How Do Single Moms Do It?
November 8, 2011
Today at the park my married mom friend, Regan, said: “Whenever I get to sleep-in, I think of you and I want to come over in the morning and get JD so you can sleep.” She has two girls under 4 and her husband trades off with her so she can sleep-in some days. I never get to sleep-in, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m used to it. I was even used to it on Sunday when the time change had Mr. JD up at 4:30 AM. “Can I watch Cars 2 and have some cereal.” Guess who watched Cars 2 and ate cereal in my bed at 4:30 AM? Yeah. (JD and I wore Cars shirts to Cars 2. So cute!)
Friends and society as a whole tend to ask one question of single moms over and over, only it’s phrased in a way that sounds like a pat on the back: “How do you do it?” or “I don’t know how you do it!” For me, I know nothing else. I moved into a one-bedroom apartment at the end of my pregnancy. JD and I always had our place. I was always in charge. I have family and friends, everyone does. I am the parent—black and white. Single motherhood, to me, is not some extreme task I am overcoming day in and day out. I am not just getting by, or rolling with the punches. This is my story. It’s not sad, hard, awful, unforgiving, stressful, ridiculous, unmanageable. I own it and I choose to parent the best I can. I do it because I’m a mom and when your kid is up at 4:30 AM you have two options: Get him to go back to sleep or get him comfortable so you can fake sleep until at least the sun comes up (#2 works in our house). But on this same note, I know why people think I’m doing something extraordinary when it comes to parenting alone and it's because they’re not.
Take Allana Harkin who blogged, “I’ve never been more dirty or frazzled. I swear by 8:30pm each night I looked like feral cat. One night I ate a rotisserie chicken standing over the sink. The whole chicken, down to the bone, possibly including some of the tinier bones. I also might have been crying. Scratch that. I was definitely crying.” This was inspired after her husband, a very present father spent most of the summer away on business. More from Harkin here. (Sort of obsessed now.)
I never feel dirty, lol. I usually shower twice a day. I either lock JD in the bathroom with me and a tub of Legos or put a movie on while I take a speed shower. I don’t eat over the sink. I eat at the table with JD or we go out for dinner. I don’t cry. Lying, I do cry. But I don’t cry about caring for JD. That is the easy part. I cry because I’m human and sometimes everyone needs to cry. As for feeling frazzled...yes, from the beginning of time, though. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I totally respect, dig, love Harkin’s episode with semi-single motherhood. It reminds me I'm doing OK. Hugs to Harkin. Us single moms support you!
A few months ago Uncle Brian was in between apartments and he asked me if he could “crash on my couch.” I couldn’t say no to my little brother. He stayed for a month and I didn’t allow myself to get used to him because I knew he would leave. I enjoyed his cooking and our late-night conversations about life and politics. I took showers without a little person on the tile floor, knowing he wasn’t climbing the bar stools. But, I never relied on my brother to care for JD. Every evening I made sure he ate. I helped him with his shower. We read books. Uncle Brian went about his life. He worked and went out with friends. Sometimes he joined us at the park and other times he took JD out alone. But, I always anticipated his departure. Maybe I'm a little too used to people leaving. Maybe I know I have to take care of us. So, I told myself Uncle Brian would leave and I would no longer have a buddy to chat with after JD went to sleep. Soon, my son would play in the bathroom while I bathed and shaved my legs. I reminded myself of these things so I wouldn’t lose it when Uncle Brian left and he did. He rented a home thirty-five minutes from my place with his buddies. JD and I are back to just the two of us status. And I’m OK, because I have to be and it’s all I know, and maybe I'm scared to know anything else. Humans adapt. It's fight or flight, really.
Single moms, how do you do it? Please share.