Sunday, July 12, 2009

Singled Out

Three weekends left…after this one. Three more chunks of time when I need to muster up energy, schedule efficiently or pay the price because the kids are bored. I will have one break in there when my mom has the kids while I head up to the mountains, but generally I am on call 24 hours a day, just like I have been since April. I have stolen some evenings to myself, as my husband has been with the kids or a babysitter that I’ve hired has come over, but this time of year is my stint with single motherhood. I am awe-inspired by the women who do this more regularly and even more impressed by those women who manage to do it with the added responsibility of working while mothering. I acknowledge that I am not really a single mother because I do not have to work to make the money that I spend on food and activities for the four of us, but I think I get a fairly good idea of what it is to be the only adult around.

Yesterday, after my oldest was so badly disappointed that one of my plans fell through, he yelled, “Well, if you just had a back-up plan.” I bristled, and yelled back (yes I am an ashamed yeller…when provoked) “I am tired of coming up with ALL the plans day in and day out. I do it ALL the time.”

And I am tired now, but I am not as exhausted as I was when the kids were much smaller. The absolute hardest time in my house was when I had a two-year-old and a 7-month-old, and our schedule was the same. Things have gotten easier each time one of my kids has turned three, and now that all of them are over three it is often just really fun.

We can do more things, and I can have real conversations with the little bodies that crowd together in the back of my car, but there are some days that are harder than others. The weekends are the hardest. Single parenting when the weekend comes around reminds me, and reminds the kids, that their dad is not with us. I can see curious eyes when we go to church and I am there, alone, with the kids. I try to often play with my wedding ring, in place of being able to wear a disclaiming bumper sticker: “Yes, I am alone, but I am happily married…he’s just working right now.” Very often there are families who do the things that we do, and it is hard not to miss the full-family dynamic.

As a group, the kids and I decided that this summer we were not going to join any teams or sign up for any camps. As a full-time scheduler, I can see the appeal in getting my kids signed up for a ton of things. If I am handed a practice and game schedule, it is easier to work with smaller windows of time, and this summer has been an experiment in how to handle all the scheduling myself. It is more relaxed as far as running from place to place, but there has been a lot more pressure put on me to incorporate enough activities to create distraction.

My mom was a legitimate single mom, a role I appreciate increasingly, and I understand a little better why my siblings and I were regularly scheduled. We all thrived with externally imposed scheduling, and I have no doubt it helped the weekends pass faster. Families go camping, families take bike rides, families head to the mountains for the weekend, and as a single mom it is harder to do these things. Although it might be just as fun, it is also a different experience when there is only one adult in tow.

I’ll impose myself on my friends’ family time, when they include me in their weekend activities, but I am cognizant of the fact that it is always less awkward when I am not the third wheel, and every family deserves time to themselves. Seeking out those friends of mine who are single parenting, either permanently or temporarily, has helped with not just distraction but with adding the support that I know I need.

I am glad that the festival season is almost over, but I am glad that I have this time of perspective with our kids. We grow through this single-mothering season together, and as painful as it is sometimes, it makes each of us stronger and appreciative of the time we get as a family the rest of the year.

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