This month, on September 8 to be exact, my son turned 10. 10! He is a whole decade old. He is smart, curious, and such a mama’s boy. (He hates when I call him a mama’s boy though, but he is). I don’t know if all moms go through this, but I am struggling with him turning double digits. Besides the normal “my son is not a baby anymore,” him turning 10 also means I have been doing this single mom thing for 10 years.
Shortly after having my son (and when I say shortly after, I mean like three days after he was born), my entire world basically imploded. All the lies his father had been hiding came to surface.
My son turning 10 means a whole decade of struggling, worrying, trying to do it all on my own. I remember when this all happened, everyone kept saying, “Just wait- it’ll get better.” And sure, some parts have, but the struggles seem never-ending.
Solo parenting is no joke
Preschool, but especially kindergarten, were awful experiences. He was acting out, couldn’t sit still. The school psychologist at one point called me and said it was my fault because I was a single parent, so I “must be spoiling him” to make up for that. (Yep, she actually said that…and that was just the tip of the iceberg). It took multiple calls and trips to the doctors to get an ADD diagnosis and action plan. Also, he can be so grouchy and irritable; he takes it out on me when he is frustrated. As a result, I end up feeling a like a horrible parent most of the time.
I have had to juggle between two and three jobs at any given time in the last 10 years. Yet, I literally live paycheck to paycheck. I had my son young, at 23, so I didn’t have that “egg nest” built up quite yet. I had just graduated with my teaching degree and had to pay on my student loans, along with hospital bills. I feel such anxiety thinking about how I am going to pay for college. I feed a small savings account for him when I am able, but I just can’t ever seem to get caught up.
I rely on my parents to help more than I care to share. They babysit so I can work my second job. My dad loves taking him up north and do the “boy stuff.” Unfortunately, they are retiring within the next couple of years and moving up north; I honestly don’t know what I am going to when they are two-three hours away.
My social life is non-existent. Months after my son was born, relationships with my “then” friends crumbled. Friendships I made along the last 10 years never seem to last; no one else had kids, so they did not understand that I couldn’t just drop everything to grab a drink or go out. I also don’t have things in common with the other moms at school. How do they always seem to know each other right away? If I am lucky, I get to enjoy a night out once every six months or so. (Then, I am too socially awkward to interact. Did you know people talk about things other than YouTubers?) The “single mom friends” I have made along the way only “get it” so much. While I cannot always sympathize with their co-parenting struggles, they cannot always sympathize with my full-time single parenting. And, evidently, single people do this “dating thing”! I have been on most dating sites, putting myself out there, and haven’t gone on a date in years. Meanwhile, every single mom I’ve known has entered into a relationship post-break-up.
For the last 10 years, I have struggled to manage the day-to-day of solo parenting. How do I make sure I am present and with my child when I am constantly worried about work, bills, etc.? I live and die by my planners; without them, I would be even more lost. I wake up early to make sure I have everything ready for work each day. Most days I am rushing home from work to get my son off the bus and see him for a few minutes before rushing off to my second job. I get the most “home stuff” (laundry, making lunches, etc.) done after 9 p.m. (Thank goodness for TV to distract me!).
When reflecting back on these last 10 years, it probably sounds like a running mess, and it honestly feels like it. I sound like a mess, mostly because I am. This is what I feel, what I see. I make sure this isn’t what my son hears and sees. I work so hard to provide for him, so he can do the sports he loves, has new clothes, school supplies, book orders- everything that everyone else seems to have. I just pray that he sees the hard work, feels the love, and doesn’t feel like he is missing out on any of it. Ever.
I should probably conclude this with some tips, something from the highlight reel. But, I won’t. Just know that if you are a single mom, struggling like I am- you are not alone. If you know a single mom in a similar situation, tell them you see them, that you see how hard they are working. If you are able, do something nice for them, offer to babysit, so they can go to Target alone or simply buy them a large double-double coffee from Tim Hortons. They would appreciate it more than you know…