Parenting Styles

On Single Parenthood…and Vomit

I became a single parent a little over six weeks ago. Someday, when the dust and court cases settle, I may tell that story here, but for now, you should know that it was abrupt, unplanned, painful and completely took me by surprise.

I am a single mom. Wow. I never thought I would say that.

I have always had a deep respect for single parents. My mom was a single parent for a couple of years when I was a toddler, before she met my new dad. She was and is a strong, kind, capable and loving parent. I don’t know how she did it. I am in awe of her and other single parents every day. I really had no idea.

On Saturday night, my single parenting skills were put to the test.

I had just put the kids to bed for the night and was about 20 minutes into a nice yoga routine, when I heard my 15 month old son crying. I got up to check on him, and he proceeded to cough and then, because he has a very strong gag reflex, vomit – on me, on the living room rug, on the dining room floor, into a basket of clean clothes, into the toy box. I am not exaggerating when I say that there was vomit EVERYWHERE.

I shed my vomit covered shirt and went to the bathroom to run him a bath. My four year old heard the commotion, woke up and demanded to join in the fun. I put both of them in the bath and tried to wash the vomit off of my little guy, but he just kept crying, understandably shaken up from the rather disturbing experience of projectile vomiting. I helped both of them out of the bath, dried them off, put them in clean pajamas and then rocked my son back to sleep while sitting on the bathroom floor. My daughter soon fell back to sleep, too, after two more bedtime stories.

I walked into the living room. It looked like a scene from a vomit themed horror film and smelled worse. I sat down on the floor and cried a little. Then, I gave myself a pep talk. You have to do this. You’ve got this. You CAN do this.

I proceeded to marathon clean the house, wash the laundry and disinfect the toys. Then, I wandered around for 20 minutes trying to figure out why I still smelled vomit, only to discover that it was in my hair. I took a long, hot shower and finally collapsed onto the couch and watched some TV.

Parenting is exhausting. Single parenting is like running a relay by yourself.

Over the past few weeks, I have heard tons of advice. Some of it great, some of it of the “trust God” or “there is a plan” variety. I normally loathe lists in blogs, but this one time, I am going to share the best of it. At least from my perspective. I am by no means an expert.

  1. Take care of yourself. Yes, your kids are the center of your world and now, they need you even more than ever, but remember – always put on your oxygen mask first, before assisting others. Your kids need you to be strong and healthy. They need you to feel good…at least as good as you can. Eat well, drink lots of water, exercise when you can, get plenty of sleep, get counseling, get a pedicure. Try to create a new routine with this new set of rules and circumstances you’ve been given.
  2. Cut yourself some slack. I am a bit ashamed to admit that I have stopped cloth diapering. I just can’t muster the energy to do it. (Fucking planet). I have to tell myself that it’s okay if I let the kids watch Wonderpets so I can make dinner. It’s okay if the house isn’t spotless. It’s okay if I forget to shave my legs or put on make-up. I need to stop being so hard on myself, so I can get through this time…and the times in the future that may be even more difficult.
  3. Accept help. A place to stay, a babysitter, a meal, a shoulder, a hug, a coffee date, a play date. There are people who love you and care. Let them.
  4. Trust yourself. You have been a parent for nearly five years. Your kids are happy, healthy and kind. You are doing a good job. As scary as it is to be alone, outnumbered, you will be okay. You will figure things out. You’ve got this. You CAN do this.

And maybe, with some practice, patience and time, it won’t feel like a solo sprint anymore. More like a marathon that you’ve been training for your whole life. You’ve got this.

Featured image credit: Steph, all rights reserved


Steph is a mom, stepmom, freelance writer, and advocate. When she's not busy writing, chasing kids around, cleaning up messes, and trying to change the world, Steph enjoys snuggling, making pies, politics, reading paranormal fiction, yoga, and fitness. A fully recovered natural parent, Steph now trusts science, evidence, and common sense to lead the way. She has been actively involved in the reproductive and women's rights movements for more than 20 years and is a passionate pro-choice feminist. Her writing can be found on Grounded Parents, Romper, The Cut, and other print and online publications

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  1. I wish you all the best! Even with a 2:1 parent:child ratio we find it overwhelming, so to simply keep your kids clean, fed and clothed is a massive achievement.

    I completely empathise with that feeling you describe of being been pushed sooo far all day by thing after thing going wrong, and all you want, and what you feel entitled to, is a sit down and some sympathy and a little cry and someone to make it all OK, but there is nobody so you’ve just got to pull yourself together and get on with it no matter how much you don’t want to. I think that’s what people mean when they say that kids make you grow up – that you get good at just getting on with it quietly and without complaint. But oh man does it make me long for the days when I didn’t have to.

  2. Serious hugs and sympathy
    I always jokingly refer to myself as a “part-time single mum” since my husband is away Mo-Fri.
    I definetly second the “cut yourself some slack” (and the rest, too). ATM my flat looks like Pompeii. It’s exams time so I used my time for studying instead of cleaning. As long as no new life-forms evolve in forgotten muesly dishes, everything is fine.
    I also once read a study that cloth diapers aren’t actually that environmentally friendly if you include energy needed for washing and so on, so, no bad conscience for that.

  3. You have got this. Yes.

    It will be like a surprise late evening vomit party a lot of the time, I am not going to lie. Give yourself permission to sit on the floor surveying the work ahead of you and have a cry. It’s okay and healthy and lets some of the pressure off, it shows your kids that you are a human with limits. When you finish crying, when you pick yourself up, whether you call a friend for help or enlist the kids or do it all your own self, you are showing both yourself and your children that life doesn’t stay overwhelming, that there is flux and resilience and joy to be found, sometimes even when there’s vomit in your hair. That they, like you, can face their fears, look the puke monster dead in the eye, and also probably overcome.

    ALL THE HUGS. I did that job for ten years, more or less. Seconding Giliell on the cloth diapers. Whatever cuts your work load, do that, because you need those resources of energy for you and the kids.

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