I’m a single mom for the second time, and both times around my experience has been both challenging and rewarding. I’d have to say the rewards outweigh the challenges, and because of my current overall outlook on life, I decidedly take the stance that “challenges breed champions.”
The first time around, I became a single mom “the wrong way” with no husband, a low-paying job, and no stability. I did, however, manage to finish college and get my bachelor’s degree during my seventh month of pregnancy. I had no choice but to return to work right after the six-week maternity leave (unpaid) and put my tiny baby in daycare for nearly eleven hours a day. Throughout her younger years, I often worked two jobs just to be able to afford a few minor extras. Thirteen years later, the second time around, I had done things “the right way,” this time married, with a house, a solid income, and good benefits. I had even managed to save money and was able to take an extended leave and stay home with “baby #2” for a whole year.
But a few years and a failed marriage later, I found myself a single mom all over again. This time around was more devastating than the first—or so I thought. (My reasons for that thinking belong to another story at another time.) Doing things the “right way,” in my case, had no better outcome than the other way. Both girls are equally smart, lovable, charming, and well-adjusted.
My first-born, now nineteen, is a bright, confident, and outgoing college student who has had very little contact with her dad. On one hand, it was miserable raising her alone. On the other hand, his absence was the one thing that kept the two of us close. The “little one,” who’s five, just started kindergarten, and, unlike her sister, she’s the apple of her dad’s eye. She, too, is bright, confident, and outgoing.
I’ve had it both ways, and as a married, “leisurely” stay-at-home mom (this is what people tend to think), I got nothing done around the house … NOTHING. I barely had the energy to take a shower or prepare a decent meal. Somehow, as a working single mother, during the course of a week I am able to work full-time; come home to prepare half-way decent meals (thank God for slow cookers and quick meals); check homework; read a story; have a chat with my teenager (we even exchange text messages); plan a visit to see her perform with her dance troupe; bake (actually buy) cookies for my little one’s kindergarten class; do dishes; make bath time fun; do laundry; grocery shopping; pay bills; clean house; walk my teenager through a quick college-style cooking session … the list goes on and on and the responsibilities are endless.
With all the responsibilities that I carry, single-motherhood for me means very little “me time.” Although my older daughter is away at college, during her visits home, I hear variations of “mommy, ma, mom, and mother” about a hundred times a day—literally over a hundred. I actually tallied them one day. And on an especially hectic day, one too many times can nearly push me over the edge. Thankfully, I take from the Bible “the faith of a mustard seed,” combined with the patience of a grape seed, the endurance of an apple seed, and the multi-tasking skills of an avocado seed, and I respond with the love that takes over when I look in their sweet faces or reflect on tender moments. As I write this very sentence, my little one is calling me, “Moooooommmmmyyyyyyy!” with an incredible, almost believable sense of urgency, but all I can do is say, “Yes sweetie, just a minute” while I continue typing. Other times it’s the indignant “Mooommm-eee” call. Since she’s in kindergarten and can count to at least a hundred, I can tell her “count to fifty and then I’ll be there.” As a mom, and especially as a single mom, for the sake of sanity, I have learned to distinguish between a truly urgent moment and just another demand for my attention.
Just a few years ago, I was a “teen and toddler mom” dealing with teenage and two-year-old tantrums at the same time. Now that both girls have grown out of those stages and new stages in their lives have begun, I, too, have grown. Although being a single mom is a demanding job, I take it in stride and count my blessings, and I wouldn’t trade my children for anything.
I’ve learned a lot about children, but one of the biggest things I’ve learned is how to claim a few moments just for myself without feeling guilty about it. Whether it’s sneaking a piece of chocolate late at night (bad girl, I know), or ignoring maybe ten out of the hundred or so “mommy calls” that I hear each day, or waking up at the crack of dawn to begin my day quietly, or just spending a few extra minutes in the shower, I have found a way to balance it all. Lots of prayer and good vitamins help tremendously!
The circumstances around each of their arrivals were quite different, and they are both so precious. But single-motherhood is not just about my children. Although most of what I do revolves around my children’s needs, and I often feel like a walking, talking “to-do” list, I know that I am not just a single mom. I’m a thriving individual with goals and dreams and a life that I intend to live, and I believe they are better because of it.