Love, Death, and Single Motherhood


Four years ago this week, I became a single mother.

For that first year, I felt hopeful. I believed in love, I believed that the silver lining of the upheaval and heartbreak that had cracked my life, and my kids’ lives, into pieces was that I would find love, the sort of love my heart craved and that I wanted to model for my children.

During the second year, I found the OKCupid stats on dating and older women. I spent the rest of year two convinced that I would somehow beat the trend, that being old and not inclined to post cleavage-y photos of myself to online dating sites wouldn’t keep me from finding love. Then I discovered that I don’t have the free time, energy, money, and inclination to date, online or otherwise. If you want to beat a trend, you have to work at it, and I was busy with my real job. Being the mother to children who were themselves heartbroken about the demise of the family they thought they’d have forever didn’t leave me feeling perky and ready for the world of dating. Still, I had hope that we’d all come through it and build something new and wonderful to sustain us, some new unit that included love for each of us.

During the third year, I realized that I didn’t believe in love any more, not romantic love, not for myself. That old saying that people like to quote to singletons, the “once you give up looking for love, it will find you” line, is simply not universally true. It doesn’t matter how many of your married friends, family members, and fellow single women think you’re a fabulous catch; if you live on an island of married people and your friends’ ex-husbands, there’s a better chance that you’ll win the state lottery than find true love when you’re over 40 and parenting young children. I spent most of year three crying every time I was alone in my car, the only time I was guaranteed privacy. My head had given up on love, but my heart was still stubbornly clinging to hope and youthful optimism.

During the fourth year, I did more crying but mostly I busied myself with a non-paying full-time job with a start-up along with my full-time solo parenting. I didn’t have time to cry in my car, and I discovered that it’s possible to live a mostly cheerful life without hope of love. I just had to follow a few rules: No parties, no romantic comedies, lots of the right sort of music and poetry, and a back yard full of bird feeders to observe and keep filled (insert nerdish hobby of your own as desired).

Then, towards the end of year four, I thought there might be something very wrong with my health. I’m still working through a lengthy diagnostic process, but so far, no one has found anything specific I need to worry about. It turns out that this reminder of my eventual death was just what I needed.

For the first time in four years, my head and my heart are in happy alignment. Romantic love sounds wonderful and all, but I’ve got my eyes on something bigger. All I’m asking for is to live to love my kids. I think my kids love me; because of their individual special needs, it’s not always easy to tell. That’s OK, though, because I love them. If I can just stick around long enough to see them to adulthood, I will be overjoyed. Every day that I’m still here, even when those days are freakishly hard for each of us in this house, I am grateful and happy.

Joy and gratitude for the blessing of motherhood, even if that comes as single motherhood, that’s plenty for me.

15 comments on “Love, Death, and Single Motherhood

  1. I am filled with gratitude that you took the time to write this piece.
    Thank you Rebecca for being both a beautiful person and a beautiful writer.

  2. Dear young friend, I mean young. It’s all a matter of perspective. My mother informs me that she’s the only one in assisted living that doesn’t need a walker to do laps around the building and she is fit and young for her peers, in her mind and life. My depression over lost love nearly killed me. I’m better now, thank God I got a second chance. I am so absolutely grateful for the last 5 years. All my wishes and desires have not come to fruition regarding lost love but to be here for Nora from years 11 to 18…there are no words to express it. You will say that my situation is not at all like yours but I say, Love is very very complicated. And the possibility of the return of love is alive, because, I am alive. The last 18 years I have hated romantic love, and been angry about that. I understand. A brush with death and the love of a cat, neighbor, grocery checker or other unlikely candidates, all combined equals a big love. You are unflinchingly honest. You deserve that in reply. You are a very loveable person. I know that you are thinking of your former married state but let the love of your friends sustain you a while. No one knows what the future holds. Allow yourself to be surprised by the kinds of love that can hold you up. For instance, your bolgs, articles, recipes and observations combined with your wonderful photographs are an expression of who you are. They are sustaining for me and I’m supported in that. Thank you for your honesty. I wish I were from Mr Spock’s planet. What I want to express is live long, and prosper. The heart will follow. It is possible to die from a broken heart. Love instead.

    • Thank you so much for this, Dusty. I know that you’re absolutely correct on all of this, and that “big love” you’re talking about is definitely what has been sustaining me – It’s certainly nothing to sniff at or take for granted! I so appreciate your sharing this with me – You’re a wise woman, and I’m so glad you got your second chance, so that we all have you here with us now!

  3. I think you are pretty freakin’ awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Rebecca you are so strong and bold and I am really glad I know you!

  • O, my beautiful friend! You are perfectly imperfect–as, of course, is everything, including love. What a brave, talented, soul you are.
    p.s. If car makers had any idea how many tears are shed in their products, I think every car would come with pull-down shades and built-in tissue boxes.

  • I lost my first husband 8 years ago at age 46, very suddenly. You write about this difficult time beautifully. I have since remarried – never thought I would get (or want) a second chance at love. Happy wishes to you, whether alone or with another we know life does go on 🙂

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