There’s barely enough time to make their sandwiches in the morning and toss them in their backpacks. Insist on a sit-down breakfast – or any breakfast? Are you kidding me?
There’s barely enough time to carpool one on the early side, much less the other later in the day. Their schools are different, their activities are different, and then there’s the challenge of getting my own work done.
There’s the swim team that I said no to. (That would have meant practices nearly every afternoon and more driving on the weekends.)
There’s continuing with band that I said no to. (Let’s hear that refrain: That would have meant practices nearly every afternoon and more driving on the weekends.)
I said no to music lessons (because we didn’t have the money). I said no to gadgets of almost any kind (because we didn’t have the money). I said no to a lot of things – because we didn’t have the money.
I said yes to what I could: love, listening, and trying to find creative solutions to provide experiences we couldn’t otherwise afford – unless yours truly was cloned – or suddenly had a free chauffeur service available for my kids.
Family Dinner? Huh?
When the dinner hour rolls around, it’s drive-thru somewhere if there’s religious school, and drive-thru somewhere even if there’s not. At least, once a week, maybe twice. Until I finally figure out that if I can just manage to find the time to shop here, there, and everywhere, I can make a few meals like healthy soups and stews.
Instead of eating at the table together, the kids chow down in the living room in front of the TV, in front of a computer, and slumping on the couch. They eat the table on those occasions when I cook and insist: Four nights a week quickly dwindled to three, and to be honest, reality made it more like two – at least for a couple of years.
How Do You Spell Fatigue? Single Motherhood!
There are periods when it’s not quite so hectic and my exhaustion is manageable.
There are periods when it’s not so stressful, because money is coming in.
There are periods when it’s not so depressing, because the ex isn’t making my life miserable.
Through all of it, they roll with the punches and I pinch myself to have such Great Kids. I hope they don’t remember me for the rest of their lives as Tired Mom, Achey Mom, Cranky Mom, Sullen Mom.
Occasionally I know they know I’m Worried Mom, and likewise Chatty Mom: I want to know what’s going on in their lives no matter how tired I am.
Long, Long Ago… (Guilt, Guilt, Guilt)
Long, long ago… dinner was another matter. When the family was comprised of four and their father wasn’t on the road, meals were a boisterous flurry of fussing and activity around a white table in a white kitchen with bright outlook on the future. Guilt was not part of the daily equation.
There was laughter, there were stories, there were battles of will over eating the veggies and manners at the table. They were little boys with two parents. They were happy. They were healthy. Looking back, I realize now that even then I felt guilty about something – “if I were a better wife, he would be home more” – but whatever guilt I manufactured, it wasn’t about them.
Guilt, guilt, guilt.
Guilt that I hadn’t somehow managed to “save” the marriage. Guilt that my shortcomings meant an inferior family structure for my boys. Guilt that they would never trust relationships as a result, that I couldn’t provide for them the way I hoped, that nothing I would do would be enough.
Single Parent Guilt
No matter how many times you tell yourself there’s no way for one person to make a marriage work, you feel guilty. So guilty. They only had the white table in the white kitchen with and the laughter and the security for so few years. Barely eight for one and nine for the other.
This alternate universe, this chaotic state, this non-stop stream of headaches over not enough “you” to go around, much less money or time or energy to cover everything that comes up – how do we survive it? How do we manage it (minimizing the guilt) so we don’t inadvertently make our children feel guilty about us?
How do you manage to feel as if you are doing right by your children? How do you manage their dreams and expectations of the future – realistically, but without bringing them down?
The years pass. The guilt persists. As children mature, their view broadens. Occasionally they notice the guilt and say: “Mom, stop. Don’t feel guilty. You’re doing a good job.”