Secretsofmommyhood

Posts Tagged ‘single parents

Today’s post is dedicated to military spouses who serve as mom and dad while their spouse is deployed, and to single parents the world over.
 

My husband just got home from an 8 month military deployment overseas.  While he was gone, I was at home raising our son on my own.  I was a single parent.  To say it was difficult, is an understatement.  This was truly the most difficult thing I’ve gone through.

I had never before known what it really meant to be a single parent.  Sure, I have a couple of friends and family members who are single parents, but until you experience it for yourself, you have NO IDEA what it’s really like. 

Being a single parent means you never stop working.  You work 24/7.  It starts when you get up in the morning, get yourself and your child fed and ready to go.  You drop them off at the babysitter or school and go to work. You work a full eight-hour day and then pick your child up.  Then, you go home and have to get dinner made and on the table.  If you have a baby, that can also mean making one meal for you and a different meal for them.  Next are after dinner activities.  Depending on the age of your child this can range from playing with them/keeping them occupied and out of trouble to helping them with their homework.  After this is bedtime.  You go through the routine of getting them ready for bed (pajamas, teeth brushing, reading a book) and finally getting them settled in bed for the night. But, your “work” doesn’t stop there because after your child(ren) are in bed, you have to do all the things you couldn’t do while they were awake.  There’s cleaning up any left over dinner mess, putting toys away, going through the mail, doing any work you may have brought home from your job (or jobs, since many single parents work multiple jobs to pay the bills), perhaps getting some exercise in, and possibly taking care of any pets you may have.  After all that, you’re absolutely exhausted and want nothing more than to go to bed.  But, maybe your baby wakes up and isn’t feeling well so they’re up for two hours and you only get four hours of sleep that night (speaking from experience).  Maybe your older child wakes up in the middle of the night from a bad dream or wets the bed or gets sick.  It’s a never-ending cycle.  As a parent, you’re always on call.   

Being a single parent also means experiencing the joys of parenthood without having someone by your side to share it with you.  There are so many moments that excite you as a parent; a baby’s first steps, their first words, first tooth, first haircut, a child’s good report card, their team winning athletic events, going on a first date.  There are so many joyous milestones in a child’s life and it’s in those moments that you rejoice with your child(ren).  But, if you’re a single parent, there can also be a void in your heart.  I remember experiencing so many happy moments with “G” and being so delighted at all of them, but also sad because my husband wasn’t here to share in the joy with me. 

Along with the joys of parenting, come the stresses, the hard times.  There are days when your baby messes his diaper right as you’re walking out the door for work and then he won’t cooperate on the changing table and it takes twice as long to change his diaper as it should. Inevitably, you end up late for work causing a chain reaction and a stressful start to your day (again, speaking from experience here).  There are the days you are so utterly exhausted you can’t even think straight let alone try to be alert and energetic in order to take care of your child(ren).  Then your child gets sick and you have to take time off of work to stay home with them, take them to the doctor, and nurse them back to health all on your own.  And, what about when you get sick?  There isn’t anyone to take care of your children if you’re sick so getting well can take longer than it should.  If you have family close by, sometimes they can help so you can recover.  But, for single parents who don’t have any family nearby, you’re on your own.  This is what I experienced.  No relief.  There were countless nights I would cry myself to sleep, countless days I would cry over things like messy diapers, baby food being spit up and/or thrown all over the floor, things around the house breaking…the stress of handling such a large load all by yourself can really take a toll on you.

One other emotion I experienced as a single parent was jealousy.  I hate to admit it but it’s true.  I was jealous of my friends who talked about going to dinner with their husbands or going on vacation somewhere.  I would go shopping or be at church or watching TV and see families everywhere and be jealous of what they had.  I became jealous when I received Christmas cards from people with their beautiful family pictures on them.  Jealous because they had their whole family together and I didn’t have that.  I had to pray hard and really work at not becoming bitter.  It would have been so easy to fall into a downward spiral of bitterness and stay there, but I knew I couldn’t just sit around feeling sorry for myself.  I had to do what I could to stay positive and deal with things day by day. 

Being a military spouse added some extra stress.  Every day you think about your spouse and pray for their safety.  You try not to worry, but there is a part of you that just can’t help it.  And, In the midst of thinking about this and trying to avoid watching the news so you don’t see any bad news from over seas, it’s like I said above, you are saddened that you can’t share in all the little moments and joys with your spouse. But, it’s also more than that.  You’re sad for them; you’re sad because you get to experience special moments with your child(ren) as they grow but your spouse misses them.  And, when you have a baby, it’s difficult to know your spouse isn’t able to experience the baby’s first steps or first word, or all the other milestones they make as they grow.  Pictures and video can only do so much.  Skype is great too, but it doesn’t make up for the lost moments.  But, it is better than nothing so you rejoice in that.   

 After this experience, I have a new respect for single parents and what they go through each day.  Every day I would pray and ask God to bring Tim home safely and every day I would pray for my friends and family who are single parents.  I would pray for God to give them strength and stamina to get through each day; each long challenging day.  I know now what single parents experience; the exhaustion, the stress, the emotions, and I will never take for granted again the blessing it is to have my husband by my side day after day.

I am very grateful to those who stood by my side and helped in any way they could.  To those who made me meals and babysat, to those who came over and watched “G” so I could grocery shop, do laundry, or clean, to those who came over when I pinched a nerve and watched “G” for a bit so I could lay down and ice my neck, to those of you who prayed for our family day by day.  To all of you I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.  I couldn’t have gotten through this without you

To all you military spouses with deployed partners and to those of you who are single parents every day, I pray blessings on you and I salute you.

 **And to those of you who read this LONG post in its entirety, thank you!**

 

The letter and response article below is from the Washington Post and I think I’ll just let it speak for itself.

By Carolyn Hax

Carolyn:

Best friend has child. Her: exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc. Me (no kids): Wow. Sorry. What’d you do today? Her: Park, play group . . .

Okay. I’ve done Internet searches, I’ve talked to parents. I don’t get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners . . . I do all those things, too, and I don’t do them EVERY DAY. I guess what I’m asking is: What is a typical day and why don’t moms have time for a call or e-mail? I work and am away from home nine hours a day (plus a few late work events) and I manage to get it all done. I’m feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy — not a bad thing at all — but if so, why won’t my friend tell me the truth? Is this a peeing contest (“My life is so much harder than yours”)? What’s the deal? I’ve got friends with and without kids and all us child-free folks get the same story and have the same questions.

Tacoma, Wash.

Relax and enjoy. You’re funny.

Or you’re lying about having friends with kids.

Or you’re taking them at their word that they actually have kids, because you haven’t personally been in the same room with them.

Internet searches?

I keep wavering between giving you a straight answer and giving my forehead some keyboard. To claim you want to understand, while in the same breath implying that the only logical conclusions are that your mom-friends are either lying or competing with you, is disingenuous indeed.

So, since it’s validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. In list form. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, clean, dressed; to keeping them out of harm’s way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces the kind of checkout-line screaming that gets the checkout line shaking its head.

It’s needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.

It’s constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.

It’s constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends, well-meaning and otherwise. It’s resisting constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone’s long-term expense.

It’s doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything — language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy. Everything.

It’s also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy, and then, when you got your first 10 minutes to yourself, wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend, a good friend wouldn’t judge you, complain about you to mutual friends, or marvel how much more productively she uses her time. Either make a sincere effort to understand or keep your snit to yourself.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, ortellme@washpost.com.


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