I imagined parenting to be difficult and exhausting yet rewarding. I imagined sharing my children’s milestones as well as parenting milestones with my partner. I pictured us watching our baby take her first steps, planted in our living room as we gazed at each other with proud smiles. I imagined sharing the duties of diaper changing, homework help, meal planning and many other responsibilities. I imagined that putting our children in sports meant that we would both partake in the duties (yes, including concession stand volunteering). I imagined two incomes for all the expenses, sports, daycare, back to school shopping, etc. I imagined that it would be hard, but what I never imagined was doing it all without a partner.
I’ve always had a pretty steady career path ever since my oldest was young (she’s now eight!). I feel like the struggle most single parents may face is the healthy balance of work and life. It’s hard to excel at your career as a parent, however it almost seems impossible to excel as a single parent. Do I show my boss that I’m capable of flexing my schedule to work above and beyond or do I make it to daycare on time so I don’t get charged another $20 for being late ($1/per minute PEOPLE!)? Is it work/life balance or isn’t work typically apart of life?
So, how do you find balance? Over the past seven years, I fully understood the financial needs of my family, but in order to meet the financial needs, I needed to put forth my best work, best effort and best mindset. The financial stability of my family solely depends on me.
To be honest, sometimes all of my “bests” weren’t there. Sometimes, I forgot to show up to school performances and “muffins with mommy.” I’ve even forgotten pajama day at school. Oh, yea… those health forms? Let me turn those in three weeks too late. I’m guilty of using my TV as a form of babysitting because I had nothing left in me. I’ve had silent crying in the closet moments, but I’ve also had moments of being so overwhelmed with the daily demands. Those moments when I can’t hide my face that’s covered in pain, fear and doubt. Those moments when I felt little arms wrap around me with a warm little cheek pressed into mine, followed by a little girl’s comforting voice that says, “It’s okay, mommy.”
At times I grew bitter at my Ex. The resentment that filled my mind only showed it’s nasty face when I was trying to live my life. The kids and I could be playing and having a great time at a park, swinging, giggling and laughing… when all of a sudden the resentment would hit me. Why wasn’t he here to share this with me? Why do my children have to miss out on having two parents? Often times, when this moment would hit…it would be hard for me to crawl out of the darkness. There were many times when I would dream up my future if he had just stuck around. Sometimes, I was so envious of the people who did have partners to share parenting with.
Single parenting is that little voice inside of your head telling you to stop asking for help. It’s a voice I struggled to confront and mute for years. The voice tells you that you should be independent, you shouldn’t be so reliant on others. That little voice brings shame, it tells you little lies to make you feel like you’re not enough and you’re not worthy of love. That little voice can sometimes be loud, so loud it’ll be hard to sleep. That voice can make or break your day. That voice, sucks. That voice is a lie.
I know many of my friends who have partners struggle with the feat of “doing it all” as a parent- why would I, single handedly, think that I could accomplish saving the world on a Tuesday?!
I can’t make it to volunteering at school as often as I’d like. I can’t always mow my lawn even when it looks like we are a home plopped in the middle of a tall grassy field. I can’t always remember signing every single form to return back to daycare. I miss some appointments. I forget about planned girls night out with my close friends. I’m not always the most patient mother. I’m not always “present” when I’m home, at work or out on the town kid-free. I’m not always my best, but I can reassure everyone that I try my best, every single day.
Guess what? Single parents can ask for help. We can put efforts into curating a supportive village (it takes a village). When you receive that hand that offers help, grab it and hold on tight. Build trust with them and share your reality with them. I’m telling you, when you find those people, they make doing things “alone” not feel so alone. We can create boundaries for others including that little voice inside our heads. We can keep fighting for our own dreams to show our children that life takes grit. Sometimes that grit shows up in different forms for different people. We can fight for a healthy co-parenting relationship. We can date without feeling guilty (this is for a different article at a much later time). We can allow ourselves grace, love and dreams. We can allow ourselves to be honest with everyone, including ourselves.
I’ve learned that single parenting is not a crutch, my children shouldn’t be “deprived” of the life that I once had imagined for them. I can’t be deprived of the life that I had once imagined for myself. Sometimes things don’t work out as we had imagined. Tenacity is learned through those tough dust-off-your-knees and get up again moments.
My life is single parenting, and it’s not going to hold me back from choosing happy.