No Words, Just Held

Chapter 1: The Heroic Single Mother

“The burden you bear in parenting without a partner in a society that provides so little support for parents is certainly unjust, although you may have chosen this way of parenting….Because of this injustice, it’s easy for single mothers to fall into the victim trap, but this is a most unproductive, senseless way to live. We are all victims of something larger than ourselves at one time or another….If you want to succeed as a hero, you should first recognize that you have made choices, even if you were not conscious of them at the time. Recognize that you have a choice in how you will play the cards you now hold. … As a woman and a mother, you are powerful….Resurrect the goddesses who lived before you [aka Demeter and Aphrodite, both single moms] by reclaiming the goddess inside you. Be proud of what you achieve in caring for yourself and your children. Remember you are a hero.” –Andrea Engber and Leah Klungness, Phd.

And as Spiderman says, With great power comes great responsibility.

This is today, which is every day:

Wake-up call by son at 6 (who has by some magic finally started sleeping in his own bed without waking up all night), make breakfast, shower, dress me, find clothes for him to dress himself (hard-won), pack backpack, scurry off to work and school by 8 am with papers, sneakers, milk money, or whatnot needed for the day. No you can’t bring toys to school. Have this conversation every morning. Work at an office all day, then run two miles (outside!) in preparation to hit the 5k circuit this spring/summer, pick up son from afterschool care, drop off backpack et al., walk downtown to library, play checkers, pick out kids’ books. Forget our library cards. After the library, stop for a coffee and crumpet, then home to cook sausages and peppers, pack my son’s lunch, read him library books, play Legos and racecars, sausages ready, eat. Give him a tub, clean the living room, put away clothes from doing laundry yesterday, wash dishes, pay bills. Read him more books, then bedtime routine. In between this I think when the sausages are cooking, take a shower. (I had stuck on sweat clogging my pores from the run way back at 5 p.m.) Put off the homework till tomorrow but do round up the trash and recycling and take it to the street on time.

I should not be writing now b/c I have hours ahead of me of more work for the office so I can afford this lifestyle.

Back at the library, while my son was playing with the trains and fish in the children’s section, I found this nugget: The Complete Single Mother. I am Not a fan of self-help books, especially ones like Single Mother for Dummies, but to kill time I picked it up and started reading the introduction. After the first five pages I had a lump in my throat.

Somebody wrote a book about my private thoughts. It’s definitely not for Dummies. It’s well written and kind and speaks of things only single mothers know. I don’t speak of these things. I have never felt victimized by being a single mom, rather feel entirely grateful with every shred of my being given my alternative, so it would seem to come off as whiny or ungrateful to speak of it, or beg the question, Why is being a single mom different from being a “married mom,” who likely in the end has to do everything herself anyhow? So I never speak of it.

But I feel like speaking about it tonight spurned by this book, and since my readership is zero to five, what the hell. The difference between a “normal” partnered-mom, even divorcees, and me is that in the back of her head, she knows she’s not parenting alone.

I can do all of it and handle all of it and be glad and grateful about all of it, but what I truly want that I won’t tell anyone is to finally get into bed at the end of this day and be held by my beloved partner, really really tight. Like wrapped in a cocoon tight. No words, just held. It’s sappy and unacceptable thinking for a solo parent. But still, I secretly want it.

I’ve had to take my son to the ER several times, and once my sister said to me: “You know, I realize fully now what it’s like for you. I mean, no one’s even there for you to turn to and ask if you think you need to go to the ER.” But it doesn’t faze me–if your son is bleeding/hurt/screaming, you go to the ER. Thus am I so very self-reliant or so very numb to it? Given that my very kind sister gave me money for the ER bill that I couldn’t afford, I am simply grateful.

In the book, I fall under the blanket category of single mother, but I’ve termed a parent like me “solo parent.” There is no husband/father here, there are no drop-offs or child support or codecisions. There are also no arguments or brutality or bitterness or passive aggressive actions that bad partnerships harbor.

My home is far from broken; it is lovely and loving. And although I rarely admit it but in whispers, I am proud of myself. I have needs, but I am not needy. Self-reliance doesn’t mean I don’t need support or help (although it’s quite hard/uncomfortable for me to ask for it); I have an amazing support system, to whom I give eternal thanks. It’s just that especially as a woman, it’s important to trust our instincts and decisions and strike a balance. And self-reliance doesn’t mean I want to be alone; the opposite is true– to partner and share a life is also still being self-reliant, creating an alliance, not an overtaking of someone else.

I have an essay in my head to write about the funny parts of being a solo mom: most days are comic relief between lugging groceries up three flights of stairs or listening to his funny stories about sting rays and theories on the universe . Then there are deeper, uglier things that would make an entirely different type of essay, like the incurable guilt of having rendered my son fatherless even in the face of death. But I truly never speak of that.

So as you can see, a book has been written because there’s so damned much to cover. The two authors started a national organization, they have pertinent statistics and important historical contexts; they even have an an acronym (one might call it an initialism): MOM, Mom’s Outside of Marriage. I think that’s corny but thought I’d mention it. I have never researched the literature on single motherhood, but am glad I came upon this book.

I guess it’s ok to speak of these things, after all, because there is truth in the details. But I want you to know that I know I have a lucky, blessed life filled with the giving and receiving of love on many levels. No words, just held. The fates deemed me worthy to put someone else’s life in my hands.

Being a mother is the most sacred role a woman has across all time and space, whether alone or partnered. I am honored to be raising my son.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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