I have three teenagers who, I swear to sweet Baby Jesus, take forty-five minute showers each. You don’t want to know about the things I find in that bathroom. Let’s just say I go in and clean it after they “clean” it in order to sleep at night. The other day their fan broke. The mold was growing by the second and blossoming all over the ceiling, walls, and shower walls.
I couldn’t deal with it, and told myself it would probably start working the next day. You know, because that’s how things work. They break and then self-repair over night because we want them to.
I forgot about the damn fan. Maybe it was because daylight saving time happened, and my sleep schedule went to shit. Perhaps it was because I had to get my son to the orthodontist because one of his braces popped off, attend a Zoom meeting with my daughter’s teachers, then drop her off at work all within two hours (which didn’t happen).
So, when my son not-so-politely told me I really needed to get the stupid fan fixed as soon as possible because the paint was peeling in their bathroom, I lost my shit. As in, I lay on my bedroom floor and wished with all my might everything would stop and someone would come in and take over because there was no way I was going to make it through this school year. My son is graduating and my daughter has started driving and my 14-year-old never talks to me, and now the fan — and I’d like to burn it all down. Juggling the needs of working full-time, providing for my family, virtual schooling, and having everything weigh on me day after day is….exhausting. Especially this last year.
I’ve been a single parent for over four years now. I thought these kinds of days — correction: these kinds of weeks, months, years — would go away eventually.
I didn’t know lying on my bedroom floor would be my go-to call of action when I found myself not knowing what to do.
I found myself there when I couldn’t figure out how to fix the running toilet.
I found myself there when my oldest son was getting in trouble in school.
I found myself there when I wanted to break up with the first man I was dating post-divorce.
I found myself there on nights when I miss being a family so much it feels like someone is sitting on my heart.
This thing, this single parenting gig, doesn’t allow for time off or a break. It strips you of having someone to lean on in hard times. There’s no thinking, Well, if we go crashing down, we go crashing down together.
Single parents have to be on. They need to know what to do when a crisis happens under their watch. You learn really fast what being a solo parent feels like when one of your kids falls and needs stitches, when the pipes burst at midnight, or when the school calls you telling you your child needs to be picked up that instant because they got in a fight.
Your kids feel it when you are stressed, because you do get stressed, but they don’t quite understand why.
I have days when I feel like I’m in a pressure cooker, and any minute, any second now, I am going to burst and explode into bits on the ceiling.
Being a single parent means you don’t have a wing person to cover for you if you’re too tired to make dinner, doubled over with period cramps, or just want to be left the fuck alone.
There’s not another adult saying, “I’ll grab dinner,” or “Mommy needs a few minutes in her room alone, so let’s go for a walk.”
Single parents of the world, I see you. I know there are days when you know you made the right decision and you are happy as a clam in a mudflat.
I know you have moments when you are feeling strong, and then you see a family walking hand in hand down the street, or a commercial about a product you used to use together, and you are thrown back so far you swear your soul left your body.
I also know there are weeks when you just scrape by, doing the bare minimum, because you are so damn tired thinking about life and wondering when these feelings will end.
They don’t end.
Sure, they fade away for a bit, but they always come crashing back in again when you least expect them, don’t they?
Yeah, I know.
Please do me a favor. Remember to take time for you and do something to celebrate yourself. It doesn’t have to be on National Single Parent Day. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be a whole day. Just do something to remind yourself that you are, indeed, kicking ass in this role — even when it’s hard, because it is — and you deserve to be recognized for it.
As for me, I ordered a new book and got my favorite snacks to enjoy during the next quiet hour I get. But I definitely won’t be enjoying them on my bedroom floor. That’s for damn sure.