Surviving Single Motherhood

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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.

The Online Dating Profile of a Single Mother

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Back in my carefree days, you know before motherhood, I had a profile on a dating website. I spent some time ricocheting around my city on dates with a random and quirky selection of individuals, but I never found lasting love.

Well… fast forward to present day.

Finding myself single again, but this time with a toddler in tow, I recently logged back into my old OK Cupid profile. I barely recognized the girl I saw there, but I liked her immediately. She was witty, sparky and cheekily confident. I felt a pang of loss for the personality and promise that I saw peeking through the lines of her profile and wondered how different it would look today. I tried to tweak the profile to my current situation, but realized it was hopeless – every aspect of it needed changing. Portraying myself as a party animal would be false advertising, and, unable to shake the image of a disgruntled would-be suitor calling the Better Business Bureau on my defective product, I decided to scrap the old profile and start again.

Except, how the hell does a single mom market her brand? I didn’t even know what I was looking for, but I had even less of an idea of what I was offering. Then I had a thought – what if I was just 100% honest? Given that a completely honest dating profile is as rare as hen’s teeth at the best of times, I couldn’t help but wonder how my real life would compare to the “Facebook” life that so many of us show to the world.  Instead of putting my best foot forward, what if I stuck it in my mouth (as I so often do) and told the undignified, unadorned truth?

So here it is:

My self-summary:
I’m a breastfeeding, toy fixing, story reading mom of… Oh wait.  You mean, you want to hear about me?  Just me?  Not how I relate to a miniature dictator?  Wow. Where do I start?

I’m not as old as I feel at 6 o’clock on a Sunday morning, but my youthful endeavors are, if not behind me, then certainly losing ground.  I’m up for anything and love spontaneity, as long as it fits around nap time.

I have overinflated body confidence.  I watched first hand as it performed the types of miracles you see in bad sex shows, except I used a small human in lieu of ping-pong balls.  No matter what size my jeans are, it’s impossible not to respect the hell out of it after that.  I’ll expect you to do the same.

What am I doing with my life?
Which life?  I have two.  In the first, I’m a professional woman who wears ambitious clothes and takes no crap.  In the second, I not only take a lot of crap, but frequently wear it too.  Occasionally, I’m rewarded with a glimpse into a third life, where I can drink cocktails and pretend that I’m not ridiculously excited about being allowed out of the house after 6 pm.

What am I really good at?
Making a house look tidy in 15 minutes.  Just don’t open that cupboard.  Or use the bathroom.
Reasoning with the chronically absurd.
Counting backwards.  Specifically, from 8 pm.  Right now, it’s 5 hours and 13 minutes until bedtime.
Hiding the fact that I’m eating chocolate.
Multitasking.  I said multiTASKING, not multiCOMPLETING, OK?
Disguising carrots as other food.

The first things people usually notice about me?
My back, as I chase after a toddler.
Small person, big voice. Applies to me AND the toddler. Well, where do you think he got it from?!

On a typical Friday night I am…
Fighting and losing an internal battle about whether to have another glass of wine.
Laughing bitterly at the idea that weekends mean time off, while debating whether to scale Kilimanjaro or just tackle its replica that resides in my laundry room.
Not being one bit jealous of all the people on Facebook having mini-breaks and crazy nights out.
Looking forward to quality time with the toddler.
Conveniently forgetting how much toddlers love to sabotage quality time, usually via the use of their ridiculously sharp teeth or their own bodily excretions.

You should message me if…
You don’t mind never being a priority. EVER.
You prefer your coitus infrequent and interrupted.
You’re bored with having a social life anyway.

The most private thing I’m willing to admit?
I’d prefer to eat popcorn watching drama unfold on Facebook than watching drama unfold in a movie.
Oh, you wanted something sexily private?  Sorry, I lost my coyness during the gassy explosion of hormones that was pregnancy.

The profile has been up for 3 weeks.  Strangely, I’ve had no takers, though I live in hope.

Related post: An Open Apology To My Kids On The Subject Of My Divorce

Happy Father’s Day, Single Moms

solo-mom Mother and child via Shutterstock

The other day as I was picking up my son from preschool, a little girl from his class tugged on my sweater and asked, in front of my son Eddie, “Where is Eddie’s daddy?” Without missing a beat, I smiled and matter-of-factly gave what has become my standard reply, “He doesn’t have a daddy.” The little girl stood, processing this impossible factoid, and before I could snag Eddie’s lunchbox from his cubby and dash away from the impending stream of potentially awkward questions, the young Barbara Walters asked, “Did his daddy DIE?”

“No,” I responded. “Eddie just doesn’t have a daddy. Some families have mommies and daddies, and some have just mommies, or just daddies, or maybe just grandparents. Eddie has a mommy and a sister, and that’s his family.”

This statement rendered me a total oddity of nature in the eyes of this 5-year-old girl, who had, as I was discovering much to my chagrin, been fully educated on all things bee and bird related. She smooshed up her face in confusion and began to ask, “But…”

And then my son interrupted.

“I twied a new food today, Mom! C’we go to Tahget?” he asked, totally unaffected. Yes. Yes, we can go to Target and get you a prize for trying diced pears today, little dude. Nice work. High five.

See, my son gets it. At least for now, he gets it. He doesn’t question his slightly unorthodox family unit, or the fact that though I bear little to no resemblance to the Virgin Mary, he was apparently borne of immaculate conception. I’ve told him simply and lovingly since he was old enough to inquire, that he just doesn’t have a dad, and he’s ok with that explanation. In fact, he’s better than ok. My son is happy. He’s delightfully happy, funny, smart as a whip, gentle, adorable, sweet, quick to laugh, empathetic. He loves monster trucks and cars of all kinds, video games, kicking a soccer ball, playing with friends. He’s a hugger, a kisser, and an all-around wonderful little person. He’s five years old. And he’s never met his ‘dad.’

The ‘why’ is not important now. It’s part of my history. It’s not something I dwell upon, fret about, wish were different, or feel victimized about. In fact, I am truly happy being a solo parent and genuinely believe that my decision to raise him alone was the best one I could have made for my son and for myself, given the circumstances. I’m not a fan of the term ‘blessed,’ but I consider myself so. Yes, working fulltime and raising children alone is at times exhausting – and yes, sometimes financially stressful – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Except that maybe I’d not be turning prematurely gray, but hey. They make great boxed hair color these days. In non-drip foam!

As Father’s Day quickly approaches, I’m gearing up for the time of year when, in my family, we celebrate my dad, my beloved late grandfather (for whom my son is named, in part), my brother-in-law, and myself. Yes, I’m a mom but I’m also Eddie’s ‘dad’ in many ways, though he doesn’t likely look at me that way, and I have no current plans to purchase myself a jockstrap or grow a goatee. In spirit, however, and in an effort to raise a well-rounded kid who lacks a strong male role model in his everyday life, I’m both mother and father. I’m nurturer and I’m teacher. I’m “let’s bake a cake together” mom and “let’s go to the Monster Truck jamboree” dad. I taught my son to use his manners, and I taught him to pee standing up. I take him to the doctor, hold and hug him as he gets his yearly shots… and encourage him to be brave and shake it off when he falls off his bike. Yes, it’s a bit like having a split personality, but much more gratifying (and much less creepy).

That said, every year as we close in on this national holiday, I have ‘the talk’ with Eddie’s teacher, as they change from year to year. There will be class projects, see. The kids will make something special to take home to dad. Dads are invited to join the kids at school for a morning breakfast. I’ll explain to his teacher that I’ll be attending that breakfast, thank-you-very-much, and that perhaps my son can make his craft projects for his grandpa or his uncle or for me. Then, if I’m lucky, I’ll be the proud new recipient of a macramé tie that I’ll display at home on the bookshelf. It’ll go right next to the adorably painted-shut purple wooden jewelry box he made me for Mother’s Day.

So, this is dedicated to my fellow fabulous single moms. And plenty of not-exactly-solo-but-very-hardworking moms who oftentimes do their fair share of ‘fathering.’ For that matter, there are plenty of solo dads raising kids alone who deserve to be presented with a Mother’s Day jewelry box and half a Costco muffin while sitting in a too-small chair in their kid’s classroom, too. Maybe it’s time to do away with Mother’s and Father’s Days entirely, and just morph them into Parent’s Day, but hold it twice a year so we don’t lose out on a perfectly good Eggs Benedict brunch.

How To Survive as a Newly Single Parent


How To Survive as a Newly Single Parent

When you get divorced, a lot changes. I admit, that’s an understatement. A whole lot changes. If you have children, forget the new chapter bullshit; you’re in a new book altogether. Wait. Scratch that. You’re in a different library, in a foreign country. The people here don’t speak the same language, the books aren’t organized like they were in your old house of literature and you can’t seem to find the damn directory anywhere.

Shit. This single parent thing is legit. Survival requires a skill set you most likely have either: a) lost, b) never used, or c) didn’t have in the first place. From things like clogged sinks and lawns needing mowed, to instantly being placed in the dual role of good cop and bad cop, the tasks a single parent handles on a day to day basis put an air traffic controller’s job to shame.

Success, however, can be accomplished, I promise. Should a person equip themselves adequately, single parenting can actually be somewhat appealing. Swear to God.

Here are some things you’ll need to come out on the other side of solo childrearing with (most of) your mental faculties intact, a smile on your face and only an average amount of therapy bills…

1. A babysitter. Preferably one with no social life, so when you call her from your closet floor at 6 p.m. in tears, desperate for some “you time,” she’ll be right there.

2. A back-up babysitter. And at least one more back-up for the back-up. This is serious stuff. Criteria for a quality babysitter ranges widely depending on age and skills of your children. The older they get, the less important things like “speaks English” and “is over 16 ” are.

3. Membership to a wine club. Or a discount liquor store. Or both! You think I’m kidding. I’m not.

4. A single friend of the same gender and near your age range. When you finally get a minute to yourself, have managed to find clothing that is not for work, “exercise” attire, or covered with last night’s dinner and this morning’s breakfast, and still have the energy left over to hit the town, you’re going to want a wingman/woman. Choose wisely. Different friends, different crowds. ‘Nuff said.

5. A friend with benefits. There are going to be times when you, uh, would like some um, needs met. Unless you’re down with random hook-ups or have (equally unwisely) jumped back into a committed relationship, you might want to have a person on call with whom to handle this business. Just be careful. Don’t go falling in love and shit. Keep it together. Business is business, people.

6. A great group of supportive friends. Don’t blow it by being the party pooper all the time there, Debbie Downer. They have problems too. Listen and be supportive for them just as often (if not more frequently) than you bring your latest crisis to their attention.

7. Good neighbors. Ones you can look in the face the morning after a night out and who will either politely claim they did not hear you yelling at your children last night around 8 p.m., or, heard it, and were over in within five minutes to play backup.

8. Single parent friends and networks. Don’t know any? Try MeetUp. Seriously. These people will be absolutely essential to your feeling like anything other than a reject of the Members Only Club to which all your married peeps belong.

9. A virtual, cloud-based calendar shared with your ex spouse. Put everything possibly related to the kids and their whereabouts here. You can’t lose it, it’s highly accessible and it’s free. If you set reminders, you can’t forget about appointments (easily) and you can “communicate” with your ex sans contention. Well maybe, so long as you leave the sarcasm out of the comments section. Try hard. It’s possible, so I hear.

10. A sense of humor. Don’t have one? GET ONE. NOW. The only way to make this drama into less of a horror flick and more of an action parody is to be able to laugh, often, at yourself and your situation.

So quit whining already. The credits will be rolling before you know it, take off those pouty pants, get yourself together and hit the road, running. You can do it.