The Exhaustion of Single Motherhood

I love to encourage moms. How can I not? Motherhood has been, still is, and always will be my passion. I sort of fell into it, and turns out it is the greatest gig in life.

Today I want to encourage a special category of motherhood. It is another area I sort of fell into…single motherhood. I have a whole new respect for all of you, and honored to be in the club.

Honestly, when I hear the term “single mother,” without a doubt, and without thinking, the first word that pops into my head is, exhausted. I know – I’d rather choose a more beautiful word…and there are many. But the winner is, exhausted.

Moms of all kinds run, and run, and run some more. Every mom I know, lives for that short lived moment in life, when she can put her feet up and do nothing…stare at the wall, close her eyes, whatever…just five minutes of nothing, please. But as a single mom, there is an even greater need for that nothingness. You see, at the end of the day, that single mom has no one to tell her, “Hey babe – you have done enough. I’ve got this. Go sit down.” No. She’s the only one in the house who’s got this. The car needs gas so she can get the kids to school. She has to do it. The oil in that car should have been changed months ago. Nothing for lunches tomorrow, she’s got to go grab some groceries. (thank goodness for Instacart) The youngest can’t find her library books. The oldest needs homework help and hates school. She worries the two in the middle are getting lost in the shuffle, because they have fewer demands. And the boys…she wonders if she should be going to the gym more often with her son, to shoot hoops with him, so he isn’t doing it alone. She is sure he’d rather do that with dad, but mom is his only option. What about the one who only wants to play video games? She should probably make him go too, but he’d rather take a bike ride with her. But he has outgrown his bike, so now she adds that to her list of things to do..bike shopping. There is no passing of the baton. She has to see that need in herself, to rest. And she will, for about five minutes before she gives in to sleep, only after trying to fulfill the role of both mom and dad for the day.

Although I have teenagers, and a ten year old, and they are all pretty self sufficient, I can’t just stop my parental duties. I have to be on all the time. If my teenager seems like he or she has had a bad day, and all I am getting is adorable grunts for an answer, I take it as as sign…they need to talk. Sometimes I just want to shut my bedroom door, and watch a show that will relax me, or make me laugh. But I don’t. Instead I try to get that child to talk to me. If not me, no one will. I can’t sleep if I think they are hurting. If grunts are the only option that day, because hey, let’s not forget what it’s like to be a teenager (it is awful at times), then I will text that child from my room, while he or she is in another room. Whatever works. But I don’t give up. And as for tv, it is seldom watched…not because I am a great intellect, reading philosophical books instead…but because I am parenting until 10pm, then passing out from exhaustion. If a tv show happens, it is because my adorable 10 year old asks to watch a show with me, and I do it, because she needs time with me too. There is only one me, and I do my best to share that one me as best as I can, every day.

I am no hero, and I am not looking for sympathy. I am sympathizing with all of you single moms out there. By looking at my own situation, I can easily empathize with every single mother I meet. I know there are single dads too, but I’m a mommy blogger. Sorry guys.

To our friends who are married – please understand, sometimes at the last minute on a Friday night, we might just decide to crash. After a week of single parenting, a night of pj’s and Netflix may be better relief than a night out. Please understand your single mom friend, if she answers your text a week after you send it, apologizing again, and reminding you she is just so busy. She really is. Her reply was probably interrupted by a child’s needs that she has no option to ignore. It doesn’t mean you aren’t important. Don’t expect her to attend every single school event, dance class, or volunteer request. She dreads those extra duties, which will require even more stress to complete homework, make dinner, do laundry, and fulfill emotional needs by herself.

Exhausting as it is, there is a beauty to the single mother. A special gift only she can see, even through her exhaustion. If she is the primary care giver, she gets it all. Every piece of news about the day – good and bad. Laughter, tears, frustration, and joy – she’s there for it. I wouldn’t trade those late night messages with my teenagers who have a hard time talking, for anything. Sure, I’d rather watch what I want, or do some writing at night…but instead, I giggle along with my 10 year old, while we watch cooking shows and HGTV together. As a mom, especially a single mom, I can have tremendous guilt for a million reasons. Am I doing enough? Will my boys be ok with just mom during the week? Then I stand back and look at the extra special bond we all share because of our closeness. I see that they are ok. I’m stretched thin, but I am doing my best. And I think my best is pretty damn good. Exhausted as I am, I am far from being ready to share the parenting of these amazing children. The blessings from alone time with them, are an unexpected gift.

I see you mama…I see all moms…single or not. We are tired, and we are the strongest creatures on earth. And ladies, single or married, we all need each other. No one can empathize with you, like another mom. Hang in there. You are doing your best. One day you will reap your reward, when your adult children grow into the most incredible human beings you have ever met, and smile every time your eyes meet. Then, you will finally exhale that deep breath you have been holding, knowing every sacrifice was worth it.

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