So tonight, I'm sending out some major love to all of the moms out there who are going it alone. Either full-time because the dad is no longer in the picture or going it solo for a lengthy period of time because dad is in the military and is away for months and months at a time. I know of a mom who's husband is off fighting for our country right now, in danger for his life every single day and the days are in triple digits til she sees him again. My heart goes out to her because she has a toddler and is both the mother and the father to this child until daddy comes home.
Some moms are the mother and the father and daddy never comes home. I'm not quite sure how you are able to get everything done that needs to be done, but somehow you do it. There are so many nights where I'm so appreciative of my husband because he comes home after work and he'll give the kids a bath while I'm cooking dinner and then he'll put one of them to bed while I'm putting the other one to bed. Then, like now when I'm sick as a dog he really steps it up. As a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) I don't get a sick days of course, but he does help out so much in the evenings. Two nights ago I lounged on the couch while he did bath, made dinner and put both kids to bed. Bless his heart! And I went to bed early too and he stayed up to do the dishes. I was literally the walking dead and I kept thinking,
"how do single mom's do it?"
When I was pregnant with my first I met a mom who had ended her relationship with her boyfriend while she was still in early pregnancy. Just being pregnant I relied on my husband for so much support I didn't know how she was doing it alone, but I had no idea how hard it was to actually be a mother until baby girl came, and I had help. So to be a brand new mother all alone seemed terrifying to me. I remember her telling stories about how she had two jobs 6 days a week - a day job and a night job and her baby had two sitters - a day sitter and a night sitter. She didn't even have a full day off all week long because her days off overlapped and she'd usually pick up extra shifts anyway because she was always behind on money, so there were some weeks where she didn't have any time off at all.
One story of hers in particular made me so sad. She said when her baby was still just a lil guy (under a year old) and would nap in the car in the mornings in route to the day sitter and then again during the transition from the day sitter to the night sitter's house and then again from the night sitter's house to their apartment late at night, she would go several days without seeing her baby awake for a lengthy period of time, and for never any quality time, really. Several days! Except of course during the night feedings (which, yes, she still had to wake up several times a night for the first few months even though she was doing EVERYTHING alone all day long.) Babies don't get the memo that you are a single mom (or that you are sick on your death bed) and how it would be great if they just slept through the night. So in the wee hours in the morning when she'd wake the baby to get out the door in the mornings she'd have some baby love time and during the night several times she'd have some baby love time...but that was it. During her 1 hour commute to the day sitter in the mornings and from the day sitter to the night sitter's house (that was an hour and 45 minute commute) it was pure silence because baby was sleeping peacefully while she was left to her own thoughts of wishing things could be different, feeling guilty for never having any quality time with her baby - the one person she felt she ever truly loved with all of her heart, watching the long days drift into quick months, missing milestones while she dealt with catty co-workers, pushy bosses and rude customers. Many tears were shed on those long quiet drives between two jobs she'd rather not go to, and many hours were spent in vain trying to get a deadbeat dad to care for his child let alone pay for one damn thing.
My heart ached for her.
Many said she did it to herself for getting involved with a looser guy who she herself said she knew was a deadbeat with no job, no car, and sleeping on a friend's couch when they were dating and "was stupid enough to get pregnant anyway" (her words.) But still, who are we to judge? Life can cast many hard blows and when your children are affected by it, it stings that much more. Regardless of her situation and how she got there, I always wished she'd find a better life for herself and for her child. She was kind and looked for the good in people and she loved her baby with everything she had. She deserved a better life. Her mom died when she was young and her dad wasn't emotionally available to her. She lived far from any grandparents who might have care for her given the chance because her father didn't want them around. She thought she loved this guy and felt sick to her stomach when she realized she was pregnant, but never thought for one second of doing anything other than caring for her baby and was going to do her best to provide him or her with a life of love that she never really knew.
Whenever times get really tough on me and I feel alone as a mother who has a very wonderful and very supportive husband who will change poopy diapers without even being asked and who will rock babies to sleep in the middle of the night if he needs to, I always think about her and what she is doing. Driving in the snow with a sleeping baby bundled in the back of the car going from one crappy low paying job to the next and having no real idea how her baby spent the last 10 hours, or how he'll spend the next 8.
Was he happy?
Did he laugh at the puppy he saw while he was sitting in the stroller at the park?
Did he spit out his carrots or did he like them this time?
Did he cry for a long time when he went down for a nap?
Did he miss mommy?
Always running late for her next job she never really had the time to have long conversations with the day sitter to ask her these things. And she wasn't exactly thrilled about her either nor was she thrilled about the older children she also watched during the day. But this was the only daycare provider she could find that was close to her work and who would keep the baby for that many hours during the day and sometimes on weekends, and most of all, one she could actually afford. She felt she had no choice. Luckily the night sitter was a family member who she knew would gladly dole out as many cuddles and loves as the baby needed. But the majority of the time he was with the night sitter was when he was asleep, so she had to put it out of her mind how much she wished she could switch the two sitters. But her jobs and their available hours and locations wouldn't allow for a switch.
She talked about how blessed she was to have a reliable car that could weather the snowstorms, an apartment that she didn't have to share with a stranger, two jobs that made it possible to provide her baby with the best life she could. She saved her money so she could buy him some nice, brand new things for his first birthday. She was doing it by herself and she was proud of herself. She'll never know how much I thought about her all those nights and days that I was having it rough too, but at least I was able to be home with my baby witnessing every movement she made all day long and then had help in the evenings when my husband got home. It doesn't mean that I didn't also see many dark days as a new mother despite my help and support or that I didn't deserve or have the right to complain about it. All mothers have it rough, especially brand new mothers and if anyone tries to tell you differently they are candy coating it for whatever reason and flat out, they are lying. Motherhood is hard. Not all of it, but a lot of it. The stuff that has no answers. The stuff that has no reasoning behind it.
Whether you have a perfect angel baby who sleeps through the night from birth and never makes a fuss as a toddler or if you have a colicky baby from day #1 til she is three months old and then at three months and one day she starts teething and is miserable from that for weeks at a time...it's a hard job and no one really prepares you for it. They try when we are pregnant with our baby, but we don't believe them, we aren't really listening because we think that we'll have it differently (and we do for the most part - it's still hard though, but now it's our version of hard) and we just cast them off as being overly negative or thinking that we are not going to be capable of being a mom. Until we are actually in the trenches is when we think back to that advise and think...
"oh...that's what they were talking about. I get it now."
If you are a single mom or a military wife who is going it alone right now, give yourself a pat on the back. Go ahead...I'll wait. Smile at your accomplishments, give yourself credit for all of the hard work you've put in, all the hours and hours of overtime you've clocked that will not show up on your paycheck. Not in money anyway. But one of these days if it hasn't happened already, that sweet little bundle of joy sleeping next to you will come running up to you, throw her little chubby arms around your knees, look up at you with her sparkling eyes and say, "I love you mommy!" and you'll know it will all be worth it.
Please feel free to share your story here in the comments below. I'm listening, and know that someone out there somewhere is thinking about you and they are wishing the best for you too.