I talked to one of my girlfriends lately and explained my constant dilemna as a single working Mom. Work & kids. Kids & work. I’m in a busy demading role that takes a lot more of my time than an 8 hour workday. When I have my kids I try to make sure they get my undivided attention and we get as much time together as possible which means my workdays shorten down to something more normal – that just doesn’t cut it. I’m worried about the kids when I’m at work. I’m worried about work when I’m with the kids.
In our overly connected world I am just one text away from any corporate emergency which means there have been some pretty distracted dinners. My kids ask how much I need to work on vacation and every Saturday we’re together they ask if I have to work. When I answer them in shock and say ‘but it’s Saturday’ (initial thought here is how did they forget it’s Saturday) their answer is ‘you work every Saturday’. I’m the Mom taking a conference call in the back of the gym 3 seconds before the Christmas concert starts. I’m also up at 4am on my computer regularly so I can squeeze in some work before I start breakfast and packing lunches. And scrambling to finish some emails while the kids are wandering their sleepy selves to the table. I have to schedule calls around when I need to pick my kids up. There’s no back up plan here and I need to show up on time. If I had a theme song it would be ‘Just Give Me a Minute’.
My girlfriend’s answer to this? “You must always feel guilty”. Big fat sigh. Yep. Enter the guilts.
On top of the daily guilts there’s the big life guilts (how are my kids going to look back on all of this, am I messing them up, I wish I was raising them in a ‘normal’ family, is it really fair they go back and forth between two houses, am I allowed to date and still be a good Mom), the family guilts (I should see my parents more, I meant to go visit my sister, I need to check in on everyone more often), the friend guilts (I can’t remember the last time I went out, I have cancelled lunch with the same person six times, I am turning into the ‘we should get together and never do’ person) and of course the gym, diet, I forgot everyone’s birthday, we eat too much takeout/sugar/processed food, and the house is not clean enough guilts. I did fix the dog guilts – I take them to daycare.
That one line changed everything. “You must always feel guilty”.
NO MORE GUILTS.
When I look at the SMs I know I feel like these women should be the ones running around in a superhero costume all day (I mean, if a 4 year old can do it….). Single Moms should be celebrated. What they accomplish in a day is superhuman. Kids are getting fed and fed healthy stuff most of the time, lunches are packed, hugs happen ALL the time. Dinner is together at an actual table. Sure, sometimes it’s boring and it’s not exactly going to get featured on a foodie blog but it gets eaten. Days get talked about and homework gets done. There are even bedtime stories.
What if instead of putting all that energy into wishing you could be better it went into realizing how amazing you are SM? Life handed us something we probably didn’t ever imagine for ourselves or our kids and we’re doing what we can with it. Keeping up a job, managing a house, bills, groceries, the kids health and well being, our health and well being, appointments, teacher meetings, sports, skinned knees, learning to ride bikes, and about 100 other things every day – these are no small tasks. We take out our own garbage, we hang our own paintings, and we plunge our own toilets. Ok, I’d give up that last one any day but the rest make me proud. They make me proud of all of us. And we’re doing better than what we can with this – we are knocking this out of the park.
This life situation gave us the power to show our kids the true strength you can find inside when life delivers you a flaming bag of dog poop. The value of work ethic. The significance of looking someone, especially a small someone, in the eye and hearing about the injustice of someone butting in line at school. The importance of taking care of yourself – physically and mentally. That people are human and they make mistakes like yelling to hustle when it’s time to go to school. Sorry is a very important word when you really mean it. That it’s ok to be sad and cry. Because things can be hard and those tears aren’t easy to hold back – Mom is no exception to this. Sometimes tears make you feel so much better when they’re done. Time outs are not a punishment – they are a life skill and when your feelings start to slide all over the place it’s best to quiet down a bit. Jobs come and go. Friends come and go. Good times, bad times – they also come and go. This little thing we have together, it’s forever. It deserves to be loved and nurtured. You deserve to be loved and nurtured.
And the little family that’s been carved out? SM – you did that. You made it warm and loving. You are a rock and your kids see everything you do. You, SM, deserve a break. No more guilts. No more keeping up with this imaginary idea of what should be happening or what should have been. Every time that thought creeps in your head “I should have…” I want you to think of something you did that you deserve a pat on the back for. You’ll have more to choose from than you realize. Look at yourself through your kids eyes. That unshifting love, the admiration, the truth they tell when someone asks about their Mom and they say “she’s awesome”.
You deserve some peace. You are crushing this even when the house is a mess and dinner is take out. You are amazing.