His baby smile lit up the room. Every night I would sing to him and sometimes pretend to fall asleep on the floor next to his crib, so he could see me and feel safe. After hearing his gentle snores, I would double check the locks on my front door and settle in for a restless sleep. The feeling of being his only protector was daunting. In the morning, he would greet me with another huge smile and I often wondered if he knew that he was the source of my strength and my happiness. I became an expert at showering while he was mesmerized with Sesame Street. Memories of running out of the bathroom in a towel as fast as I could to see if he was still safe and sound. The long commute to work, and days spent missing and worrying about him.
My soon-to-be ex-husband called and the tears streamed down my face. Sobs escaped from my mouth, my face contorted in anguish and loss. I turned to look at my son and he was no longer smiling. Instead, his tiny little eyebrows were furrowed as he reached out to me. That action marked the last day of tears spent over the breakup of my marriage. I was astonished that he could read the emotions in my face. I decided to be strong for him and protect him from my pain.
He was sick with a high fever. I was that mom who had to stay home again. The sofa bed was opened and we cuddled together until he got better. A call from my mom, some great advice, and the day spent worrying alone. I didn’t have the friends and support network I have today in suburbia. I was a single mom in a small neighborhood of new couples.
My car broke down on the highway with the two of us in it. A call to my ex-husband to come help us. Pride swallowed. How long would my car last? My ex-husband went home to his new house, his new girlfriend and his new boat. There were rare times that I wouldn’t have enough money for groceries. I didn’t tell my parents but instead asked my ex-husband for extra money. I felt pathetic.
It was a typical morning workday. The dead bolt on my front door was locked but the lock on my door knob was not. How did that happen? The next day it happened again. Then the third night, home alone, my sweet child sleeping, there was the sound of a window sliding up. Someone was coming into our home. I couldn’t think clearly and called my former brother-in-law. The man who tried to break in, thought someone was in the house with me and fled. I went around the house checking windows and doors while on the phone. Eventually sleep came. How did I miss it? The next morning I woke up and found the kitchen screen out and on the ground, the window wide open.
The police came. Marks on my door. Someone was trying to pop and unlock my door knob every night, but the dead bolt caused him to fail. That’s why he tried the kitchen window. He wasn’t coming in to rob me. It was something more personal, more sinister, and the police told me to get an alarm system. He had been watching me, and he knew I was a single mom. My landlord said no to the alarm system. I had to move out and found myself in another state with an even longer commute. It didn’t matter, I did what I had to do. I was a single mom and my son’s protector.
Six years after my divorce, I found love again. Battle worn and weary I took a leap of faith. I discarded all of the negative voices in my head and chose my son’s stepfather carefully. A new baby then closed our circle, my little boy became a big brother and lots of lessons learned on how to become a mother who could stop and enjoy motherhood. A gift to feel so blessed.
He is nineteen years old now. The bond we have is like no other. He smiles at me as he says his quick goodbye, embraces me in a bear hug, and moves into his college apartment. I also smile. I have done my job and I have protected him. He is safe and now I can breathe.
If you are a single mom, have faith in your strength and resilience. I believe in you.