WMN.PH: Surviving Single Motherhood

This article was published in wmn.ph in April 2010.

It’s been eight and a half years and the question that I am most often asked now is: “How did you do it?” The wonder that accompanies this question, which sometimes borders on amazement, still surprises me. By Ana Santos

It’s such departure from the range of emotion that accompanied the early years.

In the beginning, I was 27 years old and had walked out on my marriage with my five-month old daughter in tow. I was assailed with questions: What happened? What now? Are you okay?



Back then, things were a lot simpler in the sense that I had one blanket answer to all of the above, a resounding “I don’t know.”

The answer to the question is much more complicated. Surviving a failed marriage and single motherhood involves a combination of ingenuity, grit, and spunk – a cocktail of guerilla tactics softened with – if you can muster it – a dollop of humor.

So here are some spoons full of sugar to help you swallow the bitter pill of a failed marriage and the daunting role of single motherhood, sans the cliche. Because really, everyone’s offers of: “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” won’t cut it.

Detach yourself.

Yes, that’s right. Detach yourself from anything and everything that will deepen your misery starting with the negative people and the malls.

At the start, you will be barraged by questions and slapped with heaps of judgment and unsolicited advice. You may get enough of the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” to last you a lifetime. Sniff out these people – and snuff them out. Avoid their company at all costs – they won’t make you feel any better and really, you don’t need any of the pontification.

Oh and resist the temptation to go to the mall to do some “window shopping” to make you feel better. When your self-esteem is sagging, the Sale! sign may spring hopes of salvation, but your credit card bill will nuke that.

Look good. Feel good.

My mantra was and still is: I can’t be ugly, losyang, and separated.” The horror of such a thought would get me through the days when depression prevented me from even getting out of bed.

This is not the time when you will want to wear your emotions on your sleeve. And no, looking good should not bust the bank. This is not the time for a mindless spending binge, but looking good will require you to re-adjust and perhaps downstream your tastes a bit.

The beauty of living in a country like the Philippines is that there are a number of substitutes. There are always cheaper versions of things (Read more about the Laws of Substitution in the sidebar.).

You just copy paste. Your major fashion investment should be fashion clips from a magazine or a style website. Just look at the trends, go to the nearest bazaar or SM, then copy and paste.

Work the M.I.L.F syndrome

You may find yourself catapulted to the status of M.I.L.F. (Mom I Like to F***), without joining the rebel group. Men will view your vulnerability as being an easy lay, a lonely woman who is in dire need of a man’s attention. They have absolutely no clue that on most days, you can’t even remember if put on your underwear, much less be enticed by the idea of taking it off for someone.

Some people may argue that the best way to get over someone is to be under another. Hold that thought. Wait until you’ve put yourself together and gotten your life back on track. You’ll be in a much better position to be under, over, or on top of someone when you do.

Idle time is the enemy…sometimes even more than your ex.

The hardest part is getting used to doing things by yourself after years of being part of a couple. It is the mundane things that you never had to think about before like – what to do on a Friday night or suddenly realizing that you don’t have a ready companion to a company function – that may pull you into a tail spin of sudden depression.

Find things to do that will keep you preoccupied. Read a book, learn a new skill or language, run a race – anything that will keep you from thinking too much. Running, or any other sport, actually has the benefit of making you too tired to think.

Learn to do man things

Bouts of depression may pummel you when you suddenly realize that you don’t know how to work the other buttons on the remote control or how to fix your car. It’s a feeling of sudden helplessness that will re-start the feelings of inadequacy.

Learn how to do those things yourself. You only need to surf the Net to get instructions on working anything from a remote control to an engine.

It’s a pain, but you’ll love the feeling of newfound independence it will give you.

Sometimes you have to will yourself to feel better before actually do.

Allow yourself to cry, to grieve, or break things and scream. The break-up of a marriage is the death of a once simple dream of having children and growing old with someone. Don’t wallow in the overwhelming feelings of grief; look at it in the eye while telling yourself you’ll get through it.

Remember that being alone is not the same as being on your own.

It’s not the breakup of a marriage that makes you a failure. It’s what you make of yourself after it that does. The failed marriage may break you, but it’s how you define your own happiness after that will make you.

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