Mike and I were separated when he died, so mentally, I was prepared to be a single mom. I had been thinking about it for months before we the court order that removed him from my home.
I knew it would be difficult. I knew there would be challenges, but being the kind of overplanning-kind-of-person I am, I was ready to be a single mom.
Given his condition, I knew Mike wouldn’t have a dominant role for the first year or two, but he’d be “there” by phone or Skype or the occasional supervised visitation. But, hell, he was GOING to pull his shit together – he was going to get BETTER, or so I believed.
When he was better, he’d have weekends, holidays, summers with the kids. And then I’d have a free weekend, or a kid-less couple of weeks over the summer. I had plans with that “free” time.
Things don’t always go according to plan.
There’s a big difference between being a “single” mom and being an “only” parent. Differences I’m just starting to realize 10 months after Mike’s death.
Being an “only” is exhausting. There is no time away, no time to refresh, no downtime. You’re always “on” no matter how much you just want to be “off” for a while longer. There’s no end in sight, no waiting until the other parent’s weekend. I’m actually jealous of “single” parents.
Before Mike slipped into a bottle of vodka, we were a good team.
- When I reached the end of my rope, he was still calm and rationale, and vice versa.
- If he had a bad day at work and needed a break when he came home, I was there to take Ethan (Lauren was born AA – after alcoholism), entertain him, keep him away until Mike found his peace – and vice versa.
- On weekends, one of us could always sleep in while the other handled breakfast and other morning rituals. For parents of kids who always wake up by 6 a.m., an extra hour or two of sleep can make or break the day.
We tagged-team parented a lot. It worked for us.
Since Mike’s death, I’ve learned to have more patience and that’s good. But patience only goes so far when there’s no parental backup – and I’m still nowhere near as patient as I should be.
I have a few friends who have volunteered to take the kids when I need a break. (One divorced mom friend even really “gets it.” She’s mentioned the “only” parent thing without me ever discussing it. I cried that someone acknowledged it!)
But I don’t like to ask for help. And if I did take my kids to a friend’s house or drop them off for a few hours, I’d probably be so worried about them, and feel so guilty that I NEEDED the break, that I wouldn’t be able to relax. (God, what if Ethan talks about how much beer his dad drank – which is a favorite topic of conversation right now? What if Lauren freaks out? Am I letting the kids down by needing an escape?)
Being an “only” parent isn’t where I thought I’d be, and I often wonder how I got here. But “only parent” is now our normal. I just need to get comfortable with it, figure it out, come to terms with it. I’m not complaining or asking for sympathy, just realizing there’s a big difference between the two distinctions. Being an “only” parent is what I am now.