I can say with certainty that this isn’t the way I saw my life playing out.
I grew up in a traditional, loving household where my mother and father were married until my father’s untimely passing four years ago. The majority of my friends also grew up in two parent households. It was the norm for me.
Watching my parents, I saw the ups and downs of marriage and parenting, but they worked well together, they understood the division of labor, and, quite honestly, they made it look easy.
Fast forward to today, and I am a single father with two young children, still waking up every morning wondering how I am going to raise my children into balanced, structured, and most importantly, happy, people.
Make no mistake, though, this isn’t my message of self-pity. In the grand scheme of things, my situation is very fortunate. I am blessed that my children’s mother and I get along very well, (usually), and she is a wonderful, loving mother who works tirelessly to meet our mutual goal of raising happy, healthy children. Despite that, there remain days that I find myself in full panic over whether I’m on the right path.
Aside from my most important task in life of being the best father I can be, I am also a full time firefighter, and a contractor on my off days. On the average, I work over 60 hours a week, at times upward of 90. My children are with me three nights a week, and because my firehouse schedule rotates, my schedule with my children does as well.
On paper, it may sound daunting, but I/We manage well. I have a wonderful mother and sister that help me when I’m in need, and like a good Italian son, I bring my kids to my mother’s once a week for dinner. [Read: I get a night off from cooking.] As busy and tired as I may get at times (and let’s face it, I’m eternally tired), I love the time I get to spend with them, and I hurt on the occasional night when I am home, and they aren’t there with me.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I miss nights out with friends, and the freedom to do what I want, when I want. Dating is…well, at the moment, not in my repertoire. My house is eternally a mess, and I think I permanently have matchbox cars imprinted on the bottom of my feet. I am absolutely horrible at putting my daughters hair in a pony-tail. Frightening, isn’t it? Nah, it’s my Utopia. The smile on their faces when I pick them up at school, the way they look when I peek in on them sleeping 13 times a night, the simple joy and innocence that kids exude, hugs and kisses from snotty faces, it’s all I need in this world. Single mothers (and fathers) out in the world doing it every single day, I stand in solidarity with you.
We’re not all that different. I’m a nurturer, just like you. I worry, just like you. I prepare my kids school lunch and dinners with love, just like you. And just like you, I hate doing laundry every single day of my life.
Like anyone, I’m far from perfect and I make many mistakes. I’ve grown to accept it, as long as I learn from them. I’m still grasping the realization that childhood is but a fleeting moment, and the impressions we leave on our children now will mold them, and directly impact who they become as adults. It’s not easy to make every minute of every day “special.” When I play games with them, I don’t always let them win, because they need to learn to be gracious in both victory and defeat. I say no, and I stick to my guns, despite that pouty face that melts my heart. Sometimes, I even make them cry. It’s all good though. We’re learning to get through this together, even if our family model is unconventional. At the end of the day, a family is a community of love, no matter how that community may be comprised.
Now, about that laundry…