I’m one of the lucky ones, this is what I tell myself all the time. As far as single mothering goes, I have it relatively easier than many single moms.
But even so, I have these dilemmas that come up and I have to deal with them on my own simply because there is not another parent in the home on a daily basis.
I’m lucky becuase I have a very supportive co-parent, who is flexible on many issues. I have family nearby and I have good friends. I’m fortunate that I have a self-employable skill so that I can work at home and I’m able to pick up my daughter after school. I have nobody to call in and ask for days off if she’s sick. I have it easy. This is what I tell myself.
And many days, it does seem easy. We can run late for school and I don’t have the worry about a boss breathing down my neck if I’m late. I don’t have to fight traffic very much. I don’t have a spouse to argue with or mesh schedules with. Since Annika mostly lives on yogurt and fruit anyway, I can make simple dinners if I don’t feel like cooking, which is a lot, frankly.
But then there are the days when it doesn’t seem easy and the single mom dilemma raises it’s ugly head. There are the days when work pressure is building up because I’ve let too much slide due to mama tasks.
Or because I’m tired of the relentlessness of motherhood and wish there was someone else to trade off with as I march around giving orders every morning and night. There are times when I just want to sleep and I can’t. Or I don’t feel like playing pretend and I snap because I have no one there to catch me.
There are the days when the house is a mess and the bills are piling up and the car needs to be taken to the mechanic and then the battery in the smoke alarm dies and there’s this beeping noise every 30 seconds and why oh why does it always happen in the middle of the night? And it’s all on me.
Those are the days when I become the mommy monster telling my daughter.
Eat your breakfast!”
“And for the love of god, no you can’t wear that shirt, it’s dirty!”
I know that married parents have difficulties too. I know that many parents will read the above statements and nod their heads in commiseration.
But it’s not just the daily frustrations that are hard. Because I know those are hard on all parents whether there are just one or two. But it’s also the forcing down her throat the fact that she’s the product of two single parents and she must sacrifice her home space.
There are the weekends when she wants to stay at home with me on the days she supposed to spend with her dad. Kids with married parents don’t have to bounce back and forth between two homes. They get to choose when or if they are going to spend the night at another person’s house. When they leave for an outing with one parent, they know that they will see the other parent again, later in the day.
My daughter doesn’t get that. She has this black and white, all-or-nothing decision between which parent she is with. I can tell that she craves, desperately, time with all of us together as a family.
Family is ridiculously important to her. She asks for group hugs. She notices when we are doing something really simple together, like hand-washing or teeth brushing.
“Lets doing family washing together!” she’ll say brightly and thoroughly enjoy that tiny little moment of connection inside our inner group of related genes.
Those are the bright moments inside parenting, but underneath the core of that is the message that her family is broken. And she is trying to find ways to mend it.
When she complains about having to go to her dad’s house, I know that she wants to see him, but she wants it to be under the same roof. She knows that when she’s with him, she’s not with me.
I have found myself saying more and more lately, “This is not negotiable,” about many things. She doesn’t get a choice in many important matters because she lives in two families who are separate.
And I wonder just what message I’m sending. I’ve spent a lot of time telling her that her feelings matter and giving her choices. Then I tell her that she doesn’t have a choice in certain matters. Big matters. Matters that will affect her the rest of her life.
As an attachment parent I tell myself that what my daughter wants is important. She gets to choose.
But in reality, there are moments when she doesn’t get to choose and it seemingly boils down to the fact that I’m a single mom.
I tell myself if I were married, I wouldn’t have to send my daughter to preschool. I’d be able to stay home with her for the full five years. I wouldn’t have to stay up late at night working when I could be vegging on the couch. Or just falling asleep with her and getting a good night’s rest so I would have the energy to play kiddie games all day long.
But the reality of it is that she doesn’t have choices in many of these matters because I do have to work. And she does have to spend time with her dad. And I need time to get things done when she’s not here because I am the only adult in the home.
So I ask myself sometimes, “Did I make the right decision, parenting her this way?” Because it’s a paradox, this life I lead of letting my daughter in on many decisions about how to be in the world when the inside of my brain is screaming, “Oh, please pick the thing that will make our lives easier!”
I can’t always keep her home when she asks to stay. And even though I give her choices, they aren’t always the ones she wants. So, is it really a choice?