Dear Aly Brothers,
You recently wrote so honestly, so eloquently, so openly about single motherhood that you’ve gone viral. While you’re probably overwhelmed by the attention your post got, I just want to let you know that I hear you. I’ve been you, and I am you.
Like you, I’ve cried all the way home from the store. Because my daughter stood in the middle of the candy aisle and refused to move. After five minutes of cajoling, threatening and blackmailing I had to put down my basket and hoist over my shoulder, firefighter style, her angry little body stiff as a poker. I had to walk with her like that, as she pummeled her 3-year-old fists on my back while people stood and stared and judged. Meanwhile, my 5-year-old son tried to help by lifting the discarded basket full of groceries. Things fell. Eggs smashed. He dropped the basket on top of the eggs and slipped in the eggy mess. He started to roar. His sister continued to pummel my back. My face was scarlet and streaming with tears.
It wasn’t one of my most enjoyable shopping experiences. Nor was it the only time it all went horribly, horribly wrong. As a single mom, it often goes horribly, horribly wrong.
Motherhood is hard. Fatherhood is hard. But single parenthood is really hard. I write this as a mom with more than four years of single parenting under my belt. When I left my husband, my kids were young like yours. My son was 4 and my daughter was 18 months. I thought I’d cope just fine, that the relief of being out of the marriage would be more powerful than any difficulties I would face. How wrong I was.
As a single mom, you’re everything to your kids. Mom. Dad. Caretaker. Friend. Entertainer. Teacher. Disciplinarian. Good cop. Bad cop. Fairy godmother. Father freaking Christmas. Those roles often become so entwined, the lines between them so blurred, that you want to unzip your head and take out your brain and find a reset button. How can you be all things to other people when you’re forgetting to brush your hair before you leave your house in the morning?
My kids are older now. And here’s the thing. It does get easier. I can promise you that, if nothing else. The tantrums are less frequent. The periods of calm are longer. They are learning how to share the load, to become some of everything to themselves and to each other. There have been no smashed eggs for at least three years.
There are fewer looks of judgment and disapproval from people who don’t know us — and some who do. Or perhaps I just don’t notice them anymore. I sure as hell don’t care as much. What the last four years have taught me is that I’m doing OK. My kids are healthy and happy. We may not have the best bedtime routine or the fanciest game consoles, but we have a bond that means more than any of that stuff. My kids have seen me at my very worst, but they’ve also seen me at my very best. We’ve survived this long together and will continue to survive. Or maybe just wing it. Whatever. Chocolate milk for breakfast is absolutely OK.
I’ve left the toddler years behind me, but I’ve bookmarked your Facebook post because when I read it, I want to cry. In a good way. I’m crying along with you. I’m feeling your pain, but I’m also happy that there are moms like you out there. Moms who go it alone and have no time to themselves and can’t remember when they last applied lipstick, let alone bought a new one, but who still care enough to take a moment to bare their souls to try to make other moms feel less alone.
For that I thank you. I hear you. I am you.
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