I remember my first birthday as a single mom.
It wasn’t pretty. I ended up in the throes of a nervous breakdown. I was so overwhelmed with fear and sadness that it was impossible to contain my emotions. In the days leading up to my birthday, I remember sobbing uncontrollably. Dreading the day I was born.
My kids had been so little—just 4 and 2 at the time. How would they know to wish me a happy birthday? Who would make me a cake? They were little things, I know, but I’d always had someone to help them celebrate with me in the past. Now, for the first time, I’d have to tell the kids it was my birthday, bake myself a cake and sing myself Happy Birthday. I felt like such loser with nobody to take the lead on my behalf.
Thanks to friends, family, and even my ex-husband, I ended up having a nice 33rd birthday. I got lots of messages and phone calls from friends and family. My boys’ teachers helped them make me a card. I may have baked myself a cake, but my ex made sure the kids had a present for me and he made sure they knew it was my birthday.
Ever since then, we’ve taken the kids to help shop for presents for birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, so that these special days would still be acknowledged appropriately. We wanted the kids to know how important it was for their parents to be kind to one another and thoughtful.
Now that I’m about to turn 36, I realize I’ve matured a lot in four years. I no longer feel like such a loser being a single parent celebrating my own birthday with my kids. I no longer need to rely on anyone to do anything for me.
If I want a birthday cake, I will proudly bake it myself, thank you very much. I won’t be shy to lead my kids in a chorus of Happy Birthday or to even buy Happy Birthday plates and napkins for the occasion. I will be proud of myself for making the day exciting for my kids. That’s always the best gift. I don’t need my ex to buy me a present, but it’s still a nice gesture and I know it makes the kids happy when they can choose something for me. I always make sure to thank them profusely even when they buy me something that’s not quite my taste or in the wrong size. I can see that giving brings them joy.
But I will never forget how hard it was at first. How long it took to ease into the roll of single mother. How sad each birthday, holiday and milestone was when I was became the sole leader of each and every celebration. If your first birthday as a single parent is approaching, I can assure you that the first one is always hardest. It’s ok to be sad, to lament what was or what could have been. Rely on friends and family, start a new family tradition, involve your kids. I promise it gets easier, and that you will even come to look forward to belting out Happy Birthday to yourself.