I’m a single mom. It’s officially been me and my two boys for nearly five years. Raising kids isn’t an easy job even when there are two parents at home. When you have two boys 15 months apart and you’re always outnumbered, it’s even harder.
They love each other but they bicker and fight constantly. Both insist on being first or the best. They both want to win. Something always isn’t fair to someone. If your head is spinning reading about my life, imagine how I feel on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong: they are the joys of my life and I never want to be without them, but being a single parent—managing the discipline, the fun, the rules, and day-to-day activities—is hard.
There are days when I’m worn out; days we three aren’t at our best. On those days, I sometimes feel like others who see us in action feel sorry for us. “Look, there are two boys playing catch with their mother,” I’m afraid people think as they ride their bikes past our house. “Oh dear, look at those boys wrestling at the grocery story; if only they had a dad at home they would behave better.”
Believe me, I think it too. Maybe I wouldn’t be so tired if there was a second parent at home to help. Maybe I’d always be in a great mood if I didn’t have to make dinner, clean up from dinner, help with homework and then play catch before beginning our bedtime routine. If only someone else was at home to take on some of my to-do lists. Maybe we could have the dog they desperately want, maybe they wouldn’t fight, maybe they wouldn’t each have to win if only . . .
My head is filled with maybes and if only’s. I’ve read statistics about the impact of divorce on kids. I’ve spoken to people who have been raised by single moms. But this doesn’t tell the full picture. Do people at the playground, shopping mall, or intact families feel bad for us? Is there a stereotype about single moms and their kids? Am I myself guilty of perpetuating it? I’m not sure. Readers will have to weigh in.
What I do know is that I want to help break the mould, even if it takes my head some time to catch up. I don’t want people to feel bad for us. I don’t want to feel bad for myself. I want others to know that I’m a tough cookie. That I’m proud of what my boys are learning from me on a daily basis, even if that includes knowing too much about tampons in addition to kindness, generosity, and communication—things I may have a knack for. So what if they don’t like grocery shopping? What kid does? So what if they fight? What kids don’t?
Would any of that actually change if their dad was home? Maybe things would be harder. Maybe I’d constantly be in a bad mood trying to survive an unhappy marriage. Maybe their dad would criticize me or undermine my discipline techniques. Maybe I wouldn’t like his methods. It’s not all roses in nuclear families just because they are still together. Traditional families don’t necessarily have everything figured out; they aren’t necessarily perfect by virtue of living under one roof.
I want my kids to grow up remembering that I played catch with them in the front yard. I want them to remember all the friends we’ve invited over, all the adventures we’ve had, all the lessons we’ve learned together. I want them to wonder how I managed to do it all. It’s not easy, but it might actually be better than the alternative.
So don’t feel bad for me, even on days when I’m struggling. Instead, I want you to say, “Wow, aren’t those kids lucky to have a mother who plays with them.” I want you to say, “Wow, it’s amazing she got those two kids to the grocery store at all, even if they are wrestling.”
Yes, it’s a tough job, but I’m doing it and I’m proud of that.