My dishwasher hadn’t been cleaning the dishes lately. It was annoying to say the least, but after reading the manual and looking up a few tricks online, I fixed it and now the dishes are coming out so sparkling, I comment on it every time one of my kids reaches for a glass.
I wanted to give the front of my house a face lift and decided to change the light fixtures, paint the front door, and order some fancy doormats for the entry. My ex-husband would have rolled his eyes when he saw the price tag, but as I put them on my front porch, I felt liberated and satisfied.
When my kids have a problem with a friend, I’m all in and feel confident about the way I handle it. When they need to be reminded how to straighten up and act right, I’ve got that covered too. I have the sex talk with them regularly. I break up fights and threaten to dig out the old family photos of them hugging and kissing each other if they can’t get along.
I’m the one who pays the bills and knows how much money is going into the kids’ saving accounts and college funds. I can get tough stains out of their favorite clothes and make sure my delicates are washed for sexy time.
I get dinner on the table every night (sometimes in the form of fast food), and I have no problem texting my handyman if something is going on in my house that I can’t handle.
My point is, single moms know how to manage a household with their hands tied behind their back. I’m not saying we do it perfectly or that we don’t fuck up along the way. But we learn from our mistakes and there are times we take shortcuts in order to stay sane, like when I decided to skip freshman orientation for my daughter because I was coming down with a cold and needed to nap on the sofa instead.
In fact, I think a lot of us realize how little our partners actually did when they were living here. There are days when it certainly seems easier to just fucking handle it all myself than it used to be with my ex living here.
Truth be told, I don’t miss the things I thought I would miss while we were talking about separating. I thought it would be scary if there was a water leak or I needed to refinance the home on my own. I didn’t think I’d be able to buy a car without my ex. But I’ve done it all and then some, and really, it wasn’t that hard.
But something else is harder than I thought it would be: The emotional labor of being divorced doesn’t always look like wanting someone to be there to share expenses, help you open up an IRA, or take over disciplining your children when you literally cannot after a hard day.
I mean, that’s all part of it, but when the brokenness over divorce really digs its claws in is during those moments when you see you are out of toilet paper, you’ve already taken your bra off for the night, and you realize there is no one to call and ask to pick it up on the way home. You may go from feeling pretty OK to crying over the sink.
You may love being able to decorate your bedroom however you want and splurge on the pink leopard print sheets and lie in the starfish position most nights, but there will come a time when you’ll be reading and long to be the little spoon again so badly, you wrap the sheets around you as tight as you can just to feel something.
You could be having glorious sex with a new lover, and feel so much passion, but in a moment you flip and want them to leave because you feel like you can’t breathe and you long to do the foot touching you used to do with your ex before the two of you would roll over to your side of the bed and drift off to sleep.
The moments you think you’ll miss, you probably will.
But it’s the little things you think you’ve been looking forward to doing alone that hit you the hardest.
You see, there’s power in figuring out why the dryer isn’t working, or doing the snow removal yourself. You get something from that. It’s a good feeling of accomplishment and validating yourself.
Then, you find yourself in unexpected places, having unexpected feelings longing for a partner. That’s the hard shit.
It hits you when you are driving down the road, getting your kids home from practice thinking about what to make for dinner, and you are so aware of the absent hand that used to be on your knee when the two of you were in the car together. Or when you have some really exciting news about work and want to share it with someone who will be just as excited as you are, but that person isn’t there.
Yes, single mothers can do it all alone. We can. But that doesn’t mean we want to, or we need to feel like we should. I could sit here and say I’ve got it all covered my damn self and I don’t need anyone, and that would be accurate. But in no way does that mean I’m not going to make room for someone to come into my life and do the foot thing again before falling asleep, or ask if they can bring over some toilet paper every once in a while.
So, to all the single moms out there who are killing it solo: Just because you can do it all yourself doesn’t mean you have to carry on that role for the rest of your life. Stay open, and remember wanting a partner to help with the every day, and to be there for emotional support is normal and natural. And feeling the void of certain things after a divorce doesn’t make you weak or incapable. It makes you human.