The loneliest part of single parenting is not what I expected it to be.
The loneliest part of single parenting is not being the only adult present at mealtime. Our meals are filled with laughter and joy and complaints over the food, Monday dinner’s “two minutes of yelling all the potty words you want,” sharing of roses and thorns, a menu I get the satisfaction of making or changing at my will, and too much food wasted.
The loneliest part of single parenting is not carrying the emotional burden of managing an entire household alone. Many married parents do that anyway, and trying to co-manage in a toxic marriage is far more lonesome than as a single parent.
The loneliest part of single parenting is not being alone with your thoughts and fears and dreams for your children. Working through those on my own has made me a better mom.
The loneliest part of single parenting is not doing every bedtime, every morning, every after school routine alone. It’s not being constantly torn between two children’s needs, always feeling as if you’re not enough for them as individuals.
The loneliest part of single parenting is not one of the hundreds of times you’re in a long line, on vacation, in the swimming pool, and one child has to use the restroom so everyone has to leave, together.
The loneliest part of single parenting is not working through tough parenting decisions alone. I’ve always felt supported and surrounded by awesome parent-friends and professionals (pediatricians, therapists for both me and the kids, pastors, etc.) who I can bounce ideas off of. And the more parenting choices I make alone, the more confidence I have in myself that I’m the best mom I can be for my kids.
The loneliest part of single parenting is not shared holidays or changes in tradition. It’s not dreading Christmas afternoon when the kids will go to their dad’s, the excitement of the morning spread out around you in deafening silence.
The loneliest part isn’t even disagreeing on parenting with your co-parent, custody disagreements, or other people’s invasion (“concern”) into very private family matters that you have to address alone.
The loneliest part of single parenthood isn’t sensing others’ judgment about your situation or decision to leave.
The loneliest part of single parenthood isn’t saying goodbye to your children at school on a Friday morning, knowing you won’t see them until Monday and will be wrecked with worry the whole time they’re away.
The loneliest part of single parenthood isn’t walking past their empty beds on the way to your own.
The loneliest part of single parenting isn’t the middle of the night wake-ups, the school forms and calendars, being the emotional support of children alone, or having no one to do the dishes while you put the kids to bed. It’s none of that.
No, the loneliest part of single parenthood is none of those things.
The loneliest part is having no one to share the joys of parenthood with.
The loneliest part is being at your child’s recital and wanting to lock eyes with someone who is as proud as you are, and know in that moment that there’s only one other person in this world who could be feeling what you’re feeling.
The loneliest part is laughing at something hysterical your child said and wishing there was someone else’s laughter echoing yours.
The loneliest part is texting your parents or your best friend cute pictures or stories from your child’s day and knowing that while their love for them is strong and deep and perfect for their roles in your lives, it’s not the same as sharing that with their other parent.
The loneliest part is cuddling your children and wishing you could look up at someone and tell them with your eyes how you know this time is fleeting and it won’t be long before they’re too big to cuddle this way.
The loneliest part is longing to look at the joy on their other parent’s face as they watch them step into the Pacific Ocean for the first time but instead looking around and seeing two parent families enjoying vacation together.
The loneliest part is wanting to shamelessly brag about your children and all of their achievements to someone who you know takes as much joy in listening as you do in sharing.
The loneliest part is, of course, the most painful part. And if I practice what I preach, then I need to practice finding beauty in and around all of the ugly, hard, shitty pain. Through the missed knowing looks, the shortened bragging sessions because no one wants to be “that” mom, individual laughter that I wish was shared, there is pain, yes, but I have also found something beautiful. Not better, not greater, but equally meaningful.
I have found that I get to hold those joyful parenting moments close to my heart, untainted by another’s perspective. I have found that I can ache with loneliness at the same time I am filled with contentment and gratitude. I get to hold space for the three of us and our shared joy and bonds, and what a gift that is.