I’ve been doing this single mom thing for nearly two years now. Truth be told, I got used to doing a lot of the parenting on my own well before I was separated/divorced because my ex-husband was on second shift and I worked a typical 9-5. Since he worked late, I’d bring the kids to daycare in the morning so he could sleep and I’d pick them up in the evening while he was at work. He worked a lot of overtime on the weekends, so often it was left to me to entertain the kiddos. It always came pretty easy for me to do it all myself and once I was officially separated, nothing really changed except the law now mandated that I was the one primarily responsible for the care and well-being of our children.
I honestly have never minded that much. As we’re all painfully aware, there are a lot of choices that need to be made when it comes to raising kids and frankly, making those decisions is a lot easier when you can do it unilaterally. Compromising is a huge pain in the ass and the type-A personality side of me likes having all the control.
I’ve had many friends and family and acquaintances exclaim, “I don’t know how you do it!” when I mention the kids and work and school and all my various activities. I have a LOT on my plate, but in the throes of it, I just… do it. I manage. Somehow. Here’s the thing, though. I think the term “single mom” is kind of misleading.
Yes, I am single. “Single” in the strictly relationship-status-definition of the word. I do not have a boyfriend or significant other who helps me with housework and rubs my feet at night and shares the day-to-day responsibility of caring for my children. But I think the term “single mom” conjures up this idea of a woman who is doing everything alone. And I’m not alone.
I have a huge network of people who I rely on to get me through every single day. And when I say “rely on” I mean I would probably have a complete nervous breakdown if I was left to actually fend for myself for any significant length of time. Hell, I was stuck in the house alone with my kids for only a few days this winter during a storm and by the end of it I was ready to punt them both out the window and then curl up in my bed with a bottle of Pinot.
So it’s always kind of awkward for me to fully accept all the praise and the compliments because I don’t feel like I truly deserve them. To me, it’s kind of like how the producer of a movie accepts the Oscar for Best Picture when you know that movie couldn’t have been made without the enormous support of cast and crew.
So just as a producer stands up and thanks a bunch of people for helping him make his movie, I feel like I need to extend some thanks to a few key players in my production:
My parents live relatively close by and help me out whenever they can. For example, when I have symphony rehearsal, my mom drives an hour each way one night a week to sit with the kids just so I can go to practice for two hours (kind of insane when you think about it…) My kids love their Mema and Beba and I use that to my full advantage.
My three sisters all live within a reasonable driving distance and we help keep each other sane as only sisters can.
I have a spectacular daycare provider who I am lucky enough to also consider a dear friend of mine. You know the whole, “it takes a village” concept? Well, D definitely lives in my village and is pretty much a second mom to my kids. In keeping with my movie analogy, she’d be the Executive Assistant; I’m not getting shit done without her. Sometimes I get a little teary thinking about the fact that my kids actually spend more time with her during the week than they do with me. But then, one of them usually starts acting like an asshole and suddenly I’m totally ok with it.
While my ex and I have our differences and we’re never going to be those divorced spouses who have joint birthday parties or vacations together, he has become reliable in his weekend visitation with the kids and for that I am grateful. Initially I thought giving up the kids every weekend (as opposed to every other which seems to be the standard) would be tough. But it’s not. Really, it’s SO not. Related: my ex’s parents are spectacular grandparents, so my kids are super lucky there.
There are a lot of other players in my raising-my-kids movie who deserve recognition like all my friends who would step in at a moment’s notice to babysit or help out in any way. Or the adorable ladies at the gym who run the gym daycare and allow me my hour or so a day to run and sweat and feel good about myself. And my nice neighbors who don’t mind keeping an eye on the hellions while they play outside while I try and slap together something resembling dinner. Or the girl who frequently babysits for me who my kids absolutely adore.
There you have it. Yeah, I’m a single mom, but I can’t and don’t do this shit by myself. And I know I’m super lucky, because there are single moms and dads out there who don’t have family and friends close by — who really DO manage to do everything alone.
So to them I send out a huge “I don’t know how the hell you do it.”
Single parents without family in town, how do you cultivate a supportive community?