Atoosa Unedited
Atoosa Unedited
Doing The Single Mom Shuffle

Doing The Single Mom Shuffle

This isn't how I would've planned it, but I'm learning a lot along the way.
My friend, Sandi, got me this “I GOT THIS” t-shirt when I first got separated. She is one of the wisest, most skilled single moms I know.

I won’t lie.

I did NOT want to be a single mom. 

Despite knowing deep down that my husband and I had grown apart, I held tight to my marriage. I did over a decade of deep therapeutic soul searching trying to pinpoint the cause of that pebble in-my-shoe feeling. Was it my mother? My career? Was it the death of my father when I was a kid? The incest? Being an immigrant? The too-big career at the too-young age? And sure. Check, check, check.  All those things needed to be processed. But in the back of my head in every therapy, shaman, astrology, energy healing or whatever session…what was very present but unvoiced: Let it be anything but THAT. And of course, by THAT I meant my marriage. Let it be anything other than my marriage. 

When I first stopped working, I would stare at my dishwasher like, do I really have to unload this? See, when I was an Editor, I was absolved of all household responsibilities. After all, I was so “bizzzzzzzzzzyyyyyyy.” 🙄 But then, I was a stay-at-home mother and as such, every morning, I stared down that dish washer. There was just something so… uncomfortable about it. WHY was this something I dreaded so much? (Btw - welcome to my life. I don’t ever just do the annoying thing and move on. I need to understand why otherwise, I just can’t accept it. 🤷🏻‍♀️) I’m sure there’s a DSM code for it. Joking, not joking.

Eventually I understood I was just not comfortable being in the present moment.

I was always planning issues, projects and events that would come out a minimum of three months later. Always living in and shaping some ideal version of the future. Planning, planning, planning. Organizing, organizing, organizing. Imagining, Imagining, Imagining. But unloading that dishwasher? That is a study in being present. That dishwasher is not three months away. It is right here, right now. And if you’re used to living in your planning mind like I was, that dishwasher is in your fucking way! Unloading it turned into mindfulness meditation like so many other things that parenting brought me face to face with: Cooking, tantrums, first aid. Mothering a child isn’t about planning their wardrobe for next season. It’s what do you do NOW when they gash their face on a rock and they’re spurting a fountain of blood. (Hint: You take them to get stitches, which I didn’t do because I was still new in the mommy game and why my eldest daughter will forever have a scar on her lip. 🤦🏻‍♀️) My personal favorite was when they would go boneless and refuse to walk to preschool because fill-in-the-blank. Presence looks like sitting down wherever you are, and seeing what this tiny human needs regardless of how inconvenient the tantrum is. And yes, I was the stone-faced mom muttering to myself while pushing the stroller containing the thrashing screaming toddler, too. Parenting, like meditation, is often two steps forward, one step back.

But doing it alone?

The sick nights? The tooth fairy? Christmas Eve assembly line? Breakfast…lunch…dinner?

I’d always had a partner and kinda didn’t want to know what it would be like not to have one.

It would not be better. That I knew for sure.

And to some extent I was right.

When I had the support of a partner, when one of my kids started to get eczema, I was able to execute a gluten and dairy free diet to see if that helped. If one kid needed to go to the ER, there was always someone to stay home with the others. If curriculum night for two kids fell on the same night? Divide and conquer!

That’s it.

Divide and conquer!

Single parenthood is more divide less conquer.


A rare matching moment for me and my crew which is why this picture is my screensaver on every device I own. I was very nervous going on vacation without my husband, so for the first few years I brought a sitter so I wouldn’t feel too worried.

Sometimes it can feel relentless. Like this week, two of the kids were sick and out of school all week with the third coming down with their bubonic plague Thursday just as the other two were recovering. Without another grown up in the house, a week like that can be kind of scary. Is that terrible stomach ache part of the virus like the doctor said or appendicitis like my friend’s kid had last week? And then toss in the co-parent who questions your judgment like whether they were really sick enough to skip school. Hypothetically, of course. 🙄 Anyway, you’re not only in charge of parenting your kid solo, but you’re also often dodging your co-parent in your efforts to do it.

Sometimes it’s fraught. There’s just no other way to put it.


I have a theory. Many single moms I know (not all, I’m not talking about widows, for instance) had challenging childhoods themselves. After all, they married a mismatch which often comes from marrying someone based on our trauma. And if you’re like me, perhaps you didn’t quite get the mothering you needed when you were a kid, because your mother didn’t get the mothering she needed… and so on.

For those of us who didn’t have a balanced and safe childhood? Being a single mother is a master class.

Everything I used to outsource to my partner? Come to momma! After all, there’s no one else home! 🤪 Like I used to get out-of-body scared when one of the kids would get really hurt. He was very calm and was the one for the job. But he’s not here anymore so I’ve gotten so much better at staying calm, providing comfort and staying present and in my body so I make sure my child gets the correct care (unlike my stitches fail of 2010)! I used to use him as bad cop. “I’m going to tell Daddy when he gets home” Well guess what? Daddy’s not coming home. I’m good cop and bad cop. (I tried to put our beloved babysitter in the bad cop role but it didn’t fly since she’s the same height as my 10-year-old twins and they like to pick her up. 🙃) And most importantly, I relied on my husband to assure me I was doing a good job with the children. After all, I was raised pretty feral. I don’t think anyone in my household was up at night wondering if they were doing a good job parenting me: They had bigger fish to fry. So, in those moments of insecurity, I would ask him, “Was I too harsh? Was I too soft?” Always having that other person to bounce things off of and just get support and reassurance was helpful. I mean…that person is still alive! That person still exists. But often the divorce process sadly renders them your adversary. And so, we are left to our own devices to learn better how to mother or risk making the same mistakes as our own mother…all the while making some some new flubs to add to the ancestral mix.

I used to outsource “play” to my husband because when I was growing up, my parents were just too busy making ends meet to play with me. Now I LOVE play.

And that’s just it isn’t it?

It’s not about perfection. It’s about evolution. As a single mother I’m evolving every day.

Do I wish my kids had both their parents in the same home (or in our case, the same state)?

Yes. I do.

I would choose that over my own happiness and fulfillment any day. I know a lot of people say that if the parents aren’t happy, the children aren’t happy. But absent an adversarial or abusive relationship, I think children are better off with their parents in the same home. I said it. I know what that sounds like. Am I saying I miss my husband? No. I far prefer my personal life today. Not even a comparison. I’m just saying my children would have benefited by having us stay together. But this is what life wanted for me, and for SURE I’ve worked on a lot of my blind spots…and plenty more to go. (Like, I still SUCK at helping with math homework, but I am an EXCELLENT, albeit annoyingly nit-picky, essay editor).

Obviously, we wouldn’t be here without our own mommas but whether or not we have children, we also practice mothering every day with how present we can be with one another…including ourselves: Our attunement, our reactiveness. Dr. Dan Siegel, founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA says, “when we attune with others, we allow our own internal state to shift, to come to resonate with the inner world of another. This resonance is at the heart of the important sense of “feeling felt” that emerges in close relationships.” We need closeness to feel connected…so critical for children, of course. But also with friends, colleagues and even our planet.

Being a single mom has pushed me to have much better attunement because I can’t turn away from the parts of parenting that I have bad (or no) experience with. I have to show up for whatever shows up. My meditation practice has helped me enormously with this. Be Here Now as Ram Dass says. And yes, even when I’m unloading the dishwasher.

Happy Mother’s Day to all whether you have children, plants or fur babies.

xo, atoosa

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