Today is Halloween. This morning, I threw my child out of the car with her costume tail in hand while other moms flocked to the schoolyard to watch the costume parade. It was as heartbreaking as the violin recital I missed last month. I cried more than the first time I was traveling for work and missed my daughter’s first lost tooth. The lump in my throat was the same today as it has been for the last 4 years of doing this alone.
It doesn’t get easier, this single mom thing.
When you have babies, everyone will say how much easier it will be when the kids are old enough to help out.
Everyone is lying…or, at least, wrong.
When you have elementary-aged kids, everyone will say that your kids won’t want you around as much soon so it will get easier.
Babies turn into kids, whose emotions need as much attending to as the diapers once did. Kids turn into teenagers whose roller coaster of hormones deplete your soul more than infant sleep patterns and feeding schedules. Teenagers turn into young adults whose journey to self-realization will rob you of your savings, your time, and your peace.
There will always be budgeting. There will always be work or the struggle to find work. There will always be seemingly immediate needs. There will always be emotions. There will always be cleaning. There will always be cooking or meal planning. There will always be more things to do than there are hours in the day.
And, most pernicious to the potential peace of single parenthood, there will always be the hole that needs explaining but defies the lexicon of the most learned parent: Where is my dad? Why did he leave? Was it my fault? Is he ever coming back? Does he love me?
That never gets easier. That, above all, is the heaviest burden, and one that is grappled with at every stage of life.
Really, you can insert any scenario inherent in the struggle of single parenthood, and some “wise” soul will bestow upon you an unsolicited, platitudinous gem about how things will one day be easier. And, they will have no idea how wrong they are.
It never gets easier. If you are a single parent, you already know this. So, I am here to tell you that it is okay not to feel comforted by these well-intentioned promises of succeeding serenity.
That urge you feel to punch Susan in the face when she tells you that she knows what it is like to be a single parent because her husband works a lot - that never goes away. That’s ok.
To find yourself in the situation of being a single parent is always going to be overwhelming. It is normal for you to feel that way. To have the life of one (or more) of God’s precious children dependent upon you and only you, it is more than one person can grapple with in the rare moments of single-parent solitude.
You don’t need to accept the placating sentiments of others. Being a single parent IS hard. It is ridiculously, unfathomably, stiflingly difficult. It is alright for you to ignore the mistaken masses, and to indulge in your own assessment of your situation.
But hear me, single moms, your kids know you love them. They know that you wish you were at the parade. They know that you are hurting because you wanted to find the time to cook their favorite meal. They know (even if their boundary-testing behavior doesn’t always reveal it) that you try, day in and day out, to fill a void that someone else created in their lives. They see Susan with her husband and her platitudes, and they know that Susan could never understand how hard it is to do this truly alone. They see you. They love you. So, go ahead and love yourself.
It will never get easier. You will never figure it all out. And, that is ok. It is ok to recognize that you were dealt a crappy hand and that you can find joy in the rubbish without convincing yourself that someday this will all be less burdensome. In fact, perhaps recognizing that happiness does exist now, in this overwhelming mess, is more realistic, healthier, and attainable than making happiness dependent upon the changing and unpredictable future.
Being a single mom means being superhuman. Susan and her friends will never understand. So, accept it, even when it is overwhelming. Celebrate it, even when you feel like you are doing it all wrong. Go ahead and love yourself for the freakin’ hero that you are.
No, it doesn’t get easier. But, the truth is, we can learn to take it easier on ourselves.