It's a pretty easy slip to make, as any mom married to someone who travels a lot can tell you. During a TV interview yesterday, while talking about the need to improve access to nutritious foods for time-crunched urban families, First Lady Michelle Obama accidentally described herself as a single mom.
"Believe me, as a busy single mother—or, I shouldn't say single! As a busy mother… sometimes, you know, when you've got a husband who's president, it can feel a little single, but he's there!" she said during the interview with CBS News affiliate WCAX in Burlington, Vermont.
Some people call it being a "sometimes single mom," and while plenty of actual single moms bristle at the idea, moms who are solo parenting part of the time say it comes with its own set of challenges.
"I can see how she feels that way," Kristen Chase, a columnist at Cafe Mom, told Yahoo! Shine in an interview. Chase, a mom of four, has written about her own experience as a "sometimes single mom" for The Stir and on her own blog, Motherhood Uncensored (her husband, a commercial airline pilot and an Air Force Reserves officer, travels frequently for work).
Calling herself a single mom "is more about the experience of being completely alone while your spouse is away," Chase explained. "It's about the responsibility of being the sole parent and the sole household manager while they're away. It's a way for us to separate ourselves from the regular married folks who have the typical married situation, not to align ourselves with single parents, who have a myriad of challenges that we don't."
Chase compares it to being a "chef's widow" or a "football widow," married to someone whose job or hobby makes them unavailable to help with parenting or running the house. Military spouses may be the quintessential sometimes single parents, but there are plenty of other professions—including high-level government jobs—where one spouse is left at home for long stretches of time.
"It's a feeling, not necessarily literal," she said of thinking of herself as sometimes single.
While actual single parents might take issue with the moniker, Chase says that plenty of of people have told her that the label makes sense.
"On the flip side, I've heard from a lot of single parents who say what we do is harder," she said. "They've said, 'Our kids head off to our ex's houses and we have four or five days where we are completely alone.' Sometimes single parents don't get that kind of down time."
After quickly correcting herself during the interview, the First Lady got back on message. Finding time to eat right "As a busy working mom—and before coming to the White House, I was in that position, you know—working, driving kids to practice, not having enough time to shop or cook, not having the energy," she continued. "Resources weren't the issue, but time and energy is key."
Not having enough time or energy? That's something that any parent, single or married, can understand.
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