Categories
Doing it Alone Let's Talk

Single Parenting Is Really, Really Hard

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

I’ve never actually been a single parent, but I know that single parenting must be incredibly difficult. For two weeks, my husband was laid up while recovering from surgery. My husband, who, as an experienced single father, does most of the cooking and laundry in our household, was unable to move from the sofa. I suddenly had to fix meals, take the kids to and from school, do the laundry, and still keep my business going. Two weeks was enough for me to know that I never want to be a single mom even though some moms are happy to be single moms…and I have a ton of respect for the moms and dads out there who, by choice or by necessity, are raising their kids on their own.

Single Parenting Is Harder Because

…when you’re a single parent, there is no built-in respite. You’re responsible for every need your child has, emotionally and economically. Certainly, you may share parenting duties with the other biological parent, but it is much different than when there are two parents available to break up squabbles, give hugs, and yes, make money!

…when you’re a single parent, there is no running errands while the other parent stays home with the children. Every outing (until the kids are old enough to be on their own) requires you to bundle up the kids and haul them along with you.

…when you’re a single parent, there is no taking turns when the kids are sick. Every middle-of-the-night vomiting, fever, nightmare, and feeding are all yours.

How to Help a Single Parent in Your Life

Do you know someone who is a single mom or dad? With the understanding that single parenting is tough even when it is by choice, there are things you can do as a friend or family member to make it easier and give them a chance to recharge their batteries.

  • Offer to babysit! We all love our kids, but we love them a lot more when we get a chance to recharge. This is often difficult for a single parent to do, and having a trusted friend or family member take a turn with the kids every once in awhile can offer a much-needed break.
  • Run errands. When going to the store for a gallon of milk means packing up three kids and loading and unloading them from the car, the willingness of a friend to drop off a few groceries can be a wonderful gesture.
  • Spend time! When your only conversation is with children, it can get lonely. Stop over and have coffee with your single-parent friend or family member and give them some adult time.

Single parenting requires the ability to find energy where none exists and to keep smiling when you feel like crying. My hat goes off to all the single moms and dads out there who wake up each day and give everything they have to their kids. It’s quite a job!

Categories
Doing it Alone Let's Talk

Why I Love Being a Single Mom

Getting Real With Sara Haley

I was married once. It didn’t work out. It just doesn’t always work out if both people aren’t committed to fixing what’s broken. I decided to cut my losses and leave.

And I couldn’t be happier.

When people think of single moms, they often have this sense of pity for us. I can’t fathom how many times people have told me, “Wow, I just don’t know how you do it!” My answer?

I do it because I have to.

I have no choice.

But over the last few years as I watch my daughter blossom into a beautiful young little girl (she just turned five, going on 16…), I look back at how different my life has become. But not different in a bad way. Different in a GREAT way.

I did not “sign up” to be a single mom. Believe me, being a single mom is not what I envisioned when I pictured my future life about five years ago. It just happened. I realized that my marriage was dragging me down, keeping me from becoming the person I knew I could be, and was suppressing the person I once was. Catering to another adult’s desires–one who did not appreciate my efforts even as a stay-at-home mom to our own child as well as his–was emotionally exhausting. Trying to make him happy was impossible, though my life was directed towards his wants and desires. I found that as the marriage fell apart and he took less and less interest in repairing it that it was time to stand up for myself and for my daughter. I knew there was something much better on the other side.  In this particular situation, the grass was indeed greener on the other side—and stayed that way.

I have been a single mom for over two years. I love it. I don’t feel as though I am overwhelmed or that I am “missing out” on being married.  I do think that part of it may have been the fact that during my marriage, I felt like a single mother anyway, as I was the primary decision-maker when it came to the children and never received the support one would expect from a spouse. Maybe that happened on purpose, to prepare me for what was to come.  But over these last few years, I have found out the wonderful benefits of being a single mom, and why I feel that this lifestyle is much better for my daughter and for myself.

My home, my rules, my decisions.  I make the rules in this house.  There is no back and forth between parents (“Go ask your dad!”), there is no one around to undermine my authority and cave in to her gorgeous baby blues, and there is no one to argue or make fun of the choices I have made for my daughter and myself.  If I want to bend the rules and let my daughter stay up a little later to curl in my bed and watch a movie, I can.  I can keep my apartment as cold or as warm as I want.  I can make dinner on my own time, and can even decorate my apartment exactly how I want without anyone passing judgment.  I don’t have to defend my decisions or compromise if someone else doesn’t like them.

I benefit from more mother/daughter time.  Practically every morning I get to see my daughter’s smiling face.  Almost every night I get to tuck her into her bed and kiss her goodnight.  And everything in-between is just as rewarding.  I get to spend entire days doing nothing but playing house, enjoying tea parties, building obnoxiously tall Lego houses, and coloring the day away with my daughter.  We can head to the zoo, enjoy the children’s museum, and spend a day shopping if we so desire.  I benefit from the joy of spending almost every waking moment with my daughter.  As time passes, I will become even more grateful to have had this time with her.

Less stress, less mess.  While some single parents find that life can be difficult, overwhelming, and completely demanding–both emotionally and financially–I have found the underlying benefits of not having a spouse.  I no longer have to do unnecessary laundry, make “special request” meals, or deal with cleaning up after another “child.”  I no longer feel resentment, which was a constant in my life as a married parent. I don’t have to check in with anyone, or get approval for anything that I want to do.  If I want to do something, I just do it.  I don’t have all the stress and hassle and nonsense that comes along with cohabitating with a male counterpart.

I am able to lead a less materialistic lifestyle.  My daughter cannot be “bought.”  She will take a day at the zoo with Mom over a toy.  She will choose building a fort in the living room over a new Xbox game.  She will pick an afternoon at the park over any electronic device.  I have been able to teach my daughter that time equals love, and I hope that this philosophy carries into her life when she becomes a mother.  I can only hope that I am leaving a positive, long-lasting impression on her that memories are more important than money.

I can enjoy and choose my own lifestyle.  I am able to balance my checkbook now without having to figure in negative balances, and I am able to purchase (or not purchase) items at the store without having to defend myself or justify my shopping. I am able to lounge with my daughter on a Sunday and make it a pajama day if I want.  I am able to enjoy peace and respect in our home.  We are able to live our lives without having to worry about what someone else thinks or requiring us to live a certain way to make someone else happy or impress their family.  We can, finally, be fulfilled.

I am enjoying the experience of independence and self-confidence.  I struggled, yes.  I barely had money to pay the bills, and racked up an enormous amount of debt.  But I stepped up to the plate and took control of my life, and had the strength and resourcefulness to begin to bury out.  I have enjoyed the benefits of self-reliance.  I have never felt more independent and confident as I do now, knowing that I was able to rise above a difficult point in my life and come out on the other side stronger and more resilient.  As a stay-at-home wife, I had lost myself and my self-confidence and esteem.  As a single mom, I have regained that, and earned so much more in return.

While this may come across as some man-hating essay, believe me when I say that I do not have an aversion to men at all!  I just have an aversion to someone else who crushes my spirits, holds me back, and doesn’t provide positivity and encouragement in my life, or that of my daughter.  Nowadays, I laugh more, I love more, and I embrace my life for the blessing that it is.  And now that I have experienced what it is like to be a single mom, I’m really in no hurry to have it any other way.

Categories
Doing it Alone Health Let's Talk

Marathon Mama – Mom Power in Action

Getting Real With Sara Haley

This last weekend, I did something amazing.

I ran a marathon.

26.2 miles of running. 26.2 miles of quiet time. 26.2 miles to figure out exactly why I was actually running this marathon.

Running a marathon was something I never would have imagined doing years ago. No way. Not in a million years would I ever do that–even the thought of running around the block sounded completely and utterly exhausting. But on New Year’s of 2009, I made a resolution I would never forget: to run a 10K in 2009, a half-marathon in 2010, and a full marathon in 2011.

I did it. All three races, and then some.

Sunday I ran the Lincoln Marathon in Lincoln, Nebraska. During my divorce, it has been hard to find the time to properly train. Training for a marathon is like a part-time job. No joke. Getting the mileage in, avoiding injury, keeping the endurance going to be able to run for hours on end. It’s not easy. But that wasn’t why I was doing it.

You see, my divorce has been very difficult, very messy and very stressful. Running has been my saving grace in getting through the days. I was able to get a membership to a local gym, which provided me with daycare for my daughter while I busted out the miles on the treadmill during the winter to keep my endurance. I also threw in some strength training, some stair climbing, spinning classes and religiously attended two yoga classes a week with the “boot camp yoga” instructor. My local gym knows me by name. Yeah, they kinda have to when you’re there every day! (And the bonus is I am down to my goal weight and then some, having shed some stubborn pounds I had been fighting since childbirth!)

The persistence paid off. Although I wasn’t considered “properly” trained and ready because of my time limitations and child-restrictions, I was still determined to run it. Standing at the starting line at 7 in the morning with ten thousand other participants on a windy, cloudy day, I started to second guess myself, wondering what the heck I got myself into. But the starting gun went off, the group started migrating towards the start line, and I realized there was no turning back.

I did well. I did some splits with my music, running to one song, walking to the next, and kept up with the 4:55 pacer for quite some time. Stayed on top of fluids and food, chomping on a Power Bar around mile 8 and saving my next one for mile 16. The crowd was amazing, and cheered everyone on.  What a rush! Come mile 13, I was still doing great. The turn-off for the half-marathoners was coming up, and I knew it was now or never. Sure, I could have turned off at 13.1 and finished with the halfers, and would have actually had a PR (Perfect Race) beating my previous half-marathon time. But I ran forward, knowing I had to do exactly what I did the last 13 miles all over again to the finish line.

About mile 14, I began to think about exactly how crazy I was to do this. At mile 16, I slowed down to enjoy my second Power Bar. Somewhere between mile 18 and 19, my left knee started to give out. It hurt. Not too bad, but enough to make me stop running. I started to power walk it, as I knew knee injuries are never a good thing and didn’t want to push it too hard. Around mile 22, I wanted to cry. I wasn’t sure why–from the pain, the exhaustion, from the amazing realization of exactly what I was doing that day. My power walk slowly became a fast limp come mile 24. The Sag Wagon (the car that drives near the end of the race to pick up injured individuals or those who want out) was following closely behind me. The pacers for 5:30 passed me. But I was okay with that. I refused to let the Sag Wagon pick me up–I didn’t come all this way, prepare all these years and train all those months to drop out and take a ride on the Sag Wagon two miles before the finish line. I limped my way to the finish line. 26.2 miles behind me.

I got my medal, a rose, and a wave of amazing accomplishment. I did it. 5:47:10. That’s no amazing time goal by any means, but I wasn’t going for time: I just wanted to finish.

Before my run, I wanted to try and make it to the prayer service beforehand, but ended up missing it because I stood in line for a good 20 minutes waiting to use the bathroom. But even then, I stood in silence with all the nervous, anxious people around me and thought about exactly why I was doing this. What was my reason for running a marathon? What was my reason for investing the time and energy into running 26.2 miles? Was it insanity?!

I knew exactly why I was doing it. I was doing it for my daughter.

In reality, I’m just a boring, stay-at-home, work-at-home single mommy. My days are filled with tantrums, tears, meals, laundry, bills and coloring books. I spend my evenings cuddling with my daughter, reading to her, and playing Barbies with her. I keep thinking to myself that I’m nothing extraordinary. But then I realize, no, I am. I’m a mom. I’m my daughter’s superhero, no matter how much I screw up, no matter what sacrifices I make for her, no matter what I do right or wrong. I will always be her hero.  I’m a single mom. I’m making it paycheck to paycheck. I don’t have any luxuries in my life, but I am blessed to have a roof over my head, my daughter in my arms every day, and my health. She’s three, so at this point in time, she doesn’t quite understand the magnitude of what I did the other day. But as she gets older, hopefully this will be an inspiration to her. That no matter who you are or what your personal situation is, you can do absolutely anything you put your mind to.

This Mother’s Day, remember no matter how old your children, you will always be their number one hero. Whether you’re single or married, have one kid or two, you are–and always will be–a true superhero in their eyes!

Categories
Doing it Alone Let's Talk

Newfound Appreciation for Single Moms

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

For the last month, I’ve been pulling double duty. I’ve been working full time, but I’ve also been doing all those things that would normally have been done by my husband. He had surgery a month ago, and has been unable to drive, lift, or care for the dogs. Most importantly, he has been unable to shovel snow, and we live in Central New York.

I have always appreciated my husband; he takes an active role around the house that allows me to focus on growing my business and avoiding corporate servitude. He was a single dad for two years and is very organized at keeping up with laundry, groceries, and house stuff – the stuff I’ve never been particularly good at or interested in. He does it all with this amazingly good attitude. He even likes to cook – something I hope I never have to do again once he recovers fully.

What I didn’t realize was how hard it would have been had I been having to do it all myself all the time – and how much I had perhaps taken for granted the role Dave plays as full-time student, part-time substitute teacher, and full-time house manager. It’s impossible: Running for groceries, taking kids to school, doing the laundry, shoveling the driveway and the walks, running the dogs out, cleaning up, keeping track of all that must be done – and working?! You’ve got to be kidding!

Single moms, I salute you. I may have occasionally been jealous of your “free” time to do what you want without having to consider a spouse’s needs or wants,  but now I know there is no free time. You fall into bed each night, exhausted, with a list of things in your head that will greet you when you wake up. Somewhere in there, you’ve given your all to your boss, your kids, and to keeping up on your house as much as you can. And still you keep going and keep doing everything you can to be the best mom you can be. I’m in awe at your strength and humbled at what you can handle.