Hi. My name is Crystal and I’m a single mom.
I do not set an alarm to wake up before my son. I don’t volunteer at his preschool. I do not make my own toothpaste and I have not cooked from scratch in weeks. My email inbox and my laundry pile are both out of control and I have no plans to tame either. If I remember to bring something to a church potluck, it is rarely homemade.
While I’m on a roll, I’ll add a real confession: I used to judge single parents – whether they were divorced or not – I judged them and I made assumptions I had no right to make.
Oh wait. This isn’t Single Parents Anonymous? That’s right, this is Simple Mom. So how does a single mom also figure out how to be a simple mom? Or at the very least, how do I incorporate a bit more simplicity into daily life? Because that list of things I don’t do – those are good things I would like to be able to do.
I’m no single parenting expert. I’m just in the trenches with a toddler. But, I know I’m not the only loyal reader of this blog who is a single parent. And I know there’s got to be many of you in this community who may not have the tax filing status, but you still function as a single parent much of the time. Whether you’re a military mom or dad, married to someone who is unable to or has chosen not to be engaged in parenting, your experience and challenges are similar.
And I also know that not every single parenting scenario is the same. We all have different financial and custody situations, not to mention children at various stages with unique personalities. We all have different paths that resulted in our entrance to this strange land called single parenting.
No spoiler alert needed. Parenting and running a household alone is hard. Add to that working and in some cases being the only financial provider, and it equals exhaustion.
As we all know, parenting (whether alone or not) is a 24/7 marathon, not an occasional side hobby you fit in when time permits. It’s the most incredible, most valuable marathon you’ll ever run, but that doesn’t mean you’re not exhausted, needing some cheerleaders and good coaches while you’re in it.
As a single parent, I know I make it harder on myself by expecting that I should be able to accomplish the same things as a stay-at-home-mom who has a healthy relationship with her employed husband. I have to daily accept my limitations, and deal with the disappointment that I am unable to have the experience of motherhood I had always imagined.
There are many things I’m in the process of learning because of these limitations. The most important thing is that I must focus on only the absolute essentials. Being a single mom has forced me to concentrate on what matters and not get distracted by what might please or appease those around me. I simply can’t raise my son, work full time, and also execute incredible, Martha-Stewart-worthy children’s birthday parties, rotate my house décor with the seasons, and also find time to occasionally sleep.
But you know what? That’s okay.
I’ve recently decided to permanently take off my super woman cape. I am going to cease the super human expectations, take a breath and focus on one thing I can do. Sometimes that one thing involves playing with legos or dump trucks with a beautiful little boy. But sometimes that means putting on a movie for him, so I can spend some time journaling and clearing my head.
Sometimes it means accepting offered help from friends. Sometimes it means spending money in ways that Dave Ramsey would not approve of, like eating out just because I’m tired. Sometimes that means showing up at a birthday party without a gift or a card and trusting that my friend actually does value my presence more than those polite gestures.
I’m not saying I exist in this clarity all the time. Or that I don’t need hourly reminders to let go of the expectations that others and myself place on me. I do not always float around in a cloud of peaceful acceptance. Not at all. I’m tired. I grieve. I get sad, I pray and reach out to friends.
Eventually, I get reminded that what matters are the essentials and it’s okay if I can’t “do it all.” For me ‘the essentials’ is a very, very short list that involves food, water and making sure my son is wearing mostly-clean underwear.
I can’t do it all. And comparing the things I am able to achieve as a parent to people in different circumstances doesn’t help my son or me. But, it’s not only single parents that feel this pressure, right?
I invite you to take off your super mom or super dad cape, too. Even if you’re not a single parent. Focus on one thing you can do, instead of being overwhelmed by everything your circumstances and energy limitations prevent you from doing.
I may not get be able to spend the whole day with my son creating the full-size sidewalk chalk fire truck mural we both dream of, but I can spend ten meaningful minutes coloring with him after breakfast before work. Being at peace and enjoying the time I do have with my son matters more than being super mom.
Do you need to take off your super mom cape and with it, some pressure and expectation? What is one thing you can do today, even if you can’t “do it all”?