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 each one to a single activity, especially since their schools are different. And then there’s the challenge of getting your own work done.
There’s the swim team that you say NO to. (That would mean practice nearly every afternoon and still more running around on the weekends.)
There’s marching band that you say NO to. (That would mean practice nearly after afternoon and still more running around on the weekends.)
You say NO to music lessons. (You don’t have the money). You say NO to gadgets. (You don’t have the money.) You say NO to more things than you can count because of bucks, logistics and competing priorities.
You say YES to what you can: love, listening, consoling them when they’re down. And you tell yourself that somehow, some way, you’ll manage to do better for them.
You’re feeling guilty.
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, that’s how it goes once a week, maybe twice if you’re really worn out.
Eventually, you manage to schedule the time to shop here, stop there, and sleep a little less (everywhere). You can put together a few more family meals that way, like healthy soups and stews.
And still, the “family dinner” seems to have fallen by the wayside.
Instead of eating at the table together, the kids chow down in the living room in front of the TV, spread out on the couch, or drooped over the computer. You’re too pooped to say no, too beat to worry about it, but never too busy to feel guilty.
Once upon a time, there were five family dinners a week, that dwindled to four after divorce, now down to three or maybe two.
You’re feeling guilty.
Long, Long Ago…
Long, long ago… meals were another matter. When the family was comprised of four and their father wasn’t on the road, family dinners 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, my husband would be home more” – but whatever guilt I manufactured, it wasn’t about them.
Mother Guilt. Single Mother Guilt.
Guilt that I hadn’t somehow managed to “save” the marriage. Guilt over my shortcomings as a single parent. Guilt that my kids would never trust relationships as a result of the divorce. Guilt that I was an uneven provider. Guilt that whatever I did – it wouldn’t be enough.
My Assessment of a Decade
There were periods when it wasn’t so hectic and the exhaustion was manageable. There were periods when it wasn’t so stressful, because money was coming in on a predictable schedule. There were periods when it wasn’t so depressing, because the ex wasn’t making life a series of obstacles.
Those periods were the exception. Most of the time I was beat, I was scrambling, I was distracted, I was frazzled.
And I felt guilty.
Through all of it, my kids were rolling with the punches… But here’s what I wonder about. When they look back, will they remember me as Tired Mom, Cranky Mom, Sullen Mom, Worried Mom?
For sure, they knew me as Guilty Mom.
Once, when my younger son was a teenager, he said to me: “Mom. Stop feeling guilty. The more you make yourself crazy feeling guilty about us, the more we feel guilty about the stress you’re under trying to take care of us.”
LIGHT BULB MOMENT.
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. No matter how many times you look at your kids and weigh the alternatives, your “ideal” isn’t this – the chaos, the concern, the 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.
You remind yourself that there are problems in families with two loving parents.
There are always problems. You do your best to solve them. Naturally, you wish you could do better. The question is – are you wallowing in unnecessary and destructive guilt?
There are still moments when something comes up with one of my kids. They need something, and I cannot provide it. I feel a pang, and then I remember my younger son’s words. I know what it is to be taken on a Guilt Trip as a child and I know what it is to manipulated via guilt as an adult. I don’t want my children to live with guilt like that, so I tell myself STOP!
STOP focusing on what you couldn’t do, and start remembering what you could – and did. STOP the guilt. Stop it NOW.