On "Single-Mommin' It" … But Not Really

My husband is a surgeon. Which means he's not around much. When he is, he's the greatest partner and daddy ever. There's Tickle Monster, Lego creations, and freshly baked muffins. But often, my boys and I "go it alone."

I take a lot of pride in carting my three kids around town by myself. I got a triple stroller (and then, just as quickly, got rid of that awful monstrosity). I invest in scooters and balance bikes and two-wheelers so my older two can transport themselves to the nearest playground while I push the baby. And when they're melting down, I strap on the baby carrier, even though my youngest weighs nearly 25 pounds, and push those big boys in the double.

Sometimes I rely on the kindness of strangers—to help me through a doorway, lift that hefty double stroller up the three steps to my front door, or keep an eye on a kid while I settle a restaurant bill. My morning showers are routinely punctuated with the shrieking sound of boys waking up well before they should ("Mooooooommmmmm!!!! Is it morning yet?!?!"). I fix things, pump air into tires, replace batteries, parallel park, shovel snow, take out the trash—and splinters, cook, clean…

I say I'm "single-mommin' it." But I'm not.

No matter how often I'm on my own with my kids, no matter what percentage of their daily care and well-being is my responsibility, no matter how overwhelmed I may feel on any given day, I will never understand what it means to be a single mom. Because those women are really going it alone.

We flock to the playgrounds as often as weather permits—sure, partly to get our little Tasmanian devils out of the house, and definitely to tire them out before naps, but also (maybe more so?) for the companionship of other neighborhood mamas.

We sign up for parenting classes and breastfeeding support groups and make play dates and join teams and arrange carpools and create chat rooms and websites and blogs—all to connect.

We've all realized—we can't do this parenting thing alone.

When I'm pushing that triple stroller, or loading and unloading three little guys in and out of our minivan, when I'm throwing food at my kids during dinner hour, struggling to keep up with their needs, when Saturday mornings are spent trying to think of ways to engage my kids that won't drive me crazy, when I feel trapped in the house because there is ALWAYS someone napping (but never all at the same time), when it all just feels too damn hard…when I'm feeling most sorry for myself…I stop. And remember that at the end of the day—or maybe not until the end of the week—my darling husband will resurface to tell me how awesome I am. To praise me for "doing it all." To give me that critical emotional support, even if he can't always be there to lend a hand.

It must be so lonely to know not just that your partner may come home late—and long after the kids are already in bed—but that he's not coming home AT ALL. That being "on your own" is not just a temporary state while you anxiously await the high-pitched sound of a text message from Daddy that he's finished rounding at the hospital and on his way home. That you're all your kids have. And oh yeah, you have to support your family financially, too.

So no, I'm not single-mommin' it. Not even close. But here's a shout-out to those of you who are. You may be younger. Or older. Your kids may resemble someone you loved and lost. Or maybe someone you never loved, or even met, at all. You have to have all the answers—not just to questions from your kids, but from strangers—some well-meaning, some downright nosy. You don't get the luxury of saying, "That's Daddy's job…" about whatever task or project you don't feel like doing. You never get to sleep in while someone else makes pancakes for breakfast. You change every diaper; you comfort every night terror. You don't get a sick day.

Who gives you relief? Who do you vent to? Who do you instinctively call when you crush another car's bumper as you pull out of your parking spot (like I did just this morning)? How do you have the energy to give your kids everything they need? Who loves your children as much as you do? Who tells you you're beautiful? Even in your sweatpants?

This is my ode to you, Single Mother. If you're smiling, if your hair is washed, if you made it to the end of another day—hell, if your kids are clothed…you deserve a medal.

And I'll meet you at the playground anytime.

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