigger problems from that point. She’s always known that I had a ton of friends both male and female, but she started accusing the females of having sex with me. These were friends for the most part that I had for years. It greatly affected those friendships resulting in my loss of many. I couldn’t take it anymore and moved out. She hacked into my computer and started calling friends and ultimately visiting a very close friend and his wife at their home and essentially had a meltdown. I came back to her and stated that we needed counseling to continue in our relationship. She agreed and we went. The counselor identified our primary problem as having a huge lack of intimacy. I admitted that I had started pulling away from her because of her “over mothering” her son, her lack of interests in our marriage and my wanting to do things with my wife. By this point her son was 18 years old and had her completely manipulated. The counselor direct her and I to go on a date, something that I had been begging her to do with me since ’09. In fact he told her to her face that this was for her and I, not her and her son. She took her son.

There was a lot more gnashing of teeth and I eventually gave up. I told her after Thanksgiving of 2011. At that time she told me that she was a single mom (even though we had been married and I had contributed my emotion, finances, and effort into trying to get the young man to turn it around). That did it. Now she and I sleep in separate rooms.

I say that to underscore your point. Once you, single mom, remarry, your child now becomes the responsibility of you and your new husband. The bio father, at least from my perspective, needs to support the house father and the house father needs to underscore the bio father, unless he is a complete idiot.

Just saying…

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Jessica wall August 9, 2010 at 10:06 pm

I agree with Mydria, when I got divorced my status changed immediately and it was an emotional roller coaster into single parenthood. And IF I ever remarry I will not consider myself a single parent because I will not settle with a husband who is not willing to parent my child with me, that’s what being in a marriage with children is all about, whether or not he is biological or step. I am a single parent in the whole sense, meaning I do not receive monetary or emotional support from my son’s father. I do not get every other weekend to myself or help with lunch money and medical bills, even though I am doing it on my own I am not ready or willing to marry and do the “blended family” thing yet. So those of you single mom who are getting remarried , good luck and enjoy the support you will be getting as a married woman, and if you’re not then you married the wrong man!

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PT-LawMom August 9, 2010 at 10:56 pm

I’ve been thinking about this myself lately as I’m in the same shoes with Sondra (remarriage pending and baby on the way!) I think that once you have to co-parent with another person who lives elsewhere, you always have those challenges that are very specific. But once you are married (versus a boyfriend who may or may not leave), you have that security for your child of, as Sondra calls it, the “Bonus Parent” and your co-parenting challenges, hopefully, are less of a struggle as you have someone in your corner emotionally, financially, etc., as you make decisions for your child and interact with their biological parent. I myself have been very fortunate that my ex is so far fairly understanding and respectful of this new relationship. For the most part, especially because our son loves both men to pieces, my ex has been able to put our son’s best interests first and been happy for him. Am I still a single parent? No. Do I still face some of those challenges. Most definitely.
.-= PT-LawMom´s last blog ..Weekly MILP Roundup 162 =-.

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PT-LawMom August 9, 2010 at 10:59 pm

One more thing: a unique challenge for once-single-moms is definitely giving power over to the stepparent. And ensuring that the stepparent, especially if they have never had kids, is appropriately interacting with the child in terms of discipline and other items. I have found that my fiance does have some issues with my ex-husband and his parenting style but, having never been a parent, I ask him to back down on a lot because he just doesn’t know. That is one dynamic, for sure, that is interesting to work within.
.-= PT-LawMom´s last blog ..Weekly MILP Roundup 162 =-.

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Kim August 10, 2010 at 4:36 am

I agree with Mydria; her comments are spot on. Once you’re re-married, you are no longer single, so why consider yourself a single mom? (I would think that would be an affront to your new spouse, if nothing else.) I love her last comment too. We’re moms; let’s just call ourselves that. We share a common bond of loving our children more than our own lives, whether we share that love with another parent (or stepparent) or not.

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Mindy@SingleMomSays August 10, 2010 at 6:19 am

I think when you get married after being a single parent you are then part of a blended family and therefor no longer a “single” parent. However, being that I have been a single mom for the last 8 years I think I will always identify with single moms. It will always be part of who I am even when/if I do remarry.
.-= Mindy@SingleMomSays´s last blog ..Online Dating Disaster =-.

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Single Mom Seeking August 11, 2010 at 12:53 pm

@Mindy: Having been a single mom for a decade now… it is such a big part of my identity. I get what you mean exactly. I’m slowly learning how to ask for help and how to accept an extra hand. It sure feels slow sometimes!
.-= Single Mom Seeking´s last blog ..Snapshot- Are you still a single mom after you get remarried =-.

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Shannon August 17, 2010 at 9:02 am

I’m with both of you wholeheartedly. I was a single mom for 5 years and B’s Dad has always been in the picture. However, even though I remarried and took on a full-custody stepson, I will always consider myself a single-mom. My husband loves my daughter dearly, but he is NOT her father. I’ve never looked for a replacement father for her. She’s lucky enough to have lots of wonderful supportive adults in her life but I am and always have been her primary caregiver. We pretty much do the same things now that we did before and people say we have one of the most amaing blended families they’ve ever seen. My husband and I have a tremendously huge love (and a great backstory to go with it), but B and I have something special. If other people have a problem with our version of “single parenting” nowadays, they really should take a step back and stop looking for something to judge.
.-= Shannon´s last blog ..Ouch! =-.

avigail74 August 10, 2010 at 7:20 am

I think that there are many single parents who’ve gotten stuck in the mindset of being a “single parent”—I feel that if they still cling to that title after they’ve gotten married, then there’s a very strong chance that they are not sharing their child with the other parent. I mean, we expect them to share finances, household work, yard work, friends, families but not the child? Ouch, that hurts for the other parent. I know, I’ve been there. My thinking is, either you let me in all the way as a partner or not at all.
.-= avigail74´s last blog ..The Four Day Trip =-.

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Sondra August 12, 2010 at 9:49 am

I just wanted to clarify that I do plan on sharing responsibilities with my husband, parenting my son being one of them. They respect each other as well as being good buddies and my husband has no problem stepping in when I need support.

My question regarding the title ‘single mom’ came from the fact that I still feel like an outsider among some moms in a committed relationship with their co-parent and I can no longer relate 100% to single moms or dads doing it on their own. I guess I need to start seeking out other blended families like my own but there aren’t many that I already know of.

Just another transition for me to work through…
.-= Sondra´s last blog ..Rock Star Moms =-.

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avigail74 August 13, 2010 at 6:05 am

Ah, that makes sense too. Of course, after having been a single mom for so long AND looking to other single moms to share our common line—it would make sense, that it would be a bit confusing, because suddenly, I may not be in the same boat any longer. But, I suppose that you could be the “role model” for other single moms by letting them know that you “have been there” and show us that love is possible (again).

BTW: Congratulations! The three of you look beyond beautiful together!
.-= avigail74´s last blog ..The Four Day Trip =-.

lovebabz August 10, 2010 at 11:31 am

First off I want to know where Sondra scored that FABULOUS white dress. HOT! Love it!

Ok, I am thinking about that last name thing too. My kids like the fact that we have the same last name. But I think I am changing it when I remarry—and there will be no more children coming through this possible union. I hope I don’t feel like a single parent after I remarry. I want to feel like a woman with a partner/husband who happily steps into the bonus parent role. He already acts and feels like a bonus parent. He treats them as if they were his kids. I like that. I don’t think this could work if I kept him at arms length witht he raising of my kids. My ex who is remarried, and I decided that we are the ones that have overall say on how our kids are raised, but we do take into consideration our significant others care, love and concern of our children. We stay in good and constant communication with everyone involved and so far things have been lovely.
.-= lovebabz´s last blog ..TRY TRY TRY TRY TRY AGAIN =-.

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How Does She Do It Mom August 10, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I was a single mom for almost 2 and a half years..it became a part of who I was and I was proud to be a “single mom”. As you most know it comes with many trials and tribulations but moreover it comes with the pride of keeping a family going regardless of the circumstances that have presented themselves.

I am newly engaged to the most wonderful man, who happens to be my soul mate…if you believe in that stuff! We got engaged in Decemeber, he was living in Chicago at the time and I in Montreal…he moved in with me and my kids in February this year.

What a life changing experience!! I have to admit that I don’t think all situations are like this and that I am very fortunate to have the one that I do. My fiancee, Brian, moved in with the intention of becoming a parent (and being good at it) he never took over the role of their Dad…not once even tried to. He understands the kid have a Dad and he knows his roll.

All that being said, in a matter of a few short weeks we became a “family” a fully functioning happy family! We function like a typical family does….so do I still consider myself a single-mom?

Nope! I have a man in my life who has been very clear that those days are long gone…that he is beside me through thick and thin and that the kids are just as much his responsibility as mine.

Don’t get me wrong it took time to untrain the “single mom” in me! Single Moms are queens at multi tasking (you know cooking dinner, doing homework, checking email, preparing lunches ALL at the same time). I don’t think we realize how much that becomes a part of us until we are not faced with that life anymore.

In the early days of Brian living with us he would actually request that I sit down and stop “putzing” while he made dinner, go play with the kids and enjoy not having to do a million things at once. It took time and to be honest I still struggle with it at times. Letting go of that tough exterior that you can take on the world, the feeling of urgency that everything has to be done NOW because there won’t be enough time later!!

While I don’t consider myself a single mom any more I will admit that the identity of being a single mom will be a part of me forever! The strength, the struggles, the persistence, the going at it on your own I don’t think ever goes away…and you know, I don’t think I want it to!!
.-= How Does She Do It Mom´s last blog ..A Revolution of MASS proportions… =-.

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Kat Wilder August 10, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Not sure how — or why — one could call herself/himself a single parent once you get married again. better yet, why would you?

You are no longer raising your child(ren) alone, and if you are in this new version of a couple, well, would would you even marry this person?

From what I hear, step-parenting is not that easy. yet people do it all the time, sometimes with good and other times with bad results. No different than marriage or choice parenting, and etc. But if you have a partner who is accepting/embracing being part of a family, you are now something other than a single parent. It would be insulting to consider yourself a single parent when your partner is showing up.

And if he/she isn’t … run!!!!
.-= Kat Wilder´s last blog ..Take a lesson from Cleopatra =-.

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Kat Wilder August 10, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Not sure how — or why — one could call herself/himself a single parent once you get married again. Better yet, why would you?

You are no longer raising your child(ren) alone, and if you are in this new version of a couple, well, why would you even marry this person?

From what I hear, step-parenting is not that easy. yet people do it all the time, sometimes with good and other times with bad results. No different than marriage or choice parenting, and etc. But if you have a partner who is accepting/embracing being part of a family — especially with kids who aren’t his — you are now something other than a single parent. It would be insulting to consider yourself a single parent when your partner is showing up.

And if he/she isn’t showing up … run!!!!
.-= Kat Wilder´s last blog ..Take a lesson from Cleopatra =-.

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Sondra August 18, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Our situation is quite unique, in that my husband and I are living in two separate states – over 2,000 miles apart – so in many ways I do still feel like a single mom.

I know, over time, our new roles and routines will fall into place and I won’t feel this way for long. I just hope he’s able to be living here by the time our baby arrives!
.-= Sondra´s last blog ..Building a Strong Marriage =-.

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Mydria August 10, 2010 at 10:13 pm

About last names…

A remarried mom I follow on twitter told me that she uses her maiden name. Her kids have her ex-husband’s last name and her future children will have her new husband’s last name. Since she won’t be sharing a last name with any of her children, none of them should feel jealous or left out. I am considering doing the same thing if and when I get remarried.
.-= Mydria´s last blog ..Save Time With Smoothies! =-.

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Anna August 11, 2010 at 8:10 am

My first instinctive response to this was, “Yes, I will always be a single mom, regardless of marital status,” but after reading some other posts, I’m not sure. I think moms have an advantage over dads anyway, in the bonding/relationship with their kids, and then you remarry, and your new hubby isn’t technically related to your child… I think in my case, I’d continue to have the single mom sensitivity, but hopefully would no longer consider myself a single mom.

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BlueBella August 11, 2010 at 11:46 am

Great discussion! I agree with Mydria quite a lot. Having just gotten remarried after being a single Mom for 3 years I thought I’d always consider myself a single Mom, but after the fact I don’t at all. I sympathize with and remember my time as a single Mom, but I now have a loving, supportive husband who my kids now call “Daddy”. He takes this role very seriously and has embraced it with as much fervor as the kids have.

But my kids are young (all 3 and under) and neither of their fathers are involved, and my new hubby doesn’t have biological kids (yet!), so it makes our arrangement pretty simple. He’s their Dad now. We’re definitly undergoing some adjustments for both of us with these new roles, but knowing he’s putting his whole heart into the situation makes it workable.

As for names, since I was single when I had my kids I gave them my maiden name. I changed my name when I got married, and kept my maiden name as a 2nd middle name. Our plan is to have hubby adopt the kids but I’m a little torn on changing their last names. I’m thinking we’ll just tack on our new married name and move their last name to a middle name like I did, but we’ll cross that bridge when it comes time.

And, we’re trying to have a baby together and of course it will get both my maiden name and our last name when we’re finally successful.

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Eathan August 12, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I’ve never heard this before. I’ve always thought of a single parent as a non-married parent. I’ve never thought of it any other way. Maybe I’ve missed this discussion. Just curious…Is this a common view among women?

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Marcy Ganz August 22, 2010 at 3:11 am

As a child raised by a single mom, I felt very sad and upset that my mom would only make herself feel better by getting into new relationships trying to sell me that the new daddy was better. Then a year later she was divorcing him and finding me a new improved daddy. These daddy’s never seemed to live up to the standards that she wanted them to. Can you explain this?

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JD September 12, 2010 at 5:13 am

I disagree that you single moms can still call themselves that once they remarry. Single means one and if you’re married you are no longer on your own. I understand that once you remarry there is a whole new set of challenges to parenting. It is not the same as being married to your child’s father. But it’s also not the same as being single.

Not to mention, what a negative way to start a new marriage! Calling yourself single is kind of an insult to your new husband.

I think we need a whole NEW term for single moms who remarry. I’m not sure what that would be…”remarried mom” doesn’t quite do it!

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Sweetandlowdown September 20, 2010 at 2:29 am

Being a successful single mom requires overcoming a great deal of fear and, I believe, it is this same fear reversed that hampers our shifting into to married mom status again. Just as it takes great strength and courage to rise to the single mom challenge, to carry the responsibility for our kids on a single pair of shoulders, so too it takes strength and courage to trust sharing the responsibilities and relinquishing some of the control. At least, this is true for me!!
I certainly wouldn’t call myself a control freak but I am acutely aware of how the years of being a single mom; of keeping it together; being strong and positive; of making decisions alone; rising to each and every challenge alone, has made me into a sole operator so that despite now having the most wonderful, loving new partner in our lives, deep inside I am fearful, fearful that that things will fall apart if I let go of the reins.
And, there is ego involved too! I am proud of what I have achieved as a single mom. Having crawled out the back door of an abusive relationship with just my baby in my arms, through the single years I have built a secure and happy home, a home filled with love and life and humor. What man could possibly deserve to take my single mom stripes!
Luckily for me, I am loved for my single mom idiosyncrasies. I am learning to trust that two hearts are stronger than one and that two minds are wiser. Sometimes, my partner and I have quite different parenting ways and expectations but I can see that my son benefits from this just as he benefits from our united agreement. He, too, is learning about the complexity of relationships, their ups and downs and challenges and joys through my newly ‘won’ married mom status!

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