On May 19, divorcée Meghan Markle married her prince. But not just her prince, Prince Harry, a prince IRL. And as if that wasn’t enough, Markle went where no divorced woman has gone before in a wedding gown, to St. George’s Chapel, making her a showstopper for this reason as well. Little could Markle know, however, that another divorcée, in this case, her mother, would steal some of her thunder.
Seated in the second row directly across the church from Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, Doria Ragland caused immediate chatter on social media and made headlines across the globe during the days following. But it was not for the timeless pastel green Oscar de la Renta dress and matching jacket she wore. Rather, it was because she sat in the pew alone, no man by her side, a reality that commentators were quick to point out single moms face every day. For this feat, Ragland is, according to popular opinion, a woman to be congratulated.
Are you kidding me?
As a five-plus year veteran of single mom-dom, I’m offended. Actually, that’s not strong enough. I’m enraged. Out of all the obstacles I’ve encountered since my separation – raising three young children almost entirely by myself beginning when they were 11, 10, and 6, reinventing my career after more than a decade (almost two) out of the workplace, and healing emotionally and psychologically after discovering my husband (once high school sweetheart) was unfaithful to me – and then coming out on the other side better for it, I don’t consider sitting alone at social events one of my biggest triumphs. In fact, I don’t consider it a triumph at all. Or for that matter a handicap I must overcome. It’s just a part of my life.
And then only sometimes. Here’s why.
We single moms are resilient in ways we never thought we could be and those not in our shoes could never fully comprehend. We are unsung heroes. We balance budgets, stretch a dollar when it needs to be stretched and then some, juggle our parental responsibilities (hello P.T.O. bake sale) while trying to make a buck in a workplace that’s often unaccommodating or, worse still, hostile to us, deal with ex-husbands who aren’t always kind and supportive (euphemism), and go to sleep alone on more nights than we care to remember because of an often lackluster or non-existent love and sex life. We clean up lots of kid vomit and pet vomit, too. And anything else that’s coming out of them at all hours of the day and night. Last but hopefully not least, we take care of ourselves with the little bit of strength we have left over, which is often close to nothing. And because of that sometimes enjoy the respite of sitting alone, where we can focus on our children, whether they’re receiving an award, hitting a home run, or getting married.
We watch with pride, knowing full well we are in large part responsible for what we see. That knowledge envelops us and fills us up, meaning we are never, ever truly alone, even when we’re sitting by ourselves. So if you see me or any other single mom sitting in apparent isolation, dateless, husbandless, or any other -less you can think of, recognize we sit alone in body only. But if you do happen to notice there’s an empty seat next to us, by all means, come over and ask if it’s taken. We’ll let you know if we want the company. And if by chance we don’t, please feel free to hold your applause. I promise we won’t hold it against you.
Stacey Freeman is a New York City-based writer, lifestyle editor at Worthy.com, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track, LLC. A respected voice for career reinvention and parenting issues affecting both women and men, Stacey has been published or syndicated in The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Town & Country, Yahoo!, HuffPost, Popsugar, YourTango, xoJane, Scary Mommy, Maria Shriver, The Good Men Project and other well-known platforms worldwide. Stacey is frequently called upon for her expertise and insights and has been quoted in The New York Times, HuffPost, and SheKnows, to name a few. Stacey holds her B.A. in English, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University at Albany and her J.D. from Boston University School of Law.