Here's What it Feels Like to Be A Single Mom in MOPS - And Why it Took Me Forever to Join
"They're like Stepford Wives or something."
"MOPS is totally a cult. Be careful if you join."
"You'll never fit in with those women. They're all rich snobs whose lives revolve around their husbands."
Ouch. These are just a few of the unpleasant - and untrue - comments that I heard when I told people I was thinking about joining MOPS. I was already nervous about signing up, and hearing all of the negative feedback scared me even more.
I thought about joining for years, but I always talked myself out of it. I convinced myself that I was too busy and too broke to be a MOPS member. I told myself that I'd join "later" or "one day". I just wasn't ready, so I let myself make lots of excuses about why I shouldn't go.
During this time, I remained Facebook friends with a woman who helps run the meetings at my local MOPS. She has a very interesting life, and it's the good kind of interesting...not the "I'm calling it interesting to be polite because she secretly scares me" kind of interesting. She has bees and chicks and other farm animals, and she's into many of the same types of healthy foods that my family eats.
I liked her lifestyle and her beliefs, so I started to think that maybe MOPS wasn't so bad. I was almost ready to join, but I decided to bring up MOPS in an online writing group I belong to first. I'm the type of person who likes to have tons of details and feedback before I make a decision, as you can see. We won't even talk about how long it takes me to choose a bag of apples or a pack of cheese at the grocery store.
Anyway, the moms in my writing group had a lot of good things to say about MOPS. One mom told me they helped save her sanity, and she mentioned all of the fun things they did during nights out. Another mom said that while she didn't like it, she still felt it was a good program. A writer without kids messaged me privately and was like, "I've obviously never been in MOPS, but what's the worst that could happen? If you don't like it, you can just stop going."
I Finally Took the Plunge
After weighing over my decision for like a million years - or maybe just 12 or 18 months - I signed up for MOPS. I immediately worried that I made the wrong decision and started obsessing about everything that could go wrong.
Here's the deal: I love being a mom, but I'm absolutely terrified of other moms. I have some fellow mommy friends, but moms in general scare me. Married moms scare me even more. The thought of being in a room with a bunch of married mothers a couple times a month was almost enough to send me into an anxiety attack.
It's possible that there are other single moms in MOPS, but I don't think I've met any of them. Maybe they just don't talk about it. I couldn't tell you. All I know is that 94% of MOPS members are married.
But What's So Scary About Other Moms?
I'm almost over my fear of other mothers, but I'm not completely there yet. There are several factors that play a part in why I've let myself become like this, including:
- Rude remarks other moms have made to me
- Hateful comments I've seen in online parenting groups any time a mom dares to mention vaccines, discipline, or breastfeeding
- The estrangement from my own biological mother
- Judgment I bestow upon myself
Kids are awesome. Moms are intimidating. Married moms scare the absolute heck out of me. I hope that I look back on this blog in a few years and have a different perspective, but for now, this is where I'm at.
Why Are Married Moms Extra Intimidating?
I kept a journal from the time I was 8 until the age of 25 or so. When I was 19, I wrote a long entry about how I hoped to be happily married by the time I was 30. Obviously, life has unraveled in a different direction for me, but that doesn't mean I have fully accepted where I'm at now.
I am in tears as I write this post. I spent weeks debating whether I actually wanted to publish this story, but in the end, I decided that it needed to be done. I don't like to hide my thoughts and emotions, even when they're bad.
Married moms scare me because they force me to evaluate the dark, ugly thoughts that occasionally creep into my mind. I alternate between feelings of jealous, insecurity, and sadness when I think about how easily marriage seems to come to some people. I find myself wondering why none of my significant others ever loved me enough to commit to a lifetime of love. I question whether I'm being too picky when new guys come my way. I worry that maybe there's just nobody for me and I'm meant to be alone forever. I beg God to send me a faithful, loving husband who can help me raise my children.
I have a good life. I have a hectic writing career that I enjoy (well, most of the time), and I have 3 wonderful kids. I have a vehicle that runs, and my fridge and pantry are filled with healthy, delicious food. I have friends who are always happy to listen when I need an ear, even if they haven't seen me in forever.
But I don't have a husband.
I feel selfish complaining about that when I have so many other awesome things going on in my life, but it haunts me every day. I feel like I have everything I want in life except for a significant other, and it's incredibly frustrating. I'm genuinely happy for all of the married people I know, but there are times when it still hurts.
What's So Great About Having a Husband?
Being a mom is hard work, whether you're single, separated, divorced, or married. I don't want to act like single moms are the only parents who ever feel exhausted or have a stressful day.
With that being said, there are times when I feel like having a husband would make my life as a mom so much easier. If I had a husband, I would have someone to:
- Pay half the bills instead of working 6 or 7 days a week to pay every penny of every expense myself
- Wake up with the kids every once in a while, letting me sleep in until some crazy time like 9 a.m.
- Help clean up vomit-stained carpets and blankets in the middle of the night when all the kids have the flu
- Cook dinner - or grab something from a restaurant - while I help with homework and pick up toys
- Laugh with me when the kids do something funny or adorable or sweet
- Hang out with the kids while I run to Target for an hour or attend a Mom's Night Out at MOPS
- Discuss things other than Yo Gabba Gabba and Thomas the Train with at bedtime
I love being a mom, as I mentioned earlier. I don't want you to read the bullets above and think that motherhood is terrible. It's the best thing that has ever happened to me, but it's also exhausting. I'm human. Sometimes I crave sleep and adult interaction. There are days when being a mom is really hard, and I feel like I would have more time, energy, and money if I had a husband to share my life with.
It would be great to have a husband help out with the kids during times like this.
I'm Spreading Myself Pretty Thin These Days
After I fix a bunch of snacks, shuffle my kids around to all of their activities, clean the house, fold the laundry, and write enough articles to pay the bills, I'm super tired. Sometimes I'm too physically and mentally drained to do anything other than collapse in bed at the end of the day. I don't always have enough energy to socialize with anybody or engage in hobbies because I have already given all of myself to my kids and career.
When I get in that mindset, it's easy to get overwhelmed. I remember a recent time where I was so stressed and exhausted that I could not figure out what to bring for breakfast. It was my table's turn to bring food in for the MOPS meeting, and I was just completely overwhelmed by it. I was at the point where I could not even think of anything other than fruit that people might eat. I was too tired to drag 3 kids to the grocery store to buy ingredients, and I didn't want to pick a recipe that required too much time or effort.
It shouldn't have been that big of a deal, especially since I love to cook and bake. I just had too much on my plate that week. Mornings are hectic because I have to dress and feed 2 toddlers, plus make sure my oldest and middle children safely and successfully get on 2 different buses. I also usually set up my workload for the day and handle client emails during this time (I work from home as a writer), plus attempt to sneak into the shower. Sometimes I even get extra ambitious and put on something other than yoga pants and a hoodie.
After I finish all of that stuff, I have to convince my toddler that he loves going to MOPS. Sometimes this happens instead:
If you don't have kids, you're probably reading this and going, "So what? Just take the blanket off and put him in the car." Technically, you're right. I could do that, but it would not be enjoyable for either of us. I would have to listen to him cry and scream the entire way to the meeting, and then I'd feel guilty leaving him with the childcare provider who watches the kids during MOPS.
I'm happy that I joined MOPS, but there are days when it's just easier to stay home.
Getting There is the Hardest Part
I have let many things keep me from attending meetings, but when I finally make it to one, everything is fine. There are days when I'm too tired to talk to anyone and all I do is listen to the guest speakers or make a craft, but I'm okay with that. Nobody in the group has ever made a negative comment to me about anything or asked why I'm not married, which is interesting because that's usually the number one question I get outside of MOPS. I'm actually convinced that the women in this group are some of the nicest women I've ever met, even though I don't hang out with any of them when the meeting is over.
It doesn't even matter what I do during the meeting. It doesn't matter what topics are discussed or whether I'm good at the craft (FYI, I'm usually not, but I enjoy making them anyway). Just being there is enough, and I remind myself of that every time I actually leave the house and go.
For 2 whole hours, I can think about anything I want without someone yelling my name or asking for a cup of water. I don't have to look at my messy living room and think about how I should vacuum for the 3rd time in an hour. I can't see the massive pile of unfolded laundry or the stack of paperwork that I meant to fill out yesterday. I can eat food without sharing and get up to go to the bathroom by myself. MOPS is a safe, judgment-free retreat where I can let my mind wander.
Before I became a single mom, I used to have a bunch of hobbies and interests. I loved to read. I had a blast playing basketball. I stayed fit by jogging several miles a day. I met friends for lunch and wandered through the aisles of Target alone with an iced mocha frap.
I was like:
I do none of those things now.
That's why I was so proud of myself when I finished this craft. We won't talk about how the other side turned out, but this side came out just fine:
And look, I even made a key holder:
When you have no hobbies and feel like you completely lack the ability to be crafty, it's an incredible feeling to make something. I felt like a kid in elementary school who just stuck his artwork on the fridge with a magnet. Every time someone came over, I was like, "LOOK WHAT I MADE!"
I used modge podge for those Jingle Bells blocks. Do you know what modge podge is? I still kind of don't, but it appears to be similar to glue. I never heard of it until I made this craft.
I used an iron for the first time in years on that key ring. Want to know how I iron clothes now? I don't. Ha. Okay, I iron them by throwing a damp towel and some wrinkled shirts in the dryer for a few minutes. Whatever works, right?
Are you a member of MOPS?
But It's Not Just About the Crafts
The crafts are probably my favorite part of MOPS, and I never thought I'd be one of those women who enjoy making stuff. It's a nice feeling when you look at something and realize that you made it all by yourself, even if the paint is smudged or the edges are frayed. Perfection isn't necessary.
I don't just go for the crafts, though. I go because I enjoy hearing women of all ages, married or not, discuss the struggle of potty training or the headache associated with getting toddlers to go to bed. I go because I get to be someone other than Mommy for a couple of hours, even if there are times when I'm too tired to remember who Missy (that's my real name, for folks who are over the age of 12) even is anymore. I go because I have lost the extroverted side of myself that I once had, and I'm hoping it will return one day.
Sometimes I don't even know why I go. I just go.
Showing Up is Enough
I often hear people say things like, "If you aren't going to give 100% of yourself, why bother?" or "it's all or nothing". It's not, though.
You don't have to be perfect to join MOPS - or do anything, for that matter. If you're still exhausted after downing 3 cups of coffee and dragging a brush through your frizzy hair, that's okay. Get up and go anyway, unless you really want to stay home.
It doesn't matter whether you're attending a MOPS meeting or volunteering at your son's preschool. Just go. You're good enough, even when you don't have the energy to commit all of yourself to whatever you're doing. You're fine just the way you are.
Sure, there are always people who will judge you, but that's a reflection of them, not you. Besides, we often judge ourselves way harder than anybody else. When you're ready, go.
I promise that I'll try to follow my own advice.
Copyright for Photos and Written Text: Missy Nolan, 2015
All of the text and photographs in this article belong to Missy Nolan. Do NOT reproduce without permission or plagiarize this article. Sharing the original content via a link is okay.