While I can sit around itemizing all the reasons being a single parent is stressful, overwhelming, and a Groundhog Day of misadventures in scheduling conflicts, you’ve heard that tune before. There is no shortage of bitter co-parents badmouthing the other for sport. I’ve been playing this game for a while. Since our kid was the size of a peanut. For all the reasons I have to grumble in my collection of journals over the years (and I have), I have just as many reasons to embrace gratitude for the dynamic I have savored with my daughter for over a decade.
Much like Noah’s pet collection, you must exist in pairs...
When I was sitting cross-legged in Mrs. Milton’s kindergarten class, she asked all of us what we wanted to be when we grew up. Without pause, amidst the exclamations of “princess!” or “cowboy!” I said “mommy.” While I didn’t figure out a potential career path until third grade, I did know, without a doubt, that having a child was for me. I was raised like many girls, with the goal to marry and have a family. Preferably in that order. Furthermore, if you asked any of my closest friends growing up, I would be labeled as the biggest romantic of the lot. I was probably the most surprised when that picture didn’t pan out. It was like a metaphorical collage of my life plans, just went up in smoke. It’s hard to rebuild an idea of happiness, or security, when the world around you believes that much like Noah’s pet collection, you must exist in pairs.
It’s a badge of honor I wear...
There is an element of defense that resides on these shoulders. Perhaps it’s living in a conservative mecca, where people presume that you must have a husband to make a baby. I can’t count the hundreds of times I’ve had to explain, “No I’m not married” and “No, I was never married to her dad.” It’s like the word floozy starts flashing on my forehead. This defense has lessened over the years. There was point where shame was replaced with pride in my accomplishments. It’s a badge of honor I wear, that I’ve survived and thrived in a situation that can exhaust the heartiest of couples.
This kiddo has taught me more than any college course. She has molded my heart is ways poets merely try to capture with words. She has reigned in my ego, and guided me to the path of patience -at times, kicking and screaming. While other families distribute attention among a tribe, she is my beacon. The following is a list of what I love about single parenting:
Top five reasons being a single parent is awesome...
It’s just us. I don’t have to check in with anyone to coordinate our dinner plans, or hope we can agree on a movie to watch on a Saturday night. It’s just us. It may be pedicures or Ponyo, we’re going to exchange unlimited giggles and inside jokes.
Snuggles. While some of my married friends have multiple kids (not to mention their mate) that pile into bed offering all sorts of complaints and interruptions, I have this one person. My snuggles are never divided.
Unique connection. I don’t know if all mom’s have this with all their kids. Maybe they do. I look at her face and know what plot she’s concocting, feelings that are hurting, or the honest answer to the question she just fibbed on. The really unique thing here, is she can see those things in me too. Without any word from me, she asks “what’s wrong mama?” Or she offers me a foot massage. She knows. It seems extra special.
Cherished time. Since she shares time between two homes, what we have is cherished. Many of my friends will tell me that I’m lucky to get a break from her while she’s at her dad’s house. Sure, there are times that I just want to get the house clean, or have dinner with a friend- but when I have her home, you can bet it’s going to be dripping with quality time. When she puts down the Minecraft.
Tribe mentality. A lot of blended families engage in this tug-of-war with the step-parents, making it clear that “I’m her mother/father.” I get that entirely. I used to be so insecure when she was little, that my role would be tainted by another female influence. Not the case at all. I see her stepmom as an equal part of this team we’ve created, to raise a (hopefully) kind and compassionate little human. What makes it special, is that we are so uniquely different. While I’m tidying the living room because my OCD is twitching, her stepmom has come up with a craft or adventure to engage the kids on her watch. She gives my daughter the gift of spontaneity, creativity and playfulness that is sometimes hard for me to muster, as I juggle all my responsibilities. We communicate and work as a team. Just to keep it real, we didn’t sing kumbaya right out of the gate. This is a process that was worth working for. It’s been an evolution I take pride in.
We’ve got this...
While my assumptions of what a “mommy” is, didn’t turn out to be the glamorous gig I was banking on as a kindergartener, I wouldn’t change a bit of it. I have been blessed with the opportunity to grow into this person, this mother, with fumbles and priceless triumphs. I’m not only proud of myself, but this entire family to navigate our unique roles with increasing grace. I’m proud of my daughter for bending into her story with an open heart. I don’t know what the future holds for our little clan, but I greet it with an open spirit, and absolute understanding- we’ve got this.