Awhile back, when I was in the throes of treading some really, really, especially lousy, difficult, challenging and nasty parenting waters, I'd been posting some FB statuses discussing some of the difficulties I'd been having. (Knowing me, probably too many. And knowing me especially well, probably too woe-is-me, which, let's face it, I am a bit prone to).
Anyhoo - someone commented on my FB that I should imagine how much harder it would be to be a single parent, or something along those lines. And at the time, (although I am absolutely certain it was not in any way intended to make me feel shitty), this comment threw me even deeper into the sticky mud of self-doubt and guilt and inadequacy. I was barely coping, barely making it through each day, crying far too much of the time. And though my (alone) work-day from 7 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. is long (particulary with a two month long run-on tantrumming toddler and a brand new baby), I knew that I had help coming at the end of the day fom my loving spouse, who is also a loving parent. How much of a fuck-up was I, to not be able to handle the daytime stuff on my own, when I had help at night?
Somehow I made it through that particular parenting tailspin, more or less in one piece, and I'm not naive enough to think it will be my last. But that FB comment still lingers, stays with me whenever I feel overwhelmed, overworked, or just plain exhausted.
These past four weeks, L. was co-pilotting a three week long trial which was a boatload of work and then away for a week-long (very annoying) work-y, developmental thing-y. My mom came to visit from Winnipeg to help me out for two weeks. I cannot, cannot, cannot even begin to fathom how I would have survived without that help. How would I have been able to get the kids down to sleep at night when Girlio's bedtime routine starts at 7, and Boy-o's bath starts at the same time? How I would have been able to give them both the time and energy they need during the day when Girlio has been up an average of 6 times a night for weeks on end and I am running on nothing but fumes (and chocolate and Diet Pepsi, of course, because I eat really shittily when I'm past the point of no return)? Of course, I would have found a way. Single parents everywhere do. Even when they're running on fumes. But it would have been so much more challenging.
Even with all that help from my mama, I still got sick at the end of the month from all the night-time sleeplessness and exhaustion and shitty-coping-eating. So here's the thing: regardless of the absolute unhelpfulness of that FB comment for me way back when I was losing my shit, the comment itself is bang-on. True. For real. Accurate.
Single mamas (and yes, single papas, though let's be clear, this is more of a rare bird) have to do it all. Be it all. And they have to do it all of the time. They have to wrangle kiddies without regard of their own needs, and they don't have partners to spell them off at the end of the work day. They can't crap out and say "you put Junior down because if I have to look at him for another second, a murder will occur." They just have to, you know, not murder. They have to put their kids down to bed at night by themselves, deal with their night-wakings by themselves, and deal with the effects of splitting themselves in half and being sleep deprived, by themselves. They can't say "I need a girls' night" and know that their childcare solution is sitting right next to them on the couch (not that I actually do this with any regularity... but I really should). And most often, they can't make the choice to stay home with their kiddos long term, a job I often bitch about, but know I am so, so privileged to be able to undertake.
Parenting is hard. Hard. Really really really fucking hard. (And I not so humbly submit that if it isn't hard, you either aren't doing it right, or you are raising some weird-child-of-the-corn who is devoid of contrariness, personality, and other forms of the child-pizzazz that make our kiddies simultaneously so clever, so interesting and so freaking difficult.) Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes it's exciting. Sometimes it's less fun and less exciting. But it's always, always challenging.
So - this is an ode, a shout-out, a salute, a big-up, a toast, an accolaide, and a woot! woot! to all the single mama's out there. You have my undying respect and admiration. And I'd like to send you out a big ole hug. And some zen-like inner calm (not that I generally have much of this to spare). And some chocolate. LOTS of chocolate.
And when you are feeling tired and overwhelmed and start playing the international-sport-of-mothers- everywhere (alternatively titled "self-blame and self-doubt"), take a moment and remind yourself that you are tired and overwhelmed because you are undertaking a job an entire mob of mama's would (and do) find challenging.
Here's to you, mamacitas.
** Fine print: Though I would still like to maintain that is is largely unhelpful to tell people who are having a rough time to buck up because other people have a more difficult time than them. Please do not try this at home.