I was fortunate enough to have my husband around pretty regularly, though his work hours were absurd, he was home at night to help with diaper changes, taking out the garbage, hauling laundry up and down the stairs, and taking the dog out, among other things.
Together, we decided to have a second child, and then our daughter surprised us last year.
It seemed perfect, our little family. Mother's Day last year was awesome, having all of us together, sons and a daughter.
This year is different.
This year, I am amongst those single mothers. This year I look at myself most days, and I wonder how do I do this?
I don't see what other people see when they tell me I'm doing awesome or that I'm a great mom. I have a horrible habit of seeing the negative things, of seeing all the ways that I could be better. I see the toys on the floor, I see the folded clothes piled on the table waiting to be put away, I see my children eating cereal for supper another night.
I try not to compare my new self with my former self, the mom I thought was better in many ways, spending countless hours doing fun projects with the kids, making flash cards, making bubbles, drawing cartoon characters on the sidewalk, making homemade waffles instead of frozen ones.
I try to tell myself that my new lack of time to do all of those fun and amazing things is better as the "new" mom is amazing, because she is stronger, she is putting her family's well-being first, she has set aside her dream of being home with them and raising them alone so she can raise them... Alone. Or mostly alone.
I feel like my love for them shows less to them in the fun ways, the ways that probably matter to them more now, but someday, they will look back and see the endless love for them in the amount of time they spent at daycare while I worked to provide them a loving and stable home. The hours I didn't sleep because I was up tending to their illnesses, bad dreams, hunger, or loneliness may never be accounted for in numbers, but maybe they will see the circles under my eyes and the wrinkles on my face, and know they are proof of my love. Somedays, I do not want to do another puzzle, but would rather snuggle them laying down on the couch and read a book or watch a movie because by the time the week is done, my energy is gone.
It tears me up. I feel like when I'm tired, I'm not a great mom. But, I try to tell myself, I am tired because I am a great mom.
While I used to be one of those who often wondered how single parents do it, I am now one of those that is asked how I do it. I never know how to answer that question, and usually just say "I just do, I have to."
There's no calculated formula, or plan for how I get through the days or the weeks when they are hard. I just get up in the morning. I tend to my children, I hug them, I love them, I tell them I love them, I give them as much of me and my attention and time as I can, and hopefully get through the day with everyone happy, and healthy, in one piece and asleep in their beds by ten. I don't even really feel like I am doing it (single parenting) most days because it's become second nature. Good golly, the days fly by this way.
I never saw myself being a single mom, and I still struggle with calling myself a single mom, because they have a dad in their lives. He is trying to be better for them so someday I won't be a single mom, and they will have their dad back. But, I really, for now, am a single mom, I guess.
Single moms, or mothers who aren't necessarily single, but are doing the single parenting thing themselves (or maybe just solo parenting most of the time for whatever reason), I salute you. I don't know how you do it. But, you're doing it.
I know that, if you're like me, you're not sure how to embrace Mother's Day this year. My kids are still young enough that they don't really understand the concept, or why I do the things that I do for them. It's a bittersweet holiday if you once had someone there to make it feel important or special and this year it's on you.
Well, moms- know that I'm celebrating you and all you do to give your children everything you can. I'm celebrating your exhaustion and frustration and tears and joy. I want you to know that you are amazing. Your hard work and determination is paying off.
I give you permission to look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you're an awesome mom. You're phenomenal.
I pray that you will celebrate you. I pray you will laugh and love and not cry.
Happy Mother's Day! I may not know you, but I love you.