I never used to read articles or blog posts that had "single mother" in the headline or opening paragraph. I didn't have to. I was a mother of four, married to a great guy who provided us with a big house in the suburbs, food on the table and clothes on our backs. The term 'single mother' was the farthest notion from my high-on-cloud-nine mind.
Then about a year ago Cancer came and shit all over my cloud.
I'm now a single mother with four kids. I read all the posts about this topic now and the only articles and blog posts I avoid are those with 'husband' in the title. "Ways to surprise your husband in bed" or "Thanks, husband for being so awesome," even this intriguing one I saw recently, "My husband is well endowed" – nope I can't read any of them. All of these I would have clicked on once upon a time, but now only reduce me to a pile of tears. I don't need any reminders that I don't have a husband anymore and that I'm by myself now.
A couple months after my husband died, I wrote something that garnered a lot of attention from strangers. One woman angrily commented (yes, that's possible–it's pretty much the use of all CAPS, a lot of misspellings and mean face emojis) that I was a "rich, grocery bitch with insurance" trying to complain about being a single mother when I didn't know anything about what REAL single mothers go through. I dismissed her as a troll and deleted her comment. I was appalled that someone would belittle me just because of the means in which I became a single mother.
But I've thought about that lady's comments quite a bit this past year.
I've thought about how right she was. My husband was a grocer who owned a family business and left us savings. He had an insurance policy. I can pay our bills and buy the kids clothes and shoes and food. I have a house that we sleep cozy in at night and I have a car to drive them to and from school and practices. Many of these things are luxuries that countless single mothers don't have, I know. I am thankful that I don't have the hardship of wondering how I'll pay the mortgage or put dinner on the table. While I work only part time a couple days a week and occasionally volunteer at the kids' school, I don't have to stress about working full-time and dealing with child care. I am eternally grateful I don't have to wait for the bus late at night with my kids or worry about paying medical bills when they are sick.
But this doesn't mean I don't have worries that cause me a great deal of anxiety on top of the grief of losing my best friend of 20 years and the father of my children.
Being a single mother with four kids under age 11 who play several different sports means something's gotta give. I told the twins we couldn't do horseback lessons anymore. They loved horseback. I told my son I couldn't get him to piano practices anymore. Sure, he hated practicing piano, but he was damn good at it. I told my daughter the swim team she wants to join will have to wait. I didn't enroll the girls in fall soccer because I couldn't handle the logistics of practices and games by myself and I was tired of asking for favors from neighbors. Was it the right decision to cut extracurriculars from my childrens' lives because I was too exasperated to get them there? I don't know, but I stress about it.
My son sometimes pulls his hair out at his sixth grade homework, stressing to get straight As in school. I can hardly understand the assignment questions, let alone patiently help him find the correct answers, so we both are left frustrated each night. It hurts to know he wishes his dad were the one here to help him with it because he was the math genius. He was the scholar. He was more patient than me. My son is not the only one who wonders if the wrong parent got sick and died.
That flier from school about the annual father-daughter dance coming up in January is under papers on my desk. It's like a knife that sits there waiting to pierce my heart again. My youngest already told me it makes her sad to see other kids with their daddies. Her heartbreak will follow our melancholy holiday season where we watch 'normal' families celebrate happily together. Here's a big, fat truth for all internet critics – no amount of money or insurance policy can bring back an amazing ass father from the dead to kiss his kids on Christmas morning. But I know it's the only thing they all truly want that I can't give them.
I pulled something in my back a few weeks ago. I wrote on my social media page about how this exercise-induced injury brought me down. Literally – I was laying flat on the ground motionless because I couldn't move, it hurt so bad. All that evening, I winced through homework, fixed dinner hunched over the stove, threw them in a bath and sent them off to bed with little fanfare because I had nothing left to give them by 9 p.m. I lay on the living room floor with only the dog there to check if I was still alive. I was upset about having to do this all myself, fed up there is nobody here to talk with at the end of the day, depressed I don't have someone to bring me an ice pack, to rub my back or just to commiserate with. I told my Facebook friends, "I don’t have anyone to tag out with. It’s me 24-7... I get no sick days here. I’m it. I can't tap out."
Because that's the one thing all of us single mothers have in common – no matter our situations, our life stories, our means, discrepancies or bank account statuses – we have to do it alone every day. We carry the weight. We hoist the burdens on our backs, we weather the anxieties of day-to-day life as well as those of our children. We manage all the responsibilities while still balancing grief on top of it – grief for what once was or what should have been or maybe grief for what never was ours and might not ever be.
But we will get it all done today. And tomorrow, too. We will pull up our big-girl, single mommy panties (some of us put on our rich-grocery-bitch faces too) and we will get the shit done. There is no choice. There are no sick days. We can't tap out. We're it. We are the REAL single mothers.
This post was originally published Oct. 31, 2018 here at That's Inappropriate.