My Glimpse into Single Parenthood

There are some things in life that really rock me out of my own comfortable world, as if someone has placed her hands on the sides of my head and whipped it around 90 degrees to see something that has been right there beside me all along, but that I was too narrow-minded to see. These past 10 months, that head turning realization has been about single parenting.
I have worked along side them, lived along side them, even been related to them—whether permanently single or without a spouse for a season. I just never paused to think about what their lives could be like, how their routines are different than mine, how their challenges might play out in the day-to-day. Well, now I at least have an idea, a glimpse into single parenthood.
First off, I am actually not a single parent. I have the emotional support of a strong, relational, big-thinking, amazing husband. Physically, he’s just not here at the moment. As Elmo says of his Daddy on deployment, “he’s away helping other people”. So for these months, I am operating single-ly.
I often get a high degree of sympathy when people discover that I am on my own with three kids for this season, but do single parents get that same response? Do people support them and offer kid-care and want to bring meals to them? I guess I don’t really know the answer to that question. Maybe, but probably not.
For me as a physically single parent, routines are dramatically different—not really bad-different just different-different. The time I get to myself, for example, is in some ways greater when he’s away. When he’s here, I do less dishes and evening-kid-wrangling, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to more time alone, just a lower propensity toward blowing a gasket. When he’s away, I organize those things—dishes and kid-wrangling—differently and give myself space after all is quiet. When he’s here and all has settled for the night, I’m happily sitting on the couch with him, talking and listening and debriefing, but not alone. For a gal who needs solitude to think and refuel, there’s some energy I get from that extra alone time when I’m solo.
Also in those evenings, I can pretty much do whatever I want. And, well, that’s not all good. There’s no balance to my stamina, so 1AM and I are well acquainted. And don’t get me started on the overload of chocolate chips. That just doesn’t happen when there is another one around. (That reminds me I’m going to have to enter a serious chocolate chip detox before he returns…).
Then there’s this thing about having a newborn. “So tired I could cry” I think is how I related it once. When that sweet-screaming-screeching baby needs arms, mine are the only ones available. And it just so happens that when he needs arms, there may be a 4 or 2-year-old who does as well, or both. Two arms, three screaming kids. Those are not my finest moments. Or, sometimes they can be, when I am reminded by that still small voice to allow patience to spill over top of the screaming and offer grace (to them and to myself).
And breaks—there are not any built in. Weekends blur to weekdays back to weekends. We’ve had to establish some weekend routines just to acknowledge boundaries and the passing of week to week. There is no emergency escape button out of a tough day. There is no Saturday morning coffee break. There is no scheduled time to get up with the dawn and go on a run. No easy (or free) evening out with a friend.
And of course the working single mom thing…wow…that could be an entirely different reflection. The logistics alone could make me quit and vow to subsist on ramen.
I suppose our days are a little less well-rounded, too. I can paint and chalk and cook and read and picnic with the best of them, but have a 4 year old try to take me to “Disneyland” for a “pretend birthday party” with her imaginary friend, and well, I’m just not the best party guest. He, on the other hand, totally is. He is right there with them in the imaginary Magic Kingdom, or he’s building the most elaborate city out of miniature blocks with all the right sound effects to go with it. And they need that, these little ones, the different talents we two can bring together.
When all the logistics are peeled away (though the weight of which is not to be underestimated), my experience of single parenthood is about the friendship void. About missing the team we are. About missing out on time with my best friend. About not sharing milestones and jokes and the most beautiful a-ha moments as a family. Not having that actual, physical shoulder to cry on when the weight is just too much.
This time at a distance is all part of the adventure we signed up for together, both wittingly and unwittingly. When I pause to reflect, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is making our family who we are and are meant to be. And perhaps part of this time alone is gaining even a fraction of an understanding of what the world of single parenthood is like. Lonely, liberating, challenging, rewarding—day in, day out, one foot in front of the other, celebrating (as any other family would) along the way.
To the beautiful, brave single parents in my life, my respect and new-found understanding, and my support of the role you play. Love, Peace, Hope, and a few extra chocolate chips to you!

2 thoughts on “My Glimpse into Single Parenthood

  1. Dear Becky,

    You and David are a team that inspire and never more so than during this long deployment. Blessings and love to you two and those beautiful little ones.

    Henry & Jennifer


    Liked by 1 person

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