This message is brought to you by a divorced mom who would just like to get it out there that divorced life as a parent is not glamorous. Maybe no one thought that to begin with. But I want it to go on the record. When you’re a single mom, the time you’ve got your kid(s) means you’re on your own. Good luck.
There is no shortage of daily challenges that a divorced mom has to hurdle over.
When you’re married with kids, life is like a relay with a lot of daily handoffs – your child is the baton. You hold, I’ll get dinner. I’ll hold, you go start the car. You hold, I’ll take care of the grocery shopping. I’ll hold, you go shower. When you’re going through a divorce, you might not be thinking about what those daily handoffs are going to look like. You’re thinking broad picture. How do you set the custody schedule and split the holidays? What do the finances look like? Daily handoffs aren’t a thought. They are too steeped in the minutiae of everyday life to be concerned with.
All of a sudden, you’re living by yourself and solo parenting your part of the time. You realize that there are no handoffs. You only have one set of hands: yours. The baton is always in them. Ever try relaying with no pass off? It’s hard work. Tiring. Complicated. Frustrating.
Daily handoffs have turned into daily challenges.
You didn’t realize how much easier those moments were when there were two adults parenting. And, of course, you didn’t think about the fact that it was easier when there were two of you joined together against your little because, well, there were two of you. You hadn’t anything to compare it to. These moments that are so tough to manage alone were truly insignificant when you had a partner to share the load. In the grand scheme of all things life and parenting related, when your spouse could watch your child while you brushed your teeth, you weren’t thinking, “Hey, if I get divorced someday this is going to be a lot harder. How will I prevent my son from filling his rinse cup with the spit I just lodged into the sink?” (Yeah, true story.)
While you might be like, “These are the things you’re worried about?” a series of little things on a daily basis adds up.
It’s not that I don’t think or worry about disciplining the right way; or if I am teaching him appropriately how to communicate his feelings; or whether I’ll seriously mess him up later in life. But these were things that stressed me out about parenting even when I was married. Those are just daily parenting challenges regardless of marital status.
What I’m talking about is day-to-day. Let me lay it out for you. Here are some of my top daily challenges as a divorced mom.
I never go to the bathroom by myself.
Despite popular belief that women like to, want to, or must go to the bathroom in pairs, it’s simply not true. I want my privacy, especially to go number two or change my maxi pad. These occasions aren’t meant to be a party, presentation, or place to compare body parts, and yet, since being divorced, I never go into the bathroom alone anymore unless it’s a day and night I don’t have my son. Otherwise, he’s with me. Every. Time. Sometimes, we even use the potty together. He on his trainer and me on the ‘big one.’ I never planned on this being our way but necessity is the mother of invention. It’s so normal for us that the other night when my cousin was over for dinner, he told her he was going to watch her pee when she went to use the restroom. He couldn’t figure out why that wasn’t okay. (*Facepalm.)
The nights I have my son and he’s sick, I’m the only one to tag in to wipe his nose when he shouts at me with panic in his voice, “Mommy! I got boogers!”; administer cough medicine in the middle of the night; or ease his worries when he’s having a fever-induced hallucination that something in his room is trying to get him.
It doesn’t matter that I could be called to his aid every thirty to forty-five minutes throughout the night and that the alarm is still going to go off at 6 and I’ll still have to function at work the next day. I rise with every wailing “Mommy” and still get up in the morning, get both of us ready, and we are off to where we go. Assuming, of course, he’s even well enough to go anywhere.
Dinner often means that by the time I get to sit down to eat, my food is cold and my son’s already finished and begging to get down.
It’s nearly impossible for me to time meals so that we eat together and that his food is just warm enough for his liking while my food is still hot. Every time I sit, inevitably he wants something else, something not already on the table. It doesn’t matter how I try to predict that he wants juice, water, and milk or will want yogurt, regardless of the meal we are having. He’ll always request something else. Something I haven’t thought of. Up and down, up and down. Forget second helpings. There’s not time for me to even finish my first. By bedtime, my stomach is growling.
Performing errands become a matter of necessity.
I’ll only run errands while I have my son if there is no other option. It’s not that he’s horrible in public places; I just only have so many arms. Perfect example: we went to Target for diapers and a few other small things. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would need both arms for the box of diapers and my purse and the other bag of items. This left no arms for him- and, of course, he insisted at that moment on being carried. Then when we came to the parking lot, of course, he ran like a jackal out of the mall and to the car without the thought to look both ways. Thankfully, no cars were coming, but I about lost my mind on him. Which, of course, made him upset. “Mommy, why are you so mad at me? You hurt my feelings.” To which I let out an aggravated, “Why do you think I was mad at you?” And then immediately wanted to turn to someone else and say, “Am I a bad mom?” Except there’s no one else there to ask these philosophical questions. An adult, I mean.
Then there is the starting, packing, or unloading of the car.
My son is not old enough yet to truly pull his weight in carrying anything when we have to pack or unpack the car. He’s certainly not old enough to go start the car for me. And he’s still little enough that I feel anxious about leaving him either in the house to go start or pack the car, or in the car to unload it and bring everything into the house. Overnights somewhere or coming back from his birthday or Christmas or any other occasion where we’ll come home with more than we left, are all even more problematic as I have more than one load to transport.
I either have to try to pack the car the day before when I don’t have him, assuming we are going somewhere overnight the very next day, or call in reinforcements- willing friends- to come over while I do the loading (or unloading). Of course, willing friends can’t be there with me every single morning to start the car so that it’s not -2 degrees when we get into the car. And of course, you know, you can’t have him in his jacket in the car seat so now the car is cold, he’s cold, he catches a cold, and then I’ll be sick, too. Yay.
I’ve given you five pretty clear examples of where having only one set of hands kind of blows. But hey, it kind of just comes with the territory. Right? Still, for those of you who are married with kids, thank your partner for whatever it is they do that helps you with the daily challenges and handoffs that come with having kids. For those of you completely single parenting, I feel for you and wish I had a million dollars to pay extra hands to head your way to help you around the clock.
For the rest of you, divorced moms like me with a split custody schedule, may we all get through the daily challenges and then drink heavy amounts of wine on the days and nights we don’t have our kiddos to gear up for the next time.
What are some of your daily challenges that seem particularly difficult when you’re by yourself?