It takes a lot to be a parent. It takes more to be a working parent. And it takes everything you have to be a single parent.
And today, I want to celebrate my fellow single parents.
Single parents are strong, resilient, powerful, and lets just be honest here… sometimes a little on the crazy side.
Yes, our lives are difficult, but overcoming challenges has become ingrained as part of who we are.
It doesn’t matter if you chose to be a single parent from the beginning or if life and circumstances brought you to it, I admire you. I admire the sheer courage that you have to have on a daily basis to make it through. I admire you for doing double duty. I admire you for being the sole provider, the sole source of comfort and strength for your children.
Raising a child is probably the most nerve-wracking, terrifying, difficult thing anyone can do. It is exhausting and painful and lonely and hard. And even when you give your all, you are still left with guilt that you should have/ could have done better.
And as you go through the routines, the little moments, the day-to-day aspect of living, you can only hope that what you are doing will transform this challenging, stubborn child into a good human – respectful and kind and confident and loving. And of course, you want them to be happy more than anything.
As a society, we no longer raise children in a village. In fact, it’s rare to even know your own neighbors. Family is spread all over the world and we rely heavily on technology for communication. Our kids are isolated, interacting primarily with the family that lives in the home. And that means being a single parent is far more difficult sometimes. Because you are the sole source of everything for your child. You are the one who gets to create their memories. You are the person that decides whether they will remember their childhood as full of life and adventure or stagnant and missing adult interaction. You get to choose what to teach them, who to let in their life and what kind of influences you allow in your home. And that, my dear friends, is a great big responsibility!
On top of being the primary source to these energy-suckers, you are also very much alone in your world.
Kid’s have an early bedtime, so socializing after is difficult. Routine is key, so weeknights are dedicated to kids and alone time until you finally fall asleep. If they act up, or (God forbid) you act up, you don’t have anyone there to reassure you that it will be okay. If you are sick, it doesn’t matter. You do the tasks or they don’t get done. You have to stay strong and consistent no matter what you are going through because there is no other person to explain things to them or enforce the rules. You miss out on so much because you are the sole source of income and work takes precedence. And the guilt for missing their lives eats at you every moment of every day. When they ask why their friend’s mom’s get to have lunch with them or come pick them up at school, you have to try to explain, in child’s terms, that you have to work to survive. And they don’t understand. They never fully understand.
All they know is what you do with them, what you do to them, what they see and feel. And that brings the temptation to spoil, to “keep them happy”, to falter on the consequences. It isn’t what they need long term, but your empty heart says that this can help fill their void. So you rationalize and spoil them, only to realize that is what you have been doing a few months later and berating yourself as you try to change things up again. And you try to find the balance and you feel like there is none.
It’s hard. So incredibly hard. But it is also worth it.
When their face lights up as you walk in the door, it’s worth it. That hug and kiss, repeated until you insist they go to sleep at night, it’s worth it. Reading stories together as you run your fingers through their hair and ponder how quickly they are growing, it’s worth it. When they tell you they want to be just like you, it’s worth it. When you see them stand up for themselves the first time, it’s worth it. When they show incredible kindness or empathy for someone in the world around them, it’s worth it.
You may have to do double or triple the work as a single parent, but you also see double or triple rewards. And I promise you, those tiny wonders make it all so worth it.
To my child,
You came into this world a squirming, squealing bundle of cuteness.
I pray that you leave the world having been a responsible, kind, loving, fulfilled, very, very old person.
And somewhere in there lies my responsibility.
Parenting you has been the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity of my life.
Being responsible for the person you become is daunting and overwhelming and hard and beautiful and fun and amazing, all wrapped up in one big package.
But I pray that in every moment of every day, you know how much I love you. I hope that you realize that I am more proud of you than of anything else in my life. And I hope you can see that the hard things that I do right now, they are all for you.
I never thought I would be raising you alone. I never considered that you might be one of the statistics that come from a broken home.
I know it hasn’t always been easy for you. I know you miss me when you are at his house and you miss him when you are at my house. I know that two sets of rules, two different expectations, two different lifestyles can be confusing and overwhelming.
I know I get things wrong and I am awkward and I didn’t really grow up in the same world that you face now.
But I want to let you know how much you joy you have brought to my world. I want you to know that you are my reason for breathing everyday. I want you to know that you are the best thing that ever happened to me.
And even when you make poor choices, even when I am upset with you… I still love you more than anything in the world.
And as hard as it is to raise you alone, there are so many things I have learned that I never would have if I hadn’t had to go through the obstacles that brought us here today.
You taught me to live in the moment.
When we moved into the shelter, I thought my world was crumbling around me. You took it in stride, playing and creating friendships and making each moment matter. I learned at that point that no matter what happened, we could always choose where we focus.
You taught me to be resilient.
We had some tough times. You had to be in a children’s emergency shelter while Mommy healed. You had to see things not meant for anyone’s eyes, most especially a small child’s. But you came out stronger, and with a deeper, richer understanding of the world around you.
You taught me to trust myself.
No matter what happened, no matter where we were living, no matter how stressed I was, you trusted me and believed that I could take on the world. Looking into your big, blue eyes helped me realize that I could do it, that I had to do it, for you. And the longer I kept taking care of things, the more capable I became.
You empowered me to do more.
When I was married to your dad, I stayed in the shadows, putting my desires and hopes and dreams on hold so I could be the wife that he wanted and he could shine. But when I broke free of that, I realized that I wanted to teach you to pursue your dreams, I wanted you to be confident that with hard work and skill building, you could accomplish anything you set your mind to. And if I was going to teach you that, I needed to live that myself.
Yes, there are hard moments. Sometimes the lonely is overwhelming. Sometimes I need a break. Sometimes I get hungry and turn into Monster Mom and have to apologize later.
But I am so thankful for the life we share. And as long as I have you, I have everything I need.