Ten months. Ten months I've been parenting alone, carrying 85 to 90% of the daily burdens and responsibilities surrounding my children. Six of those months were spent doing every single overnight. Every one. Alone. Ten months with a baby. Ten months with a preschooler struggling to come to some kind of terms with her new and scarier life. Ten months of no help when I've been sick. Little to no help when the kids are. Ten months of trial after trial after trial. Ten months of dealing with all of this in the midst of trying to get a grip on some pretty severe postpartum depression. And being emotionally manipulated, gaslit, and abused.
Ten months of being a single mom.
Yes. My ex is supportive financially. No, he has not completely left us alone in the world. Yes, he now takes the kids on overnights every other weekend. No, he will not ever hang out on my couch while our children sleep so that I can get out of the house once in a while. Yes. This all still makes me a single mom. Even if he does't think I qualify.
Let's chat a little bit about some of this stuff. Really. Let's have a good long chat about some hard stuff.
If you leave your wife after committing adultery and refusing any kind of counseling or time to work to save your marriage, you lose the right to define her life any longer. You lose the right to tell her that she is simply "looking for sympathy by falsely calling herself a single mom." You lose the right to tell her that she isn't a single mom... she's a CO-PARENT. You lose the right to speak into her reality because you have walked away without a second thought.
So what, exactly, does it mean to be a single mom?
It means something different to every woman slogging through it. But here's what it means to me.
Being a single mom means that I don't get sick days. Even when I beg for them. It means that the response I get when asking my children's father to cancel his plans and be a father is "is it an emergency?" Being a single mom means that, unless I am bleeding out, I am on my own.
Being a single mom means that I never sleep. Not really. Not deeply. Not ever. It means that your body is always on alert, listening for the sounds of your children needing help. Listening for the sounds of potential threats and dangers to your family in the night. It means never feeling that you can stop living in a state of half-wakefulness because it is all. on. you.
Being a single mom means that I am the disciplinarian. Not the fun parent. I'm the consistent voice. The one that bears the burden of raising children better than the example they've been given. It means that your kids always hear your voice teaching, disciplining, correcting, and sometimes it means that they tell you they want their "fun" parent. And you have to suck it up. Like everything else in life, you have to suck it up alone and keep parenting through the stinging tears fighting to escape your eyes.
It means that you are the safe zone. You're the one that didn't leave. You're the only constant in a life that has turned scary and shaky. You are the one that has to hold it together, and apologize profusely when you can't. You are the one that they will come to with their anger and their fears and their nightmares and their tears. The burden of their hurting hearts will weigh your own down further but you must. keep. going. You must continue to be the safe zone. The constant. The brave.
It means that you really don't get time to grieve the incredible loss you've suffered because you've got to hold it together for your children. There's no one there anymore to take them into the backyard when you are struggling to breathe under the weight of this scary new world and let you sob in an empty house. It means you scream into pillows in the middle of the night and do your bargaining and crying and why-asking with God in the darkness of your room while you should be sleeping.
Being a single mom means that I no longer have an ally in the man I believed would love me and hold true to his vows until we were so old that life slipped away. It means trying to be nice to a man who tells me to lose 150 pounds, or that I was never worth fighting for, or that he's going to call child protective services because my house is a mess and our kids eat processed foods. It means having to treat as an adversary someone that should have always been your champion.
My single motherhood looks like scrambling to figure out a career because my ex "doesn't want to support my lazy ass for the rest of his life." when I quit my job to be a stay at home mom at his urging and after we'd agreed upon that reality from day one.
My single motherhood looks like loneliness and long days and longer nights. It looks like being constantly belittled for hurting. It looks like being told to "get over it because we're done." It looks like unfaithfulness and affairs and deep chasms where trust used to be.
My single motherhood looks like something I never signed up for. Something forced upon me. Something heavy and brutal and violently unjust. It looks like a life filled with "I don't know if I can do this"es and "I'm simply not strong enough"s. It is the rough-handed shaping of a new reality that I don't want.
I don't call myself a single mom to garner sympathy. I don't call myself a single mom because I think it's fun. I don't call myself a single mom because it is a reality I chose.
I call myself a single mom because it is what I am. A woman who carries the weight of the world on her shoulders alone. Without a partner. Without relief. I am a single woman now. Who is also a mom. Don't get me started on how that will affect me in such a harsher way than it will affect my ex. I call myself a single mom because I have nothing to be ashamed of. I tried. I really really tried. I fought and begged and cried and I did what was left in my broken shell to save a marriage that probably wasn't even worth saving outside of the enormity and the sacredness of the vows I had spoken. The vows I meant. I don't need to assuage the guilt of the guilty by declaring myself to be a watered-down version of my reality.
My single motherhood may look different that the single motherhood of too many women I know who's "christian" husbands left them high and dry and broken. But we don't need to make our realities more palatable for those who have understandably guilty consciences. We don't need to consider them above ourselves or our children any longer. We are the widows of our generation. The struggling and grieving and alone. To be denied acknowledgement of that fact simply because it causes someone else to feel badly about themselves is just further injuring the broken and injured and bereaved.
If you don't like it, chances are it's because it makes you keenly aware of the injustice of your actions. And frankly, that's no longer a burden we single mothers need to bear. We have enough, thank you.