In my previous life, I had the luxury of being someone’s wife, and a stay-at-home-mom, simultaneously. For ten years.
And let me stress–aside from the obvious ramifications of being PC’s wife–it was indeed a luxury.
It meant that I had all day, every day, to do all the things. Cleaning, errands, banking, yardwork. Scheduled around the kids, but basically I had many hours to do everything. From the time I awoke until the time I went to bed I could squeeze in every little thing my heart desired.
It meant that weekends were basically free for leisure, because all of the laundry, grocery shopping, and house-work was done.
It meant that if I was up all night feeding a baby or nursing a sick kid, there was plenty of time to grab a few zzzs in the form of a power nap, whenever I wished, during the next day.
It meant that self care, in the vein of chiropractors, massages, and exercise was simply a part of life that was a given. There was no thought of I don’t have time or I can’t afford it.
It meant that when the kitchen was cleaned and my kids were in bed, my day was done. As in, there was literally nothing I had to do until morning. I could watch Netflix or sit outside or text my friends without the slow rising guilt of you could be packing lunches for tomorrow! You could be working on a list of topics to discuss with your lawyer! You could be unpacking the boxes that still sit in the guest room from your move one YEAR ago.
It meant that I had the freedom to get together with friends, mine or my kids, whenever I wanted. It meant being able to attend every single event that my kids had at school (which for unexplainable reasons, all seem to happen mid-day.) It meant being able to volunteer freely with the PTA. It meant being homeroom mom and attending every single class party.
It meant that my floors were never filthy and if we ate Sheetz for dinner it was because it was a treat. Not because I hadn’t had time to go to the grocery store or I was waiting for my child support deposit so that I didn’t bounce my account again. The idea of having to budget money in order to feed my kids was something that had not even crossed my radar. (I should point out that no one in my wide network of support would ever actually allow me or my kids to go hungry. Its just the point that I didn’t have to think about it before. I could shop when I wanted. I didn’t have to wait for payday. Or a day off from work.)
It meant never having to drop my kids off at the crack of dawn at daycare, ever. In fact, it meant never having to figure out childcare at all, with the exception of extracurricular fun. It meant never having to weigh the pros of money with the cons of having my 11 and 7 year olds spend their summer in daycare. It meant never having to contemplate that I would not be able to be a member of the pool because I cannot afford it. Summer + pool + my children seems like a tightly interwoven ball of how it should be. Summer + inside at daycare + my kids seems like a poorly executed plan. But…money seems like it trumps all of these things, even though it will never be enough to afford what I really want…freedom.
It meant that even with a shitty, self-centered, non-participating partner like PC, there was still “help”. There was still someone to clear the dinner table. There was still someone to mow the lawn. There was someone to hang with one kid while I put the other to bed. There was someone to text “can you pick me up x y or z on the way home?” There was still company.
I tried to imagine, when still married, the vast shift that would occur when/if I started working (which was always sort of my plan once the kids were in school.) How would I manage a house, and being a mom, and still have time for myself? Oh the worries I had about picking up a part-time job. How would I manage to do it? Because I think I knew, that even if I was working, PC wasn’t going to suddenly start taking out the garbage or driving the kids to school or helping with homework. But I could have done it, because I was the queen of multi-tasking.
Then, when PC left, I wondered how on earth I was supposed to manage kids on my own? Of course, he would still be an active parent (yeah right!): but his activity level was already bordering on nil status. How would I manage to do EVERYTHING all by myself? It seemed daunting and unreal to someone who was unused to ever having to rely on “help” when it came to the children.
Fast-forward. One point five years post separation and I am now at a point of working almost full time, and raising the kids almost on my own. PC’s involvement dwindles and we are long past the point of me even considering asking him for anything…to take one kid for this day, to pick them up early on his weekdays because I now work. He will never, ever put the kids first if it has the added aspect of somehow being beneficial to me. My job is flexible, has free childcare, is 1 mile away, and has the advantage of a boss who is a good friend and thus understands my Jerry Springer life. The downside is that its nearly full time, and as much as I like it, it can be draining.
My mother asked me, recently, why I was having so much trouble getting things done? You’re good at organizing and multi-tasking? And I am. Its not that. Its just the literal time. I know she worked when I was in school but again…she had a husband who was a helpful one and a good father to boot.
So, welcome to my life right now. Single mom, working full time. I find myself saying over and over…”there just are not enough hours in the day.” My father–bless his heart, he is helping me with everything–keeps shouting off to-do lists. Can you go here and talk to this person about that? Did you clean up the dog shit, the yard people are coming tomorrow! Can you do this legal meeting on this day and why haven’t you fixed this table yet, what are you waiting for?
Meanwhile, my laundry piles up. My floors haven’t been done in ages and its killing the clean-loving me slowly, inside. I’m sleeping on sheets that have a fine layer of dog hair. We had Sheetz for dinner (again!) tonight. I have a book signing in 2 days that I am 100% not prepared for and since my neighborhood is having a community yardsale this weekend, I decided why not add more to my plate? And so I am making a pile in the middle of my messy office room of items that may make me a grand total of $20.
Every morning I awaken with an attitude of determination and productivity. Every night, I go to bed feeling like I’ve completely failed in all aspects of my life. I have forgotten to sign kids’ folders. I’ve mixed up days and appointments. I have a car that is 1000 miles overdue for an oil change and two kids who haven’t had vitamins in 2 weeks because I haven’t picked them up from the pharmacy. The yard is a jungle and I have not washed my hair in 5 days (cool your jets, dry shampoo is a thing.)
So where am I going with this? Asking for a pity party? No. Asking for a reprieve? Yes, but I don’t think its going to magically appear. Asking for a fairy to come and clean my house? Fuck yes. Asking for some props? Someone that says “Hey, there is NO WAY one person can do everything. Chill”? Maybe.
I guess what I’m trying to say is being a single mom is hard. Being a single working mom is not compatible with being well rested, well fed, and hygienic. There just are not enough hours in the day.
And of course there is the part of me that is angry at PC. Which is sort of ludicrous because he barely did squat to contribute to our life before, besides making money and occasionally grilling or cutting the grass. But most days, from sun up to sun down, its just me and the kids. There is no one else to do anything. No one to soothe tears, no one to break up fights, no one to take one kid while I take the other, no one to make sure the water doesn’t boil over while I’m switching the laundry. No one to worry about the future. No one to stay at the house with the kids when the dog runs away, leaving me in a quandary. No one to sit down and work on a science project, no one to pick up this kid or take that one here. It is all on me.
And its fucking hard. I feel like I’m drowning. In things. And on the very tip of the iceberg, the outer edges of everything, are the things I want to do. Plant a garden. Write another book. Strip wallpaper. Organize my life. And doing any of those things when there are so many other real things feel impossibly selfish.
So yeah. Being a stay-at-home-mom, with a (however pitifully disappointing) husband, was indeed a luxury. So hats off to women everywhere who have done and are doing this single mom gig. Its not that I can’t do it. And its not even that I don’t want to do it. Its just that in the way this world is, one person simply cannot do everything to sustain a comfortable, well-balanced life that includes financial comfort, time, organic home-cooked meals, a clean house and fresh laundry and a social life and kids sports….its just too much. So right now, its work and the basic needs of my kids. Followed by their activities and social lives.
Followed half-assedly by everything else and on some days, followed by the tiniest bit of me time. Which tonight includes heading to bed at 8:30pm because there is simply no energy left to spare.
And tomorrow I’ll wake up and do it all over again. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a bit of sweetness to it (minus the wanting to cry sometime part). Its what I keep saying: its authentic. It isn’t a giant pristine house without cobwebs and doghair, and I’m not baking cupcakes for my kids birthday at school (which, shit, I just realized is this week. See what I mean??) But I am marching forward, and we’re all alive and healthy and I think, kinda happy?
Exhausting. But it’s real.