Sometimes a wave of anxiety washes over me — and she floods into my consciousness.
I can feel her, calling my name or crying after she’s fallen, bruising her knee on her dad’s hardwood floor.
And when she comes back to me a few days later she shows me her bruise and tells me she fell and I say, I know, I was there with you. I felt you fall. I sent you a BIG big hug, did you feel it?
There are times when I have trouble getting to sleep, because I’m missing her sweet little snore in the bunk above me. Times when I wonder if she’s had a bad dream or wakes up in the middle of the night looking for her water.
And when she comes back to me, she tells me she had a bad dream last night, and she woke up thirsty. I know, I felt you. I woke up too! You were in my dream telling me all about it. Really? She says and she smiles and gives me a big hug. Mommy, we’re so close, she says. Mommy, you’re my best friend, even though I know moms and dads aren’t really your friends, they’re your parents, she says with a grin, her eyes ingesting me with their bigness.
There are times when I want to call her and I feel she wants to call me. Times when I have a vision of her crying, alone on her bed, feeling misunderstood.
And when she comes back to me, she tells me she was crying for mommy — that she got into a fight with her stepsister and still felt upset about it. I know you, I felt you— I had a vision of you upset and I sent you a BIG big hug!
I’m a single mother of an almost 7 year old girl. I share joint custody with her father. We’ve had a 50/50 arrangement for almost 5 years.
I still have a hard time with it.
I have a hard time sharing my child.
I have a hard time giving her up every Sunday, when it’s time for her to go to her dad’s.
Sometimes when she leaves, I take a heaving breath, a part of me desperate to have a bit of alone time. Sometimes, like this past week, she’s been following my every move like a gentle, giggly shadow. Suddenly, she leaves, and the house is very quiet — peacefully quiet — pin-drop quiet.
I make a cup of tea and open the book that’s been flirting with me all week. I go to bed whatever time I want, free of the burden of her bedtime routine. I sleep deeply without any late night wake-ups for water or an escort to the bathroom.
It’s nice for a day, that solo time. That I can do whatever I want in this space time — as if I’m suddenly a teenager again and my parents have left me with an empty house full of junk food.
It’s serene and self-nurturing to woo my I can do whatever I want self.
It’s fulfilling — until it becomes lonely. It turns to lonesomeness when the noises of the house suddenly become creepy creaks and eery rattles. It becomes lonely when the walls feel too big and the ceilings too tall.
When I miss her, I feel what most of us fear feeling: alone. I fill my time with activities, like writing, which feeds my soul and massages my spirit — don’t get me wrong– but it also fills the void of missing her.
I take myself on dates to movies or cafes. I watch and sip and read and keep my mind occupied. I schedule adult dates— outings with friends, mostly single parents when they have time — when our schedules aren’t completely opposing each other. I take on extra yoga classes. I do grad school homework. I clean the house. I keep doing as my mind and heart keep missing.
Sometimes I stop all the doing and just sit with it — that loneliness and longing. I’ve learned to treat it in a mindful way — as a sort of yoga practice.
I lost all my married friends when I became a single mom. Or they chose not to contact me. Or maybe I didn’t respond to their invites, maybe it was too uncomfortable to go to their house for dinner and see dad take on the bedtime routine so mom could have a glass of wine and kick her feet up.
I stopped going to moms groups when I became a single mom. Or maybe they stopped invited me; they said I kept making excuses not to go, so what was the point of asking me? I felt hurt by them, those married, partnered women — those mostly stay-at-home-moms.
Maybe I hurt myself, maybe I caused my own rejection? But I had to. I had to stop going, because, once I was single and solely supporting myself financially, listening to them talk about watching reality shows and perusing recipes while their toddlers napped (my toddler never napped), made my stomach churn as if it just ate something it can’t digest.
I stopped saying yes to their invites because I was different, and that hurt. I couldn’t freely and openly converse on such things as family walks and date nights and getting away from the kiddos to take a yoga class. Instead of taking classes, I taught them — because I needed the money — because that was my job.
4 years later, and all the parent friends I feel close to are single parents: moms and dads who have similar struggles and stories. Moms and dads who get that I have my daughter every other weekend and that means I sometimes can’t make their kids birthdays and sometimes our kids only get to see each other once every few months.
These friends and I, we watch out for each other. We watch each other’s kiddos — for free, when needed because we know money is tight and family isn’t always available. We help each other out because we get each other’s needs.
I chose my path. I left a relationship that just wasn’t working, a relationship where I felt alone and emotionally isolated —a relationship where two people merely existed; a relationship where two people couldn’t thrive together.
What I did not choose was what was to come: 5 years of doing it solo and not knowing any different, but sometimes wanting different. Sometimes I wanted to be one of the moms from the mom’s group whose day revolves around cooking a lovely dinner for her other half upon return from their, job all the while running around after her active kiddos and calling that her workout.
Instead, I ran yoga and healing business. I spent all my free time with my little girl and worked my schedule around her preschool schedule, so I could avoid losing more time with her at daycare or with sitters.
Sometimes I would want — I want— something more. In those moments of longing, I entertain dating. And then I start dating and quickly feel short on time. I come back to her— always to her.
Would I trust him around my daughter? Is he even a kid person? Do I really like him, or do I just like the idea of him — the idea of having a man around to fill a void?
And that brings us to me. That brings u here and now. To me: writing this — having just said no to a man who just wasn’t right, because I won’t settle. I’m over being with someone just to be with someone.
A part of me settled —caved into myself — when I got pregnant (unexpectedly) and told him I was having it with him or not. I was open to this path from the moment of conception. I knew he wasn’t right, and yet, there he was — and there my daughter was, waiting to be born.
Sometimes we don’t realize the gifts we’ve been given until we start living them — experiencing them, feeling pushed by them. 5 years ago I wanted to escape this path; I was jealous that my ex found someone but a month after we split. Someone he met on a play-date. Someone he is married to now.
2 years ago, I was actively dating— on the hunt for my escape — on the prowl for my comfort.
Today I am working towards my Master’s, six months from graduating and starting a new career —one where I will not be self-employed and a slave to my own business, taking time away from being fully present with my daughter.
Today, I said, “No thanks” to two men that I would have said “yes” to but a year ago. I said, “no, I’m not interested” because I’m not willing to settle — because they are still very wounded from their past relationships and because being the salve to their wounds doesn’t entice me anymore (thank goddess!).
Today, I am comfortable saying I feel a sense of loneliness when my daughter is spending the week with her father (she does have a day in that week she always spends the night with me, so it’s not such a long stretch). I feel a sense of loneliness that is really more of a lacking — a sense of incompletion.
Today, I am comfortable saying I feel a sense of wholeness, completeness, and security when she’s sleeping in her bed in my house.
Today, I can say being a single mom is hard work— hard inner work.
Today, I can say that I am the strongest I’ve ever been, and I wouldn’t be this strong had I not been on this path— this single parent path.
Today, I can say to the Universe: Thank You! I think I understand now. I think I know why you blessed me with this beautiful gift that has made me dig into the dregs of my inner resources to find the bits of braveness I’d never known existed.
Today, I can say, what we are given by this life, it has something to teach us.
Today, I can say that if we surrender to what we are given, we discover who we truly are —we see the beauty that contains itself in the stressors and strains.
So much beauty is there— inside of me — inside of you, whether you are a single parent your not.
And if you fear being a single parent, don’t. Trust this magical force that we call life. It is so very, very wise. Trust it and know that it only gives you what it knows you’re ready for. This force we call life, it only gives gifts. It’s our job to see them as such. And the work of seeing isn’t always easy.
Trust this force that has gifted you with the blessing of being a parent. It loves you. It has faith in you. The question you must ask is: Do you have faith in yourself?
This post was previously published on Live Your Life On Purpose and is republished here with permission from the author.
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Photo credit: Sarah Lamb