A friend said to me last week, “I’ve said it before. I don’t know how you do it.”
I shrugged. I know what he means. I don’t have a concrete explanation. I just do.
Back when I was a happily married mom of two, I would see a single mom and think “I could never do that.” But of course I could.
You never know what resolves you have until you have to put them to use. We can ALL do it. When push comes to shove. When we have to. Whether it be a death in the family. A sudden health crisis. A devastating fire. A job lay-off. A divorce. (And please, I’m not saying these are all equal and the same, just random examples of things we might not be able to predict and have to deal with). You don’t know it’s coming, and you do what you have to do. One foot in front of the other. One breath at a time. One new morning full of sunshine. A clean slate every day and a chance to make better decisions. Good decisions. Good choices. Or just the opportunity to have more choices. Or a clear-cut path.
And so it is with being a single mom. If you’re in the same situation, you know how it is. You don’t HAVE downtime to sit and think about your situation. There are little ones who depend on you to forge the way ahead. To get through it. By any means possible. You just do.
And that’s not to say that every day is rosy. I cringed a little inside when a friend said I was very nonchalant about it last year when it was all fresh. How could I be anything but? How could I serve my children if I was a sniffly mess? As much as I hate that they were (are) a part of it, they save anyone from dwelling. They almost force you to take those first unsure steps and get back on the horse and start riding off (sunset or not).
There has been a theme riding around some of the “mom” and “parenting” blogs lately about keeping it real. Sometimes blogs are all happiness and light, life is perfect, here are my beautiful kids and the wonderful meal that took me five minutes to make. And oh yes, my bake sale contribution of homemade granola bars, my flawless make-up and my happy husband. Some days are like that. Well, here minus the husband! Some days are not. I try to keep it real here, but I don’t want it to be a total downer either, you know? There’s a balance somewhere.
Yes, I think my kids are totally awesome and adorable. Most days, they are. This week, when a friend sent me an e-mail that said I was awesome, I asked him if he could perhaps tell my son how awesome his mom is, because these days I hear “Mom, you’re so mean!” an awful lot. To the point that he now has to give me a DSi game (starting with the newest acquired ones first) every time he says it. Sometimes Madeline gets so mad, fists all balled up in tight little knots, it’s all I can do to wait for a glass of Mom Juice before tossing everyone into bed. Nick stomps in the door, fresh from a day at summer camp, wanting to know “what’s next?” And is completely and utterly disgusted when I am tell him that we have no plans for the evening (because I like to schedule downtime, thankyouverymuch!).
But this is all normal. Ebbs and flows. Real life. I never thought I would be a single mom. But I am. And it’s absolutely fine. We are all fine. Good days and bad days. Just like the families with both a Mom and a Dad in the same house. And the ones without kids. And the ones with two Moms or no Dad at all. And the single Sex in the City girls, NYC or otherwise.
We can all do whatever it is that we have to do. When we need to do it. When we are called to do it. It’s there. Inside you. Whenever you need it. As the conversation with Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz famously went…
Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?
Glinda: Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
It’s there where you need it. However often that is. Swear.
July 21, 2010, Photo #131
There was a dribble of milk left and he asked if he could just drink from the carton. I said yes. Only because he was finishing it. Years from now, when he’s a teenager (ack!), I might not be asked.
You are so strong Cate and like everyone else, I never quite know how you do it. :)
As much as having kids makes things more hectic and “harder”, it also makes it easier in some ways. There is a blessing in not being able to dwell and not having time for self-pity and tears.
That said, I am in awe of all parents, especially those who do it alone. As a childless person, I can’t even ensure that I have milk for coffee in the morning or that I picked up my dry cleaning so that I have clothes for work. God bless any other living creature who has to depend on me! But much like you, if I HAD to do it, I’m sure I just would.
So very true! You never know what you can handle until life throws something at you. Love the Dorothy reference… on of my favorite movies!
All I can say is AMEN! You’ve nailed it!
Great post! I struggle with the balance of “real” versus “happy” on my blog. I’m a big proponent of fake it til you make it (i.e. act happy and maybe one day you will be). You are doing a great job. Nick and Madeline look like great kids & I’m sure they will look back when they are older and know that you were an awesome mom!
Good god, some (well, most) days I feel like the worst mother in the world by the kid’s bedtime. It’s insane. But those little glimmers of joy that pop up every so often just about make up for it. Anyway, I tip my hat to you for dealing with life with such grace and honesty.
Cate, this was such an inspirational post. You are awesome!
I can’t even being to tell you how much I admire you for writing this post. Its so very true. You do what you have to do to get through it. You survive on pure instinct when all else fails. Its not easy. The thoughts and feelings I had when I watched my parents divorce were messy and hard (I was 13). My mother never ever thought she would be 33 years old raising a 13 and 10 year old on her own. But she did. We all made it through, fairly unscathed. Its so very ture that there are ebbs and flows in our lives — whether we are single parent family or just single. Thanks for keeping it real!
My mom and I use the horse in when things are rough for one of us…we remind each other that when our horse starts straying off path or if we left him behind somewhere that we need to get back on and on keep going. You are a very strong person and from being an avid reader of your blog, I know you are an awesome mother.
Great post. Though I’m unmarried and without kids (for now!), I can certainly relate to having to “do what you have to do” in circumstances you never believed you would find yourself. It’s hard and painful and scary, but sometimes, you just… do.
You’re are right, you just do it. And you are doing a great job at it!