My little boy and I had a playdate with a recently divorced girlfriend and her two kids the other day. We actually had some time to talk (thankful for cafe with the tables of toys) and the conversation got around to dating. Or rather, the conversation got around to getting around to dating. As she finds herself single again, but this time with children and an ex who is still frequently present because of the kids, she's trying to figure out how dating works now - how to find the time and capacity to date. She in turn has a girlfriend under similar circumstances with kids who seems to find no problem dating, but who also declares that she's now a struggling, single mom. And as she starts to navigate the world of divorced moms, she has become totally aware of the differences between single moms - by choice, and single moms - by divorce or separation. It's something choice moms often struggle with when trying to relate to other moms.
Most of the time when having a child with someone else, the natural (and often legal) result is co-parenting and shared finances, a divvying up of responsibilities to each for the household and care of the children. There are obviously some for whom this doesn't happen - some parents are left behind to shoulder it all. But mostly, even if contentiously, there are 2 parents and each is involved to a degree. When you choose to become a mom (or dad) on your own, you are literally on your own. Even with promises of, and actual, help and advice from family and friends, every single decision and responsibility are yours. All of them, all of the time. There is literally no break from being the solely responsible person for your child's life, ever. And that is a lot to shoulder. So it's understandably frustrating to hear a divorced, co-parenting mom say that she is now a single mom, or even more frustrating to hear from a parent who's partner is, say, traveling for work, suddenly announce on Monday how tired they are because they're a single parent for the week, or from the mom who's husband is physically present but emotionally checked out of the marriage say she is doing it all on her own. Parenting is hard all of the time, regardless of partner status, but it is a very different thing to choose to solo parent with zero financial, emotional or 'parenting' back-up from another.
I hear this kind of thing a lot, but I got over correcting folks a while ago, probably because of my own lack of capacity. So it was really heartening to have my friend acknowledge that she knows the difference. She sees it and understands it. And in turn, I understand she has her own set of mama struggles. Some similar, some different. We all do.