I did not sign up to be a single parent. I expected I was going to have a partner with me to see through the raising of our children. Yes, their father is actively part of their lives, but we don’t do our job of parenting together anymore.
At first, it was overwhelming. Parents with partners can tag-team so that when one is wiped out, he or she can step out of the ring for a few minutes to regain energy and composure. When you’re a single parent, you’re on all the time. You might be able to hand off kids to a grandparent for a few hours, but you’re still the chief decision-maker.
Early after Drew moved out, I decided to take Tyler and Nicky out for dinner, just the three of us. It was a disaster. Nicky was sulking about something and didn’t want to order, so I picked macaroni and cheese from the kids’ menu for him, which I figured he probably would have ordered anyway. Just to be contrary, he said he didn’t want macaroni and cheese (after the waitress had already taken our order and walked away). I said, “tough, you’re having macaroni and cheese.”
Tyler, the peacemaker, was upset that we were arguing, burst into tears, and knocked over his juice trying to hug me across the table. This led to even more tears. By the end of the meal, all of us had cried at least once. I can only imagine that our waitress and the people at nearby tables looked at us with either pity or scorn: Look at that pathetic single mom. She can’t handle her kids (her life!).
Since those early days, we’ve developed a partnership that works. Nicky and Tyler and I are now a family that feels complete. There are plenty of families where the parents are married, but a spouse has to work long hours away from home or serve overseas in the military. There are stay-at-home moms and dads who have to take three kids to the grocery store and clean the house and cook, all while keeping an eye on little ones. I’m not alone and I’m not a pity case.
Our latest adventure was an overnight trip on our own to an unfamiliar city. This was a big step for me, the person who couldn’t even handle a night at a restaurant on my own. I took lots of time to plan our route (no navigator to help me in the car), packed our bags (no one to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything), and prepared for missteps (there were a few). But we had a great time and it built my confidence as a parent. I’m a parent, not a single parent. And we are a family, not a one-parent family.
You can read more about my life after divorce in Giving Myself Away, available now.
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