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Tips and Truths for Coping as a Part-Time Single Mom

I wonder if Mom will let me take that bird home if I catch it ...

I am married and a single mom.

I’ve started this post so many times….

Parenting is not easy, regardless of your partnership status.  Lately, I’ve been trying to pinpoint the unique challenges that face moms who parent by themselves, but are still involved in a committed relationship. Perhaps your spouse is in the military, deployed for months or years. Maybe your spouse is in a career requiring frequent overnight/48 hr. shifts. In my case, my husband travels for work and is home, at best, only two days a week.  Whatever the scenario, you’re married and alone with your children.

The permanence of my situation is just settling in, and I haven’t really found anything helpful in the vastness of the internet.  It is such a strange feeling–like a loss but not. Divorce but not.  Alone but not alone. Certainly, I don’t have the added fear of my love being in a battle-zone, on dangerous beats, or fighting fires.  Even so, the worry about his safety during travel and the long stretches where we don’t speak creeps up and settles around my heart like barbed wire.

I waited to start this post until I had answers about how to cope effectively.  Certain I would figure out how to be less lonely, devise an amazingly simple routine, and learn to jump out of bed singing “Sisters, are doing it for themselves!” I waited to offer you my amazing system!

I have none.

Instead, I’ll share what I’ve been told and how the advice has worked for me:

Take care of yourself. You’re all you’ve got, so you have to make sure you keep stress low and your health a high priority.  I exercised last week and started taking Xanax.

Practice mindfulness and living in the present.  Make sure you are not focusing on “what if’s” and imaginary future situations–those only cause anxiety.  My recurring paranoia: what if something happens to me, and my oldest (age 4), doesn’t know how to enter the password on my iPhone and navigate to the number pad to enter 9-1-1?*  How long will it take for someone to find my children?  Will they be OK while I’m dying on the floor…naked…in the shower…? HEEEEELLLLLPPPPPP!!!!!

You only have little one’s once.  Your time will “come.”  Enjoy these moments before they are gone.  This actually makes me more stressed…and guilty that the touching moment we spent painting turned into me yelling. a. lot.  And when exactly does my time come?  Will I be prepared for it?  What if no one wants me by that time? What if I die and I’ve done nothing? This isn’t mindful thinking… Oh, no!  I’m failing at that too. HEEEEEELLLLLPPPPP!

When you feel lonely, call on your support network.  This does work. Most times.  Just like it worked when you were single…

Make sure not to take your stress out on your partner when they return home.  Be open and communicate.  Ask for the help you need. This is great advice. It really is. Let me know how it goes for you.

Hit me up if you’ve got some good advice to share–or have been told some whoppers!  I know there are more of you out there.  Let’s laugh together.  Life can’t always be summed up neatly in 5-step lists.  These messy moments just might turn into the Jackson Pollock of your life…or a some junk that you toss in the trash.  Who knows?

*P.S. The answer to teaching your kids about 9-1-1 on your iPhone (especially if you are like us and have no other phone in the house) is PRACTICE!  Remember the phrase N.A.P. for emergencies: name, address, phone number.  Have it posted somewhere easy for them to see, like the fridge.  Practice having your child swipe your phone and navigate to the call pad.  It’s good to know, even though you probably won’t need it….probably

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

8 comments

  1. When my child was six, I finally learned to ask for help when I needed it. My husband had moved to another state and we couldn’t join him for months, until our house sold and I found a new job (we needed my income). During this time, I tore my ACL and needed two knee surgeries. When I woke up from the first surgery, the surgeon informed me that I couldn’t put any weight on the leg for 6 weeks. I couldn’t drive, I had no husband. I absolutely panicked.

    But an amazing thing happened. The president of my congregation shared my plight at services. And the congregation put together a spreadsheet of people to bring over meals, help get my daughter ready for school in the morning, transport her to and from kindergarten, take her on playdates, help me get her into bed at night. It was unbelievable. I was so touched, I couldn’t stop crying. Friends even got a wheelchair and took me to my daughter’s soccer games … they wheeled me through mud, which wasn’t easy.

    It made me realize that it really does take a village … and that there are times in our lives when we are capable of giving, and other times, when we must allow ourselves to receive a gift. I can never, ever repay every one of those kindnesses. But I CAN pay it forward. So I encourage your readers to give what and when they can give. It matters more than you know. Just the simple offer of taking a child for an afternoon can mean so much to a mom who’s alone. And for overwhelmed moms: accept the help that is offered and remember to pay it forward when you are in the position to do so!

    • Absolutely, yes!!! Taking a child for some activity somewhere is the BEST gift to give. Relief better than a pedicure! You are very right about being able to accept help and ask for it too. Sometimes, we are so overwhelmed that we don’t even know who to ask. Someone, like your congregations president, needs to take the lead and get the ball rolling. When we see a person in need, or recognize our own struggle in someone else’s eyes, take the first step and give them help—don’t just offer it–give it!

  2. I feel for you. My wife traveled extensively for two years and it was devastating to our relationship…and we didn’t even have kids yet! Stay strong. Sounds like you’re on the right track.

    • Thank you. It is really tricky to handle the “relationship” part when your partner returns. Sometimes I catch myself being unnecessarily mean and I think, “Why am I acting like this? I’ve been missing him all week!” I have to work to make sure all my frustration doesn’t burst out at once.

  3. You have some good suggestions on a very challenging subject. One thing that I found useful was having one day every week when either my son would go to his friend’s house or his buddy would come over. Having guaranteed alone time on alternating weeks was a sanity saver.

  4. So true!! It’s easy to get so busy that you stop seeking out playgroups and people you can commune with for kid swapping (especially if you do not belong to a religious organization). As an extrovert, it is challenging to keep myself energized since I am fueled by adults interaction and conversation. Night time is difficult for me. I’m getting there. I’m amazed at how many people have gone through this at one point or another.

  5. stacey /

    I love your post. I giggled I wanted to cry. And yes understand. I’m 40. Was raised by a single mom 1/2 my life. Had a baby at 20. Then I was the single mom. Then found a great guy who’s career is now to work out of town. He’s home on n off but right now we are lucky if he gets to come home on a weekend. We have a 3yr and an 18mo old. Boys. And my daughters 19.

    • Thank you for commenting. It’s kind of a heated topic. The fact remains that parenting, no matter how the work is divided, is really hard. It’s nice to know you are not alone in your experience.

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