Being a single mother feels like you are running on empty…a lot. Every day…every week….every year.
I broke my toe this morning as I was rushing to get ready for work. Now before I go any further, I need to tell you that I home office. So where and why was I rushing? I had no zoom calls, no reports due, nothing of any urgent importance.
What I have learned about myself is that I am always in motion. I simply never stop, and I haven’t in many years. A definite byproduct of being the sole parent to two children and fitting so much into one 24-hour period at a time for the past 20 years. If you stopped for one minute, you might forget something and that would throw a wrench into the entire mission of the day.
Why are you are rushing through life? Are you in a hurry to get to the end?
I want to answer that question. No, I am in no hurry to get to the end of my life. But I am always in a hurry to get to the end of the tasks at hand. Whatever they are. And there are always many. But this morning when I hit my foot on something and I heard a piercing crack, a chill ran up my spine and I sheepishly looked down at my foot which appeared to be getting bluer by the minute. And then with a long sigh, it felt like the world was saying, “Really? You won’t slow down so I guess I have to take matters into my own hands and do it for you!” And it most certainly did.
My initial reaction was not the pain…and believe me, it was coming. My initial reaction was a file cabinet of thoughts and the Rolodex of people that swirled through my head. The never-ending to-do lists and who or what would be affected by a temporary out-of-commission status? My entire week flooded into my present moment as I quickly figured out how I would address it all. I simply could not allow my foot to get in the way. No pun intended.
My single mother PTSD kicked on full power as I recollected past times my children were sick and unable to go to school and the excuses I had to come up with so my boss wouldn’t accuse me of not being dedicated or inferences that my children were getting in the way. I had heard it all before which my colleagues and I had to endure collectively.
During those days, I rarely took sick days when “I” was sick. I saved them for my children and I always worked through my own days of being ill. Thankfully my children are now young adults, and I don’t work in that environment any longer. I currently work for an amazing organization so there was no need for my panic this morning at all. But the residuals of those days are alive and well in me.
The stakes are so much higher for single parents. We can’t be sick or injured because we rarely have a backup. I didn’t anyway. My ex-husband lived 50 miles away and it wouldn’t have mattered if he lived 5 miles away. He always said no when I needed him to help cover. I must have heard him say that he had to work a thousand times. He never cared that I did as well. But somehow through those days, I made it unscathed and so did they. We all had to.
It’s the little things that suck most about being a single mom.
Like, who takes care of me when I’m sick?
And you still have to clean, cook, go to work, etc.
Life doesn’t stop for us.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. We have been in a world pandemic for the past year, and it has affected so much of my life. I have been lucky to keep my job as I watched my colleagues being furloughed and laid off. I have also been lucky to stay healthy through it as well. I have been ultra-careful actually. I have had to. I am a single parent and if I got sick, it wouldn’t be just me that would lose everything.
My kids would as well since they are still living at home. One is working full time from his home office and the other is a full-time college student. Who could have imagined that we would be longing to get a shot so life could look normal again? I looked at it as the only entity that would protect me on any level. Protection was a feeling I had lost the minute my ex-husband left my family and me on our own.
I tried hard not to get angry at the volumes of people who didn’t seem to care about the virus and went on their merry way living like it was not real. But to single parents, it was and is very real.
We have to keep working and stay healthy. Lives depend on our lives. So the past year has been a lot. Many of my friends and family are retired and married. If they get sick, they just go to bed, and their spouses take care of things. If their spouse is sick too, they go to bed and rest as well. There is no one that they have to worry about, and they can concentrate of on their own self-care.
Like the Rolodex of thoughts I mentioned before are the thoughts that go far deeper. Before I was fully vaccinated I had to think through my affairs if I had the misfortune of getting Covid.
Where is my Will?
How much is my house worth?
How much do I owe?
What would I be leaving for my children?
What would happen to them if I died? Yes, heavy thoughts indeed.
But they were probably what many single parents were thinking.
My son laughs every time I sit down. He laughs because he looks at the clock and times how long I can actually sit still before I jump up and start doing something like cooking dinner, watering the backyard, or pulling the clothes out of the dryer. Chores that are always there waiting for me. There is simply no rest for me on most days.
I have been a single working mother for the past twenty years and I have volumes of experiences that are cataloged in my mind. Some are good and serve me well. Some are not and I let them go. And some have just been adopted into my psyche and I guess are there to stay. \
But I am hopeful that rehabilitation of my PTSD reactional behaviors is imminent. As I sit here now, I am doing my best to be present in the moment and be conscious of my breathing. I am slowing myself down. My toe is still broken so it has forced my physical slow down anyway. But I will take this broken toe and turn this lemon into my lemonade moment.
It’s time to slow my roll, take in the presence and realize that I am no longer on that treadmill. And I will stop my mind from racing and giving residence to so many unnecessary thoughts and worries inside my head.
I have learned in the most painful of ways, that staying in that behavior will surely make me blink and my life will be done. I have a lot of fabulous moments that I am looking forward to. Moments that will require a fully operational foot to take me places I have always dreamed of.
It is most definitely my day, my week, and my year again!