More than just physically tired, I’m mentally tired. Actually, I’m mentally exhausted.
It feels like every day there’s some new weight that gets added to my shoulders. It’s a challenge for me to walk upright. As a single mom, I would love nothing more than to be able to find someone to share some of that weight with or, at the very least, be able to put it down for a while. But alas, I don’t have that option.
Single moms have to do it all, all the time. We never really get a break. We can never relax. Because there is no one else. We are all we have. We are all our kids have.
So often my well meaning friends will say to me, “I don’t know how you do it.”
I appreciate what they’re trying to say, but if I don’t do it, no one else will. And that ranges from simple things like grocery shopping, making dinner, and wrangling children, to more complex things like making sure bills get paid and keeping a roof over our head. Since my son was born I’ve had to work jobs with flexible schedules because childcare wasn’t something I could afford, nor could my friends and family provide my son with full-time care while I worked.
Now, I work as a freelance writer, which means there’s a lot of hustling added on to my already busy day. For a while, I was working almost seven days a week, and my son wasn’t in preschool yet. Sure, I’m lucky to work from home, but it’s not always easy to work while you have a little boy climbing on you like you’re a jungle gym. Or having to stop in the middle of the day to go to the playground, because he needs to run off some of his pent-up energy and have quality time with his mom.
Being a single parent and a full-time freelancer also means constantly having to worry about money. I have one steady gig, but still have to juggle jobs and fill gaps, and when the checks don’t come on time, it turns into a bingo game of what bills will get paid first. How late is the rent going to be? How many days into the grace period are we? Certain bills get priority: rent, electric, gas, internet. For some, internet may seem like a privilege, but if I don’t have internet, I can’t work.
Paying the small bills is usually easy. I’m lucky that I qualify for SNAP benefits, so at least I don’t have to worry about groceries because that would tack on an extra couple hundred dollars a month and greatly increase my stress. My son is four, he’s already damn near four feet tall, and he’s like a little Energizer bunny, so I’m constantly feeding him.
I’m often asked — again, by people who mean well — why my son’s father doesn’t help me more. But he works almost as much as I do. When he can, he will take him to the playground, or take him to school a couple times a week so I don’t have to stop working or can go to the doctor. But when my son is with his dad, it’s not like I’m kicking back and reading a book. I’m going to the grocery store, or I’m powering through my work so I don’t fall behind on deadlines.
Some people want to argue that if my son’s father is in the picture then I’m not really a single mom. But my son’s father may have him for (literally) a few hours a week, which means I handle 98% of the childcare responsibilities and carry 99% of the financial burden. So, fuck those people, because I am most definitely a single mom.
You’re so strong, they say.
But I don’t want to be fucking strong anymore. I am not strong by choice; I’m strong because if I’m not, my entire world falls apart. I would love to have a partner who could see me drowning and tell me to go spend a couple hours alone at Target. I would love to be able to take a shower during the day without worrying that my kid is destroying my apartment or eating all the chocolates. I would love to hang out with my kid in the middle of the afternoon and go to a movie, and not constantly tell him “Mommy’s working, go play by yourself.” I would love for someone to hold me in their arms while I’m crying, instead of sobbing on the phone to my friend who lives thousands of miles away.
I’m tired of having to put on a happy face so no one sees just how much I’m crumbling inside. I wish I could tell someone the truth when they ask me how I’m doing. But I can’t, because I don’t need to worry about them worrying about me. I carry enough emotional baggage.
I’m tired of being too tired to find a date. I’m tired of always having to be everything, for me and for my son. I hate that people say I’m strong, like I have a choice to be anything but. If I’m weak, everything falls apart. And I’ve worked too hard to get us here to let everything fall apart now.