The last few weeks have been a train wreck. Solo parenting isn’t easy on the best days. On the worst days, it’s like trying to hike down the tunnel of a kaleidoscope that’s spinning too fast. When the worst days are strung together into a week—or even a few weeks—solo parenting becomes an exercise in simply trying not to fall off the ride.
I’m currently stumbling out and regaining my balance after one such string of weeks. Within those weeks, on top of all the normal solo mom to-dos, I had two middle of the night health scares during which it would have been unspeakably helpful to have another parent around (or a phone call away) to help gauge whether I was overreacting or underreacting; I had to make big choices for my kids’ futures without the benefit of an opinion from someone who loves and knows them the way I do; and I had to find a way to be physically in three different places at mostly the same time.
I emerged from this most recent kaleidoscope to find that Mother’s Day is coming. The greeting card aisle is looking a little pinker than normal. The ads on my social media feed are skewing toward the sentimental and vendors are spamming me with the truth about what moms really want this Mother’s Day.
From these ads, it would seem that moms want more sleep, some quiet, and a piece of jewelry with their children’s initials. That all sounds great. A few years ago, before my husband died and I became a solo mom, I’m sure I would have wanted that, too.
But these days, I mostly want to forget Mother’s Day. From my perch on the solo parent branch, Mother’s Day, which is centered around the idea that moms will have a partner who will give them “a day off,” who will buy the card and entertain the kids and post the social media shout out, feels like a giant reminder of the fact that I’m doing this—all of this—alone. In a pandemic. And that doing it alone during a pandemic is actually exhausting in ways caffeine can’t fix.
It’s a reminder I don’t want.
The truth is that it’s easier not to be reminded of that. It’s easier to keep my head down and wake up on the second Sunday in May and do the things that need to be done to keep us (my kids and myself) moving in a direction that’s not backward.
But this year, everything is turned inside out, anyway, and maybe, in a way, Mother’s Day is also a reminder that I need. Maybe this year I need the reminder that I’m doing it all alone—because I’ve lost sight of how extraordinary that is. And maybe I’m not the only solo mom who has been so focused on the doing, she forgot to step back and admire all she has done. Maybe I’m not the only solo mom who needs a reminder on this Mother’s Day that she’s doing something extraordinary and it’s worth celebrating.
I won’t say “strong”—because I hate that word. I would venture to guess most solo moms do. Not because it’s an insult, but because most times we feel the very opposite of strong. We just have no choice but to hold our heads up and do the things our kids need us to do for them.
Calling what I have no choice but to do every day “strong” means you can’t see through the very poorly constructed facade that I’m frequently stunned hasn’t collapsed. Strong, to me, makes me feel unseen and unheard. Mother’s Day is supposed to be the opposite—feeling seen, heard, and celebrated.
But extraordinary. More than ordinary. More than standard. More than simply strong. Extraordinary feels like a better adjective to describe what solo moms have done this pandemic year.
Because by yourself keeping an entire household running (even if less smoothly than you’d like) is more than ordinary. Because doing all of it without anyone else to shoulder even an ounce of the work or worry is more than strong. Because by yourself making your children feel safe in a world that feels unsafe is simply extraordinary. Even on the days when none of it looks or feels extraordinary, it truly is.
Mother’s Day is hard on so many people for so many different reasons. It’s a day to celebrate mothers, but for so many people, it’s a reminder of something or someone that’s missing. My heart goes out to everyone hurting this Mother’s Day. There aren’t words to make it easier—on anybody.
For the solo moms among us, maybe this reminder—to sit back, even for a moment, and look at all you have done by yourself—will help make you feel seen and heard and celebrated. Because truly, it is extraordinary.