In the past twenty years that I have been a single mother, I have heard that comment at least 10,000 times! I don’t know how you do it!? And now after all these years they say, “I don’t know how you did it?”
The question vacillates between present and past tense. And this usually depends on how I am projecting myself in the conversation. If it’s a day that I am feeling fatigued it is in the present tense. If I am projecting, my inner Wonder Woman it is asked in the past tense.
The reality is that it should apply at all times until the day comes that both my kids are well into their respective careers. Then I say, job well done. They are cooked!
“As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.”
Truth be told, I have a hard time looking back and even remembering the years as they sailed past me. My children were 4 weeks and 4 years old when the title of single mom was bestowed upon me. The crown I wore felt like a hard-brass plate riddled with weathered patina stains as it sat wobbling on top of my head that was usually spinning most days.
As I navigated through the years of toddler-dom, grade school, middle school, high school and now my youngest is in the midst of college, I really just look back as if I was holding on to the rails of a roller coaster.
Some days were exhilarating as I screamed in joyful fun at the top of my lungs and other days my hands were gripped to the side of the car with my eyes never once opening to even attempt to view the terror that lay in front of me.
I honestly didn’t want to see too far ahead of me. I just coped day by day. Literally.
Once a friend who asked me that predictable question that came several times each season of the year, I replied that I just took it day by day. They nodded and assumed that was just the stock answer anyone would give.
No … no… no. That was my formula.
And it was a formula I stuck with and still do. I always knew the mortgage payment would come, the utilities bills and the tuition bill would come and the plethora of demands that would inevitably come under the category of children’s birthday parties, school uniforms, groceries and all other line items to hit a budget hard.
But I never looked at them squarely in the face! I just tucked them in the back of my brain and held on as the dates came near and then I would pray to the single mother Gods that I had enough in my account to cover it all. Sometimes I did. And a lot of times I didn’t.
But what I knew in my heart is that somehow, I would make it happen. I got in the canoe and just started to paddle.
“Stress = Fear
I am a capable person and I can handle anything that comes my way.”
How often do we get handed something in life that shows how really strong we are?
How often do we say that we are still learning something new about ourselves at the age of 60?
I can honestly say that I am still learning each and every day of my life and I intend do so until my last breath. That feeling… that craving is inside me all the time. Oh, don’t get me wrong…I have days that I am tired and days that I just don’t want to learn another dang thing.
I have days that I can say, enough of the lessons already! But then as I navigate through each episode of my sometimes-challenged life, I come out of it on the other side and realize how much I had learned in the situation. Most importantly, I have learned the depth of my capacities to handle not just a divorce; that was the easy part. I have learned that I can handle being my own family.
I have learned that I can indeed live through losing my home after a divorce. I also learned I was strong enough to purchase a new one.
I learned that I was strong enough to lose my job and find another one.
I learned that I was strong enough to handle all that life threw at me and just keep swimming. I’m still swimming. But I am able to push through when the water gets choppy.
My life experiences have shown me that I am not only strong enough, but I have the ability to survive. I have the ability to pull my two kids along with me on my back. Why wouldn’t you choose to fight for the very thing your ex-spouse thought to be useless. That is a family.
And that is my family. He has his own family now and has adopted, or maybe the more appropriate word would be, adapted to the concept of his new family. Maybe in that endeavor he has found the true value of family even if those inside that family are not his biological children.
I hope so. Everyone should be so lucky. Even him.
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”
I started writing for DivorcedMoms in January 2020. Since then, I have written 22 articles for this great online resource for single moms. I love doing it too. It is part of my survival. It builds me up and makes me feel brave every time I sit down and try to impart my words of wisdom to anyone who wants to read them.
My writing ritual includes listening to quiet, contemplative piano music as I type away and think about all of the experiences I have had as a single mom. In my past articles, I have been extremely vulnerable and honest.
I have been brave.
I have endured a woman who stalked my writings and criticized me for whining. Only to realize it was a friend or possible current spouse of my ex-husband.
I have made my family members angry who thought I was not appreciative of their support as I typed my sadness, grief, and anger out to the world. I have shared the good, bad, challenging, and joyful times in my writings.
They just all come flooding back to me as I sit, listening to the music and feel what I feel. But through all of these moments of reflection, I realize that not only are women amazing, but single mothers are unbelievably amazing! We so Rock!
I don’t recommend that every woman go out and become a single mother. It’s hard.
Even rich celebrities like Sandra Bullock and Meg Ryan who chose that for themselves would say it’s still hard I’m sure. But the takeaway is that somehow, we are able to look at our children and almost absorb an ethereal kind of energy, like Popeye after eating his spinach and become empowered to see and be the best within ourselves. That in itself is brave. And it feels wonderful.
So never stop believing that you have the power to get through anything. You do and you have already proven it to yourself. And more important than that you have shown your children that they too are strong enough to get through anything and be the best version of themselves as well.
So, the next time someone says they don’t know how you do it, tell them you just take it day by day, moment by moment and through it all you are becoming the strongest woman you know! And never forget to smile!