Why I've Never Allowed the Fear of Being a Single Mom Keep Me in a Toxic Relationship

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to love and relationships. We all walk different paths, and what works for one person may not work for another. Although I was in long-term, committed relationships in high school and into my early 20s, I never thought I would become a mother. If someone told my 21-year-old self that by 47 I'd be a mother of three to a teenager and 6-year-old twins, I'd think they were joking. From a young age, I was focused on making my dreams come true. I wanted to be a successful writer and singer, and I knew I wanted to go to college and be among the first in my family to get a higher education. Being in a loving relationship was something I always wanted, and still do, but motherhood was not on my radar at all. So, when I found out I was pregnant at 29, I was shocked yet ultimately accepting of this new journey I was about to embark upon.

As a child of divorced parents, I knew I wanted nothing more than to provide my children with a family.

As a child of divorced parents, I knew I wanted nothing more than to provide my children with a family. Having both parents in the household was extremely important to me. So, when that didn't work out, I beat myself up over it for a long time, condemning myself for not working harder to find a solution. I blamed myself for creating trauma in my daughter's life by leaving a toxic relationship. But what helped me finally leave was remembering how my mother walked away from an abusive marriage. And although it was not easy, she managed to raise me and my sisters alone. It was not the ideal situation, but it created a foundation by which I could pick up and create a better home environment and circumstances for me and my beautiful little girl.

She was 4 when I left. For a few years, it was just her and me, and I can say those were some of the best years of my life. Just me and my girl, exploring New York City. She's an artist like me, so museums, concerts, and Broadway shows were our thing. Even though she was so young, she was extremely intelligent and articulate — and this time in my life was about focusing on being the best mother and provider I could be for her. I wanted her to know that she deserved the best love in the world from me and one day from a romantic partner, but that a committed relationship didn't have to be the focus of her life. She was the star of her own story and I wanted her to write the chapters of her life in her own unique and colorful way.

As we settled into our happy and peaceful life, I came upon love again, and this time I was convinced from our first date that I had met the one. Because I was a single mother, I didn't know how that would fit into his single life, but somehow it worked and my daughter loved him, too. It was perfect. We had our challenges but were happy for the most part, and soon we welcomed twins — a beautiful boy and a girl. I was 41.

A few years after the twins were born, the relationship became rocky. Then the pandemic swooped in and caused even more friction. It was so hard and I wanted nothing more than to get past the struggles and find happiness again with our family intact.

In Latine culture especially, mothers are always told to work it out. We are constantly reminded that every relationship has its difficulties and that if you're willing to face them, things will eventually improve.

In Latine culture especially, mothers are always told to work it out. We are constantly reminded that every relationship has its difficulties and that if you're willing to face them, things will eventually improve. But after feeling I'd explored every way to heal our family dynamic, I made peace with separating because I knew firsthand what it's like as a child living in an environment where there's constant tension, disagreements, anger, and negativity. I didn't feel the societal pressure to stay in a relationship no matter what for the sake of the children. For me, it was more about not hurting my children, and I felt like either decision would cause them pain. That was excruciating.

It's one thing to say the relationship is over and another to take the actions necessary to separate. As we split our belongings in preparation for moving into separate homes, it was gut-wrenching, and I questioned my decisions every step of the way. I moved like a robot as I closed one chapter of my life and began preparing to write the next as a single mother of three. The overwhelming guilt I felt nearly kept me from leaving, but I knew after years of trying to repair a love that was once so strong that it was time.

I was riddled with anxiety and stress about the future. How could I care for three children on my own? Would I ever find love again? Who would ever want to love a single mom of three? Could I ever be in a healthy relationship with their dad even if we weren't together?

I've been a single mom now for three years, and I've found love again — this time with myself. I pour love into my children every day by listening to the things they love and supporting them in every way I can. I don't always get this mother thing right, especially with a teenager, but I do not doubt in my mind and heart that they know I love them and would do anything in the world for them. Loving myself has also shown them the importance of loving themselves and making sure they know their self-worth. It's difficult when the little ones ask why I'm not with their father, but I reassure them that no matter what, they are loved by their mommy and daddy, and that in itself is a blessing.

What I've learned is that dimming my light to allow another to shine is the most toxic thing I did to myself. It wasn't the toxicity from the relationship that ultimately caused me to leave and why I'm single today. It was what I found when I allowed my light to shine its brightest. I tuned into my spirituality again and this time deepened my understanding of my link to everyone and everything in the world around me, and in turn, the universe began opening doors I never even knew existed. I launched Mindful Living With Z in 2019, during the grips of my relationship woes, and I began healing while working with others on their healing journeys. By 2022, I had taught and attuned over 100 women of color as Reiki practitioners. In 2023, I hosted my first spiritual retreat in Puerto Rico and continued my healing journey with 10 other women. This year, I'll return with another group. I am living my dream of working with women to heal themselves, their families, their loved ones, and the world. This work is so much bigger than me, so I continue humbly on this guided path, welcoming all I meet along the way.

Still, I truly believe the love of my life is out there. I do not stress about it and don't let society or family and friends define what my journey should look like. Maybe I'll meet my soulmate in my 50s or my 60s. I am in no rush, and that is because I love myself so much that I don't feel lonely. A partner to share my life with would be the ultimate icing on the cake at this point. So, I keep my heart open to it while I live each day in the present moment.

The beautiful thing is that I'm not alone. There are so many women taking the lead in their lives, whether they are mothers or not. There is something quite powerful about watching your mother take on the world and succeed. I watched my mother do it, and I pray my children learn from seeing me love myself and how that self-love directly pours into the love I have for them.