After my cancer diagnosis, I decided to go with the flow in life—and right now I choose to be single. No, I’m not lonely, sad, bitter, or struggling. I’m at peace with my already perfect family dynamic.

By Christine Coppa
Illustration by Emma Darvick

I dove into the dating world when my 12-year-old son was around 2. I quickly learned it's like a second job. You need to find a sitter, pay the sitter, and be home at a certain time to relieve the sitter. There are a lot of requirements—just to get out the door. It's work. Now is a good time to remind you, my son's father left when I was pregnant and plays no role in my boy's life. No every other weekend off or twice-a-week dinners here (the majority of my single mom friends have this schedule). I'm on 24/7. And it's fine—it's been that way forever; it's all I know, and all my boy, knows.

But it's not easy to find someone who is on the same page as me. I dated the same guy for over two years and fell into an alternate reality. When I was with him, I got to hang up my single mom hat and let loose. He saw me as a woman and not a mom. That was a big problem, because I am a mom; Mom is my most important role. It was like pulling teeth getting him to do anything with us and that was a deal-breaker.

After dating that guy—and getting over that guy—I realized that finding a man willing to be all in was what I wanted. I did not want an expensive meal, to go clubbing, or a random hookup. I did not want to stay out until 3 a.m., sleep at his place, be another name in an iPhone. I also definitely didn’t want to fulfill my mom duties the next day with help from Gatorade and Tylenol.

I went through a holding period after that relationship, but it also made me change my perspective on dating as a single mom. Right now, I’m not actively dating, and I'm comfortable with my choice to be single.

I’ve found ways to happily occupy my time since then, including getting a puppy. No, the puppy was not a substitute for the guy. I grew up with a golden retriever and I always wanted one for my son, too. Once the 8-week-old blond furball entered our world, I was obviously distracted and busy crate-training her. It was so fun to have her in our life; she made our family complete. Then it just clicked: I didn't need a guy to create the generic-looking happy family—and I realized that’s what I had been looking for.

And then in the summer of 2014, I got a surprise cancer diagnosis. I had mistaken springtime allergies for a tumor in my neck. It may sound nuts, but my thyroid cancer symptoms were similar to seasonal allergies. It turned out I needed two neck surgeries and radiation treatment—that ordeal took place over a one-year span. But after losing my thyroid—a vital hormone gland that plays a major role in metabolism, heart health, bone growth, mood, body temp, and the general development of the human body—I had a new and strange normal to deal with. Dating was not even a blip on my radar. I was all-consumed with my son, my dog, my health, my lifetime cancer medication regime, and work—all this as a single parent.

After my cancer diagnosis, especially, I just decided to go with the flow in life. I got very busy with work as a writer and editor. My son joined an elite soccer team that practiced three nights a week, with games and tournaments every weekend. Between working, managing my son's school and soccer schedule, our dog, and home-life (cooking, cleaning, bills, and everything under the sun), I didn't declare "I'm not dating!" I just honestly didn't think about it. I enjoyed reading, watching Netflix (Ozark, OITNB anyone?), hiking with our dog, and just laying low if we didn't have plans.

Single life works for me. I am one of those people that can dine alone and see a film on my own. I like afternoons in a book store, the dog park, or having a glass of wine at the bar. I'm not afraid to be alone and learn about myself. Codependency isn't in my vocabulary. I also enjoy hanging with girlfriends and family. It's nice to connect with people that matter and not roll the dice on someone and, ugh, get stuck on a bad date, at least for me it is.

I don’t daydream about a future wedding. Instead, I daydream about my son heading to college in six years and me jetting off to Europe for my own rendition of Eat Pray Love or Under the Tuscan Sun. The latter remains one of my favorite movies.

There's this notion that single moms need a man, partner, or hookup. That we are lonely, sad, bitter, and struggling. This is not my reality. I feel satisfied with my life and how I'm raising our family. I'm blessed to be in cancer remission. I'm blessed to have a smart, kind boy, and loyal pup. I'm also keenly aware life changes in a split second. I’m not saying I’ll never date again, but I know it's better to approach it at my own pace and in my own time.

As for now, we are a family comprised of Mom, Kid, and Dog. We live in an apartment. We love each other. No matter what happens down the road, we are enough. Anyone who joins our crew is just an addition to our already perfect family dynamic.

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