Getting Real With Sara Haley
As a single parent, there are a lot of things that can be extremely difficult to do on your own. Not that they’re impossible, because parents have found ways to get around these situations in the past, but they can definitely make everyday, mundane tasks take twice as long with twice as much effort. What used to take you a quick second to do now requires herding children and finding creative ways to accomplish them without a second adult around to carry the weight and chip in. Here are just a few things that I have found can be harder to do as a single parent–but not necessarily impossible.
When you’ve got a list a mile long of things you need to do today, toting around a child or two can make the easiest trip to the store a daylong event. The term “running in and out of the store” is no longer a phrase in your vocabulary. Depending on the age of your children, a quick drop-in into Walmart can end up being an hour or so of hauling a car seat with the cart, repeatedly telling your child that ice cream is NOT an option for dinner, and wrestling wandering children that refuse to sit in the cart and let you sift through your coupons uninterrupted. You may find yourself telling your child, “put that down,” “stay by Mommy,” and “no” repeatedly until even you are annoyed at hearing it. Winding through the aisles to get to the back of the store for milk is not as easy to do as it was sans children–or with the help of your ex.
Attending “Adult” Appointments
The last thing you need to do is bring your six year old son in with you to your gynecologist appointment. At a certain age, this is just not appropriate, and fortunately, many nurses are okay with stepping out with your child and distracting them with some books from the waiting area or a lollipop from the candy basket. If you’re a single mom needing to attend an “adult” appointment such as this, ask a nurse if they can take your child outside for a moment, or even see if you can line up a friend or relative to watch your child while you make your appointment. Return the favor when they need the same done with their child.
Strollers vs. Manual Open Doors
Have you ever gone somewhere with your child in a baby stroller and been faced with a manual open door with no one around to open it for you? Yeah, ‘nuf said.
Dating / Sex
At some point in time, no matter when your last relationship ended, there comes a point where you realize you miss the companionship of a boyfriend or spouse. And let’s face it–as women, we have needs, too, just like our children do. But we spend so much time putting their needs and desires first that we sometimes forget that we deserve a little down time and enjoyment, too. Finding time (and energy!) to date can seem nearly impossible, but this is when it pays to get creative. If your ex spends time with the kids, make this “you” time. On the weekends he has your children, schedule a date night and take advantage of an overnight without the children. If your ex does not share custody of the children and you are unable to enjoy these benefits, pair up with another single mother friend of yours and alternate babysitting nights. Some churches also offer “Mom’s Night Out” which includes babysitting and entertainment for your children. And if worse comes to worst, there is always the option to allow “late night” dates, in which you enjoy a nice movie at home after the kids go to bed.
Going to the Bathroom
Most every single parent’s most mentioned complaint about dealing with a child in public includes the dreaded restroom break. If you’re sitting at a restaurant and one child needs to use the restroom, you have to grab everything from your table and run the whole herd back to the bathrooms. If you’re dealing with an infant, this includes scoping out a changing table, changing a diaper, and hauling the “entire house” with you in an oversized diaper bag, aka Mommy’s Duffel Bag. Depending on the age of your children, a bathroom break can be quick or extensive, and if you have numerous kids needing to go to the bathroom, you’re trying to take care of all of them while leaving the stall doors open so that none of them lock themselves in and require an under-door rescue from mom. All the while, your food has been delivered to the table and is getting cold, and you’re contemplating a cold beer once you’ve made it back to the table thirty minutes later with the kids in tow. Taking children to the bathroom as a single parent can be exhausting, but once you’ve done it a couple of times, you get used to it…kinda…
Emergency Room Visits
Your daughter wakes up in the middle of the night vomiting and with an extremely high fever. Instead of being able to run your daughter to the doctors while your hubby stays home with the rest of the kids while they sleep, you need to wake up the others, pack up some stuff, and head to the ER at two in the morning with all kids (sick and healthy). The night of numerous children ends up being disrupted, resulting in an over-tired mother the next day, along with all the others just as crabby and sleep deprived. A simple ER trip becomes a hassle, a mess, and a disruption to everyone in the house.
I have recently discovered how difficult this is with a child. My mother used to travel with five kids on her own when my dad was in the military, and I wonder some days exactly how she did it. During a recent trip that involved taking my child on an airplane, I realized exactly how hard it can be to travel with a child. Though my daughter is three and doesn’t require near the “accessories” as one traveling with an infant, I had to be sure to bring her own backpack full of things to entertain her on the plane trip. Crayons, coloring books, snacks, etc., just for a little two hour flight. But on top of that, we had to bring her stuffed doggie. And don’t even get me started on flight delays! Ironically, when it came to holding anything, she conveniently made Mommy carry everything on her own, while she ran free without a care in the world. Carry-on bags for both me and her, as well as luggage, makes for one stressed parent! I felt bad waiting in line to get on a flight where a woman had a large stroller, child’s car seat, and two kids (one infant and another probably three years of age) all while lugging a large purse, child’s backpack, a soda, and a huge diaper bag packed to the brim.
When your child is under the age of about three, you can get away with Christmas shopping while they’re with you. Infants don’t even understand why you’re buying what you are and young toddler has the short-term memory of a fruit fly, so you can easily get away with Christmas shopping while they’re with you. However, once they’re about three or four, this is no longer possible. You can put that toy in the cart hoping that they’ll forget about it later, or you might find yourself prying it from their hands as you leave the store, wishing they never got a glance at it.
Since becoming a single parent, these are just a few things I have dealt with on my own. No longer can I enlist the help of my husband, but I do have a network of some pretty amazing friends and family that have helped make the transition a little easier on me and my daughter! What do you find to be a difficult task to complete when juggling parenthood alone?