(SINGLE) MOMS THE WORD: A CHAT WITH ANNA VON FRANCES
ANNA VON FRANCES is a globe-trotting Canadian ex-pat, currently residing beach-side in Mexico with her daughter, Luna. She’s out to raise a good person, dismantle the patriarchy, and rewrite the narrative about single motherhood – all while healing past traumas and leading with love; self-love, to be precise. How does she manage it all (while looking like such an effortless badass in the process)?
We caught up with her for a (virtual) chat to find out.
Photos by: Jessica Blaine Smith
Give us a short back story of your entry into motherhood and where you’re at now.
This is THE story of my life and looking back, it’s always evolving. The Cole’s Notes of it are: I grew up with a single mom by myself and always wanted to have a big, messy, close, loving family. I never met anyone to marry, spent my 20s building a career like a good little Canadian feminist. In my 30s I thought of having one alone but it just felt so lonely. I didn’t want to end up a single mom – because I believed the propaganda about the sad, lonely, broke single mom like everyone else. I came to terms with wandering the world alone forevermore. Sold my stuff and left Toronto for good in August 2015. 6 months later I had a one night stand with a tattoo artist in Antigua, Guatemala and got pregnant. I didn’t like him. I didn’t like his character, or have any particular affinity for him at all. I was going to have an abortion – I had come to terms with, and embraced that I was not going to be a mom. I was Canadian, we choose, I didn’t have to be stuck with a kid. But then he talked me out of it by putting his big close Latin family on the table in front of me. I had a baby with a stranger in order to get the family of my dreams. Skip forward 7 months and I was packing my stuff to leave under cover of night, driving over the mountain range that separates Guatemala from Mexico to have my daughter alone in Chiapas. He and his family turned out to be incredibly toxic and abusive in a way they write fiction about and having no real ties to Guatemala, no support of my own, they took over my whole framework. No one would help me, because no one knew me. But, I had my daughter, fought suicide, immediately got so much pro help from 12 step meetings online to private therapists to acupuncture for depression in pregnancy, I deserve a Master’s in recovery at this point. And from rock bottom, I built the biggest little family of joyful rebellion you ever did see. That’s the story in a nutshell.
How many stamps has Luna accumulated in her passport so far? What lessons have you taught her through travel?
We’ve been to 9 countries together: Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam but oceans are her thing – she’s put her body in so many epic parts of different oceans – Indian Ocean in Bali, North Atlantic in Newfoundland, South Pacific in Latin America, and the Caribbean; never the Southern Ocean but she has a lifetime to get that one. The only lesson I think Luna has learned so far from travel is that people are people. She’s been in daycares in Thailand where only a few people spoke English and then flew to Mexico city where it was all Spanish in the same two weeks and never missed a beat – kids basically all watch Moana and Dora and Paw Patrol all over the world so it’s like they speak the same language no matter what. Luna has taught me how to travel in a whole new VIP way that I never experienced alone. I am the student in many ways, not the teacher.
Your mom-life may not be typical, but it’s all kinds of extraordinary. Walk us through a day in the life of Anna and Luna.
Our lives are actually pretty boring. At present I am a small town suburban mom living in a planned community in a town of 45,000 in Mexico. I know every cab driver (and their kids) in town. We wake up around 7am and I make pancakes for Luna which she shares with Spooky (our new kitten) and Spooky’s boyfriend Chuck Norris, who just appears in the house no matter how hard I try to get rid of him. I walk her to Kids Club (a Mexican Montessori daycare a couple blocks from the house that Luna calls, “Crips Club”) for 9:00AM. I go to the gym one block from my house for HIIT class three times a week and work from home. I pick up Luna at 2PM on the scooter – she’s the only kid her age with a helmet in town. She usually wants tortillas with beans and an hour on her tablet. Then we run errands or go to the beach – on Wednesdays they do movies on the beach closest to us and that serves our need to socialize. We eat at home or out – the restaurant at the corner has a kids playground in the garden so it’s a win for both. We are in bed by 8:30pm –no one tells you how the heat will rob your energy living at the beach. Weekends I brunch with friends and Luna has surf lessons. Every now and then I go dancing and get all Hangover 2 party hardy, but for the most part it’s pretty boring. The only thing that stands out about us is that we live in a partially outdoor home at the beach, so there’s a lot of nudity at home and we forget our shoes a lot.
Asking about the biggest challenges is a bit of a redundant question for moms, but what would you say is currently testing your strength these days?
Luna is going through a renaissance right now and is extra fun and just wants to cuddle and be tickled by her mom, who she thinks is the coolest person on earth (other than Elsa). So I can’t really complain. But I think the thing that has been nagging me for over a year now is that I really want to give her a sibling, but I am not jazzed on another pregnancy alone. I not only have no partner but now that I have self-love and standards, let’s just say the pool is so small you need a magnifying glass to see it. I love our life and I’m not thirsty for a man at all, but I want Luna to have a brother or a sister. This has been heavy on my mind and heart for a year now. But, we have just started the process of looking into adopting for next year when I am fully naturalized as Mexican and I might just go for it alone (with an older kid) – still this is the shit thing about our situation: we are a powerful duo, but not a group – I really want her to feel like she is part of a team.
What’s a change you’d like to see in the way society views / communicates with single mothers?
There is a false narrative about being a single mom that is so deep seeded that even I believed a lot of the bullshit of it even having been raised by a single mom myself. Like for instance, that the woman chose poorly. This is a common one, and the reality is any of us could become single moms in any instant because partners could die, or leave – And they leave a lot. 50% of children are born without dads in the world – the highest number in the history of the human species, and none of the western countries are much better (20% in Canada) – I want people to understand we make up half the parenting community – we are not some side dish. Finally, the biggest one is just realizing altogether that women raise children mostly on their own all over the world regardless of their marital status. I feel we give way too much credit to men who provide less than half most of the time and then we hold women responsible for children they were abandoned with. This is what I mean by “the narrative” and I refuse to perpetuate it. The real story is that single moms are the strongest women on earth, and the biggest threat to the patriarchy.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself while on this journey of unconventional motherhood?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. I am so casual and natural about being a mom that it’s impossible to mom-shame me, although a few have tried. One of the beautiful things about not planning your child and also having her in such a crazy scary way, is that the bar is set really low. Nobody expected us to survive, let alone thrive. The sentiment is “wow, your kid is so amazing” – there is so much shock from people when they see how well mannered, smart and happy my child is. Everyone expects she’s gonna be all ruined from being homeless / traveling the world for a year / not having a dad. And there she is, all giggles and good manners, killing the game.
What’s your best piece of advice for single mamas out there?
I don’t really have any – single moms usually already have it so locked down there’s nothing I can add. Every single mom is reading this, nodding their heads like, “yes girl, preach.”
What is your approach to relationships / love now?
This is a hard one to answer because at the same time that I became a single mom, I also worked diligently on codependency recovery and love addiction. Now, I have self-love for the first time in my life and with real self-love comes more fulfilling relationships – my relationship with my daughter, myself, my family and friends are all a lot better. In terms of dating, it’s easy to do as a single mom if you just want to have fun (which a lot of single moms are fine with). But, if you are like me and want to expand your tribe with a partner – it’s hard. Men, in most cultures, are coddled to the point of nausea, and once you start teaching children things, it’s no longer fun to teach grown men anymore. I’m also a highly accomplished woman with no debt who’s visited over 30 countries and started her first business in high school – a lot of men just wilt in the face of it. I’m still hopeful, though. I believe there are really amazing men in the world, I am lucky enough to be friends with many, but I’m also not holding my breath either – I have a pretty full life, filled with a lot of love and companionship. I’m open to love and more children, I’ve put it out there, but I’m not desperate enough to settle.
What kind of person do you hope Luna will become?
Luna is already the person she will be I think. She’s smart and caring and incredibly independent. She is more comfortable with her beauty than I was and has already found a balance between being tough and feminine that still eludes me most days. Luna is very effortless in life, she doesn’t second guess or get butt hurt easy but she is also emotional and shy. The only thing I want to give her is a strong sense of self love and a clear understanding of where to draw the line with empathy and forgiveness. I want her to live with integrity and compassion which means I need to keep my game tight so she can have a good role model to look up to.
What are some resources / communities you look to for support? We’d love to share them with all the mamas out there who feel isolated and alone.
There are SO MANY!!! Thank you for asking.
Facebook: there are a couple of great single mama group like Single Moms DO Travel, Secret Mamas, Single Moms By Choice. Internet: SLAA – Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous (international), Codependency Recovery (international online) – they also sometimes have WhatsApp groups that I found really helpful. Instagram: @Mumpacktravel @momdrogynous @trippinmomma @simonelovell – for mom goals to keep you thriving.
Anna Von Frances can be found on IG/ FBK/ Youtube @TravelMamaAnnaVon. Sign Up for her newsletter for tips, tricks and discounts for traveling mamas here: www.travelmamaannavon.com
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