When someone checks out in a relationship, the teamwork meter plummets. Zip. Zilch. Nada. No collaborative work in parenting, finances, household management, discipline, anything. Suffice it to say that I'm used to setting the pace for my household.
Since being thrust into this role, I continually have friends and loved ones in my ear saying things like...
"You're so strong!"
"I could never do all that you do and hold it together."
"Aren't you mad or bitter? You don't act like it. I'd be livid."
"You're doing awesome! Being a single mom must not be as bad as it's made out to be."Not to discount those incredible compliments, but...
I appreciate the admiration, but things are a whole lot different from my perspective. The ire is there. The rage exists. The self-pity comes bubbling up in my darkest moments. I'm human; I promise. It is hard; I assure you. Let me break it down a little bit:
1. I don't ever get a break. Ever. Being forced to continue out this lease with cheaterman (let's shorten it to CM...I'm tired of the time it takes to even type out the word) only exacerbates that issue. Even when I don't have to technically be "on" in my mom role with Kimmy (like when CM is giving Kimmy a bath and doing her bedtime routine), I really do still have to be on. There is no companion to take the load off me long enough for me to go be by myself and decompress. There's no one there to even respect that that is a need I have.
I have a constant internal storm raging in my head, but I have to keep my emotions and reactions in check so that Kimmy doesn't see how on edge I am. Example: CM sings constantly. Loudly. Obnoxiously. Perhaps to purposely annoy me (as if he hasn't already done enough to show his disrespect for me)! The lyrics are frequently sexually explicit, full of swear words. (Kimmy actually sings some of these songs, though she doesn't know the words. But I have to say, "Oh, Mommy doesn't like that song. Let's sing a different one." Thankfully, that usually leads to a spirited rendition of "Jesus Loves Me." But I digress.)
I feel like I need to make it more clear. The singing is CONSTANT. The noise pollution is enough to make me want to punch a hole in every wall in this house. Add on some other things that CM gets huffy and puffy about that I'm apparently doing incorrectly (as if he really deserves to be able to scrutinize me), like the fact that I rarely find time to do the dishes when I'm about to collapse at the end of the day, and I'm a veritable walking thunderstorm.
I want to EXPLODE--release the Kraken, if you will. Can I really do that, though? No, I can't. What do I do instead? Play it cool for my sweet Kimmy. After all, we share a room. I said I don't get a break, right? It's true. Not even when I'm sleeping.
2. Slightly different than never getting a break: I'm always busy. Pushed-to-the-max, on-overdrive busy. When I'm not wiping a snotty nose with a "chih-chyoo" or reading a book or playing chase or making toddler snack foods or changing a diaper or doing a bedtime routine or taking the child to an appointment or letting her do something all by herself that would take a nanosecond for me to do all by myself, I'm...
at work full time,
trying to squeeze in an errand of my own,
working on our financial planning,
doing a marketing plan for the month for my Thirty-One business,
reading up on my training materials for my new PartyLite business,
hosting an online party for one of the said side businesses,
trying to catch up on my reading for my church small group,
going to church on Wednesdays and Sundays,
clipping coupons and planning grocery trips on a budget,
dreaming about the hot shower that I don't have time to take,
meal planning or cooking,
tossing in a load of laundry when there are zero clean clothes and wildly hoping that I can stay awake long enough to put it in the dryer to be able to have something to wear the next day,
worrying, praying, stressing, and worrying some more.
My purse is literally full of post-it notes and short lists I've jotted down for myself on scratch paper in the vain hope of being able to remember all there is that I have to do on a daily basis.
My work calendar is color-coded in an attempt to help me keep my head on straight. I have a bagillion reminders set on my phone. I set 4 alarms every morning as a contingency to the repeated snooze-hitting habit that has spurned from sheer exhaustion. Let's not even talk about the Notes app on my phone. I'm surprised my head hasn't twisted clear off my neck.
I feel late, disorganized, underprepared, confused, forgetful, behind, and to be frank, the exact opposite of "strong" or "graceful" or "poised" or "put together" or "admirable" almost all of the time.
3. I'm constantly paranoid that someone will pity me. Let's face it: people look at your left ring finger. You turn a certain age...we'll say 20-something...and, especially when you're a woman, people look at the ring finger. When you have a 2-year-old in tow everywhere you go, people know. They know you're a single mom. They don't know how or why or for how long, but they know. Then there's that look they give you. The annoyed or distracted expression that suddenly softens ever so slightly, enough for you to see that they wouldn't wish what they perceive your situation to be on anyone on this earth.
I'll just come right out with it: Don't pity me. Please, don't pity me. That's the worst thing you can do for a single momma's heart. It leaves her feeling that someone thinks she's lost, hopeless, unstable, or even searching. I am not any of those things. I may be a bit rattled, stressed, or anxious, but I am far from any of those things.
And I am certainly not searching. I have the Cross before me, my family and friends beside me, and the world behind me. The Promise is greater than the problems. You think I'll be living paycheck to paycheck in heaven? Wrong-o. You think I'll have endless tasks on my meaningless to-do list? Nope. I'll be free as a bird, not a care in the world.
Pity him. Cheaterman. He is the hopeless one. He is the one without. He is missing out on his future. Not me.
All that being said, here's my single momma number 4:
I am the most honest, raw, real, shameless, humble, selfless woman you will ever meet.
And here's a secret: all single mommas are. Or at least all the ones who give this unchosen job every ounce of their effort.
Why? We have nothing to hide.
When you're stretched to the breaking point every second of the day, you are stripped of all illusions and pretenses.
When you do everything in your power to be the best version of you for your child 24/7--when you commit to putting yourself on the back burner to care for her and ensure her happiness at all costs--love takes hold and steers your every move. Yes, you will make mistakes. Yes, you will at times be [embarrassingly] impatient. But no one can ever take away your motherhood, your character, your core. No one can ever argue that you don't love your child abundantly and without limits. Top that off with God's limitless love, and there is absolutely no reason under the sun to be ashamed of the label that will now stick with you through your entire life, no matter what future relationship(s) or circumstances may come.
Am I a single mom? Yes--and proud of it! Single mom means my child will never be without or lacking. I will never, ever give up on her...on us.