What Being a Single Mom for One Month Taught Me About Parenting
As I write this, I'm en route back to NYC after visiting family in Pittsburgh. I chose to take a long train ride home because I could at least work — albeit one-handed and through spotty Wi-Fi — while my kids watch Netflix. These days, planning out movie downloads is the most advanced preparation I can handle.
My husband is many states away on a monthlong military training. It was unexpected, and we were unprepared for it. My "single mom" status for this time apart hasn't been easy — wrangling an 8-year-old and a 1-year-old while traveling, working, prepping for back-to-school and trying to offer them the last glimmer of summer they were promised August would bring is a lot. It's made me realize just how lucky I am to have a co-parent — even one who has to be away for a month. I know that for all the moms out there who are parenting on their own full time, the chaos I'm experiencing this summer is par for the course every day, year-round. I can only imagine.
When my husband is home, our days are much different than mine are now. While he does work full time, he’s home early enough to pick our son up from the bus stop each afternoon so that I only have to do the morning run. He helps with homework, and we alternate cooking dinner in the evenings. On the weekends, our parenting duties are completely split down the middle, and my husband isn't afraid to get his hands dirty washing dishes, cleaning the toilet or dealing with diapers. In these weeks that he’s been away, I’ve realized just how much he really does — and how much I’ve taken for granted.
For me, every moment over these past few weeks has served as a surprising reminder to me that I’m not alone in this parenting thing and of how grateful I am for that. At the same time, this experience has opened my eyes to how strong I am as a mom — how strong all mothers can be. In fact, it's restored a great deal of lost confidence in my parenting abilities.
From the start to end of each day this month, I've been in complete survival mode. It’s just me, and with my full-time work-from-home schedule, my kids' days have included way more screen-time, pleading and compromising than usual. I need to do what's necessary to get things done — and I have to stop judging myself for it. "Push onward" is now my way of life.
A bonus is that this has brought my organizational skills to a completely new level of awesome. I’ve embraced new ways to tire the kids out, get chores done and ensure the bedtime routine runs smoother than ever — because you'd better believe I need those few minutes alone at the end of each day. Come to think of it, sometimes looking forward to alone-time is the only motivation that carries me through the chaos.
There have been days when I find myself questioning whether I can do this. I missed deadlines. Guilt engulfed me. Days went by when I didn’t bathe my kids. But here's the thing: As a parent, you don't actually get to ask, "Can I get through this?" Because you have to get through it, and you will.
And you know what? Even on days when I forgot to eat or snapped at my son for no reason, I learned that no matter how much I think I’m going to break, I can power through. I am capable. In fact, these very words became my mantra during this temporary "single mom" era. Any time I felt panic or stress washing over me, I took a deep breath and repeated, “I am capable,” over and over again. It actually did help.
So I'm spending today walking my daughter up and down the train aisles because her wiggly toddler legs can’t sit still for nine hours. I'm taking deep breaths since traveling alone with the kids for weeks gives me anxiety, and I want nothing more than to be home with our whole family back together.
Parenting is challenging, and parenting without a partner to turn to is so much harder. If what I'm living this summer is your everyday life, I bow to you. I may be capable, but you are superhuman.