Like in wrestling, when one person gets tired, they tag their partner in to keep going. Then hop out of the ring, rest, and regroup.
I want to hop out of the ring from time to time.
But as a single parent, that really isn’t an option. Some days are hard. Wearing.
There is no balance.
There are days when my house is clean, laundry is caught up, groceries are shopped for and dinner is on the table on time. From the outside, the lawn is mowed and the yard looks pretty. The bills are paid, budget organized.
There are days when I’m an excellent parent. When I have meaningful conversations with the children about their future goals, college plans, and their dreams. Where I read and perhaps help edit an assignment. When I’m everything a parent should be.
There are days when I’m a super working woman. When I have a great meeting, am part of putting together a spectacular event, or of submitting an exceptional grant proposal. Where I feel I’ve accomplished something in my role as Communications Director for a local nonprofit. Or when I’ve gained a new skill, or landed a freelance project.
None of those days happen together.
Many years ago, I expected to succeed in all areas of my life. On a daily basis. (Hah!)
I have no such illusions seven years into being a single parent.
When my house is organized and looking great, I’m barely hanging on with the kids. When I’m having a stellar work day, attending an evening meeting or banging out a ten-hour day, I’m returning home to chaos. Dinner will NOT be on the table, my son will have long since run out for takeout or fast food. I won’t have the juice to edit a paper, or string together a sentence. Forget about meaningful conversations.
As a married woman, I could to TAG somebody else IN. These days, there is an ex husband living about 30 minutes away in a nearby suburb. In theory, this might offer a break. But it rarely works out that way.
Kids tend to lean on one parent after a divorce. Being that I’m the Mom, and I was a homemaker for almost 15 years, my kids are used to coming to me when they need something, when they are sick, but also to celebrate the good stuff. The dynamic was set many years ago, long before the divorce, when the children were young.
They’re used to having me provide them a home, a soft place to land. And I love doing it. It’s a big part of who I am. Over the years, I’ve logged many shining moments of parenting excellence.
Then there are the other times…
Darling Daughter and her very long-term boyfriend broke up a couple of weeks into summer, just after her freshman year of college. She and the young man began dating during eighth grade, dated for almost six years. Though Daughter felt it was the right decision for both, she was devastated. Would quietly go up to her bedroom to sob in private. The timing was terrible for me. I was beyond busy at work, the house was falling apart.
I would love to say I was supportive, loving, all that a mother should be.
That would be a lie.
Three days into her routine, I’d had enough. I marched upstairs, busted into her bedroom and told her crying was fine, but could she please “cry and move the laundry, vacuüm and cry, empty the dishwasher and cry? Could it be a productive crying?”
I’ll never live that down.
A good mother would have hugged her, comforted her, baked her some cookies, made her a cup of tea, listened patiently, asked her if she needed anything, or taken her to lunch. Anything would have been better than my handling of the situation.
“Three days. That’s all I got,” Darling Daughter still says, “I stopped the crying. I was terrified Mom was going to come slamming into my bedroom, yelling again.”
My children are two of the greatest joys of my life. And yet, there are times it would be great to TAG somebody else IN. Anybody would be more effective than me, sometimes.
I’ve learned that I’m not usually spectacular in every area of my life. There are glimmers in different areas, on different days. But I cannot do it all, every single day.
The best I can hope for is that someday, there will be a partner; somebody to TAG IN when I’m spent. Who might show up with dinner, take the car for an oil change, and have meaningful conversation with the children when they’re tired of what I have to say.
Until then, I suppose I’ll muddle through…