- Win $100 in prizes!
Startling True Confessions
of a Single Mother
These are all things I
probably wouldn't share with you in casual conversation, because
to say these things would be to complain, and everyone knows
the first rule for single mothers is No Whining!
by Jay Ann Cox
I like adult
I like eating
an entire meal, uninterrupted, with a fork that does not have
a Mickey Mouse gripper on the end.
I like candlelight,
romantic strolls in the moonlight, and movies out.
I like delicate
lace "dry clean only" blouses.
I like cleaning
house, and having it stay that way for more than 30 minutes.
I like running
errands without having to sidetrack to the park or McDonald's
to manage a toddler meltdown.
I like showing
up on time to events and meetings, without any loving little
handprints on my shoulder or skirt hem.
And I like
taking a long bath, trimming my nails, eyeing myself in the mirror,
and falling into bed -- without stepping on any Legos or finding
any leftover burritos, all dried and crumbly under my pillow.
These are all things I probably
wouldn't share with you in casual conversation, because to say
these things would to complain, and everyone knows the first
rule for single mothers is No Whining. But I know
Yes, I'll admit, it is a wee
bit harder knowing that you are the only person solely responsible
for the children. Though there might be another "non-"
or "joint-custodial" parent in the picture, it's still
just mom and the kids when it's time to lock the doors and settle
in for the night.
Finally, yes, I confess that
it is indeed difficult to go for days with your nose to the grindstone.
Especially if you work in a home office, because you can just
look up and out the door to see the mountain of laundry that
serves as a crash pad for paratroopers, or the trail of shoes,
socks and diapers that lead to the bathtub, still filled with
the toys from last night's super marathon splash fest.
OK, I'll also concede that there
must be some instinct cross-wired in me, because I always manage
to schedule a big meeting and a couple of hours of premium babysitting
just when my son is coming down with a fever and upset stomach.
That spells NURSE-A-THON. To leave this pale child with the dark
circles under his eyes in order to attend a meeting that can
be rescheduled is a crime punishable by guilt, a longer recovery
time, and the $10/hr for a sick child caregiver. Much more likely,
if I don't reschedule, I will catch whatever it is and lose two
more days to illness.
Critics who hold to a more "liberated"
view of parenting --
many of my friends, family
and any stranger who decides to share -- react
with disbelief and mild scorn: "why not get a good preschool
or a full time sitter like everyone else, and go to work!"
Ah, the penance one always hears for such confessions.
But you see, I do work. I work
all the time. I work 24x7 as a mother, and I must also earn the
money to make this family tick. I choose to do all that at home
and through part-time teaching. Rather than shelling out hard-earned
money to caregivers and schools, I try to spend every possible
waking and sleeping moment with my child, available and nurturing.
Because of this, I choose social activities that include my child.
Why? Simple, because I want to be there. I don't want to miss
any possible moment when my son will need me and only me. I want
to see it, to see his eyes, to be the one to spread the big news
that my son can say, "1-2-3-4-5," rather than hear
it from the caregiver. I have made the choice to be there, and
it's not without consequences.
While it appears that I'm complaining,
I'm really not. I do get tired, I miss those silly latenight
gabfests over a cup of coffee with my single childless friends,
and I shower quickly, or patiently remove all the toys before
filling the tub with hot soapy water, never before midnight.
But I've had a lifetime of jobs, (rotten and wonderful) long
baths, gallons of coffee, and I'm delighted to be making paper
hats and wiping a runny nose instead because this is my life
In truth, I'm really not complaining.
What would be the point? To focus on how tired I am (did I mention
I'm tired?) or how I used to get my whole house clean in 2 hours,
denies the miraculous and transformative energy that has come
into my life. I'm no longer alone, I'm part of a family. In fact,
the term "single mother" is oxymoronic, because I have
a twin, a sidekick, a confidante. Single, alone, unattended,
I most assuredly am not.
As a family, we have made some
"radical" choices: my almost 3 yr old son is still
nursing, we sleep in the same bed, the 3 days a week of child
care is very close to the maximum for us. Despite the prevailing
"wisdom" that doing the above will create a spoiled
and selfish person, I don't want it any other way; first, because
of my instincts that my way would be beneficial for both of us,
and now because I can already see the results of such practices.
He's secure, attached, and completely free to be himself. Plus
he's darn good company. I wouldn't send my son back to customer
service and say, "I'm sorry, I've changed my mind,"
any more than I would banish him in his own bedroom. If he falls
asleep by 9 or 10, I usually join him (because I'm tired, remember?).
Or I'll tuck him in and spend my solitary hour or two reading,
writing, watching TV --
nothing terribly glamourous
or "adult." When I had a boyfriend -- a
rare and wonderful man who enjoyed meeting for lunch, watching
videos, ordering restaurant meals in, sharing a football game
day with us -- we managed to have adult time without
having to reshape my family structure and beliefs.
All of my confessions are true,
and I grudgingly admit to them. But none of them are reason enough
to change or ask my son to tolerate needless separations. And
more importantly, those facts alone create a false picture of
our family. The upside is that I love my son, I cherish his babyhood
and welcome his burgeoning childhood.
That's why there's no complaining.
I can always shop by myself or get a massage in those couple
of hours I squeeze out each month. I can schedule lunch dates
with friends and suitors for days when he is doing lunch with
the preschool set. As for café society, I bought an espresso
machine because most cafés are rotten places for a 2 year
old, and lattes are darned expensive. So, anyone who wants a
terrific latte, with cinnamon and frothy milk, can come over
for a latenight gabfest anytime (call first, I'm probably dozing
on the couch). I usually have very very nice biscotti too. In
fact, there probably will be one under my pillow tonight, when
I lie down next to my sprawling and blissfully sleeping son.
- Jay Ann Cox is an EP
Coach and our Single
Parenting Expert. You can reach her via e-mail, [email protected]
or her web site, http://www.sarabi.com