When I first became a mom, I used to joke about motherhood being a full-time job with no pay and rad benefits. Then I became a single mom and realized I had no idea what being a full-time parent was actually like. Without a doubt, single parenthood is pretty much the hardest thing I've ever done. It involved a lot of sleepless nights, missed events, and the absence of solo-trips to the bathroom (or anywhere, for that matter). There are so many things single moms can't do that other moms take for granted, and sometimes simply acknowleding that fact can make a single mom feel seen, heard, and valued.
When I was married to my ex-husband I honestly already felt like a single mother. I mean, he was rarely home and wasn't a very involved parent. Then I actually became a single mom and realized that wasn't the case. Like, at all. When I was married, at least I could take a shower by myself or go for a run without having to take the day off from work or push the kids in the jogging strollers. I was unhappy in my marriage, to be sure, but I also received way more respect from people as a married woman with kids, than I did as a struggling single mom.
There were other things I took for granted. Namely, having adult contact, because oh how I longed for someone to have daily personal conversations with over the age of 4, or to be able to sleep in the same bed with someone every night. For me, single parenthood was a dichotomy of extremes — loneliness and wanting to be touched and constant running and wanting your kids to stop touching you. Being a single parent was hard at times, but it gave me some needed perspective on what I was missing, what I wanted in a partner, and what I needed in my life.
Now that I have re-married,I still think back to those hectic, busy days and long, lonely nights. I love my married life, but I won't ever take for granted having a loving partner and co-parent in my life again.
Taking A Bath
As a single mom, the only time I could really stop and take a breath was late at night or early in the morning. Even then, at least half the time, a child would wake up and I would have to get out or let them join me. Not exactly relaxing.
Finding Time For Self Care
I felt so guilty whenever I tried to take care of myself. I guess the so-called bright side, though, was the fact that I rarely had any time to take care of myself. Usually "self care" involved asking for a day off work, or asking someone to babysit or pick my kids up from school, and I couldn't afford either. So, most of the time I skipped out on self car entirely.
Staying At Home
When I was a single mom, I had to work to support my kids. I didn't have the luxury of staying home with them (not to say that staying at home with kids all day is in any way easy).
Then again, going to work (even when it was a job I hated) usually provided me with the only adult interaction I could enjoy, so it wasn't all bad.
Having A Partner To Vent To
Now that I am re-married, I realize that one thing I really value about having my spouse in my life is having someone I can vent to about, well, everything. Even just the act of telling someone about my day is super cathartic. Single parenthood is so lonely without it.
Attending Events With Your Kids
I had to miss a ton of events with my kids, usually because I couldn't find child care, bring my younger child along, or couldn't get time off during the work day. When I did attend, I always felt like everyone was judging me. Honestly, I felt like the worst mom on the planet.
Sleeping With A Partner Every Night
So, it's not like I was celibate when I was a single mom. I got some, but until I met my husband I didn't have someone to come home to every night. It was so lonely and often I had horrible insomnia as a result.
I remember calling my kids out of day care when I was too sick to drive them. I also remember driving them to day care when I was too sick to care for them. In case you're guessing, both instances sucked.
Losing Your Cool
Single parents often don't have the luxury of losing their sh*t. You have to be a parent every hour of every day. They also don't have the ability to do the things they need to do to recover when they do lose their cool, like taking a break, sitting alone in the bath with a bottle of wine, or going for a walk or a drive. Most of the time I just sat on the bathroom floor and cried.
I learned the hard way that co-parenting with a partner, even a less than stellar one, is way easier than single parenting and especially when your ex is a crappy co-parent or is absent entirely. Never underestimate the value of commiseration or collaborative problem solving, friends.