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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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