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The strange double life of being a divorced mom

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

No one tells you about this weird part of being a single mom

Lately, I've been hanging out with a guy who has no kids.

I guess you could call it dating, but I'm not sure that word captures what is really going on. Prior to my busted marriage and the birth of my daughter, dating was fun and flirtatious and consuming. Now it's just something that I do when I need a little respite from my life.

On our last outing, my date and I played pool and drank beer. He touched the small of my back as he walked me to my car, and my heart picked up speed. Not only did I flutter with attraction, my pulse hammered because I didn't know what he would think of me — and my motherhood.

I didn't know what he'd think if he ever saw the stretch marks that snake across my chest, from where I breastfed my daughter.

I didn't know what he'd think of the tiny puddle of loose skin on my abdomen, from where I carried a 9-pound baby.

I didn't know what he'd think of the way my heart beats for my child, and whether he'd find that heart too crowded for him to make a home there, too.

My date kissed my cheek as we stood beside my car, and he asked me what I was doing the next day. I didn't know how to explain that I was going to library craft time, where I would dance with my daughter to The Wiggles and enjoy it immensely. I still don't know how that part of my soul can dance a dance with the part of my soul that loves beer and shooting pool and making out with a person who is, essentially, a stranger. In that moment, I didn't know how to invite a stranger into the home that, in my heart, I share with my daughter.

Sometimes, I'm not so sure I want to. The stretch marks, the puddle of skin and the home inside my heart reserved for my daughter alone — they are all sacred. They're what turned me from a girl into a woman. And this time, dating throws into stark contrast that something inside of me feels like I'm living a double life. I'm a woman and a mother. Dating makes me feel like a carefree girl, and I'm not so sure I ever can be again.

And in this world, where the values and energy of carefree girls are beloved in dating circles, I'm not sure what a man without children will think of me.

As he waved goodbye, my date said, "I'm glad you dodged a bullet with your miscarriage — otherwise, we wouldn't be together tonight." In that moment, I realized that my double life has given me a strength that I never had before I became a woman and a mother. No, I thought. You are not, nor will you ever be, worthy of entering the sacredness of my life as a mother.

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