Sunday, January 17, 2010

Playing Single Mom

You know how when you go through something, you have a new appreciation and understanding for others who have experienced the same situation? Like women who have undergone a C-section have a specific understanding of that way of birth. Or, how going through major home remodeling gives you a new sympathy for others who are living through the same stress. (I do think that any contractor who administers Valium (or the like) to the homeowners living in and through the home remodeling process would have more going for them. Or, at least administer said medication to the woman of the home. But, I digress.)

While I admit to NOT having a true understanding of what it’s like to be a single mom, I have a renewed appreciation for those who are. This happens to me every January through March, as this is my hard-working husband’s busy season. Literally, he is gone from the home from before 7 in the morning until he walks back in the door anywhere from 9:30 to 11:30 at night, depending on the train schedule. There are many days in a row when the kids don’t even see him. My husband is an accountant and while his "busy season" is unrelated to the April 15th tax deadline, it is related to closing up the books for the corporation’s fiscal year. There are a lot of complicated computations, international accounting stuff, number crunching, reporting and filing stuff with the government. I try so hard to understand all he does, but I don’t (heck, I’m calling it "stuff") and I’m okay with that. I just know he’s gone. A lot. I want to state that I am 100% grateful that my husband has a job. I’m not complaining about his hours; just trying to explain my current situation and thought process.

I would imagine that women whose husbands travel frequently experience this same "playing single mom" thing. Not that it’s some game that I like to play—but I do feel as though I’m in competition to maintain my patience, sanity and happy mommy face. I think of my homeschooling, mother-of-6 friend whose husband has to go out of town for a week at a time, on a regular basis. She plays single mom too. While I know that I have been called to homeschool our own kids, it’s during "busy season" that it can get tough! There aren’t many breaks from the kids and while I know that sounds horrible, I’m just keeping it real. However, I have a light at the end of the tunnel, as does my friend. I know that our family just needs to survive til spring, then it’s "game over" and dad is home for dinner again! And there’s someone else around to help get the kids into bed! And, dinners tend to get a bit more gourmet than mac-and-cheese or pancakes! (Recently, I DID wrap the hotdogs in crescent rolls...points for gourmet efforts?!) When life goes back to normal, I stop entertaining myself in the evenings with mind-numbing TV! (Seriously, a 150 pound tumor?!?!) Single moms don’t have that deadline; they have to hold it together with the mind frame of indefinite.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been struck by the temporary nature of my situation. Believe me, the temptation is always there to wallow in the details of the day and think dramatic "it’s-never-going-to-end" thoughts. I’ve really focused a lot on the word "temporary" which has brought me encouragement! This won’t last forever, despite my all too frequent exasperation. This focus has led me to think a lot about my single mom friends. They don’t have a set date of when it all gets resolved and life "goes back to normal." I think of my single mom friend with five kids and I’ve been so convicted to really pray for her (and others). During my own seasons of frustration, I have been incredibly encouraged by friends who have said, "I don’t have all the answers, but sometimes life sucks, and I get that and I love you and am praying for you, friend." Single moms especially need to hear that message! A couple months ago, while dealing with some very sick kids for a few weeks, I had a dear friend send me an encouraging note and a gift card to a coffee shop. It was like a little energy drink of instant encouragement….she TOLD me that she cared and she SHOWED me!! I felt revived, in a way. We ALL need encouragement, but how vital it is to a single mom! Affirming words are like being given oxygen—refreshing, calming and restorative to the soul.

As I’ve been doing my short-term single mom stint, I’ve also been working on doing some positive and proactive things for single moms, women whose husbands travel/work long hours or women who need a lift of encouragement. So many of us make dinners for people when there’s a new baby in the family, or when there’s been a death in the family. How about making a dinner for a single-parent family…either invite them over for dinner or drop a meal off at their house. Stop by with a cup of hot coffee and a pan of brownies, and you’ll make that mom’s night! (Use disposable pans to make it really easy.) Want super easy? One time I brought hot chocolate and bread from Panera to a friend who needed encouragement, and I didn’t even go into the house…it was a hug-and-run deal. Easy, and she felt loved! I can guarantee you that a hand written note of encouragement will not be casually tossed aside, but read and savored many times over. Send a Valentine’s Day card to your single mom friend and tell her she’s amazing! Drop a chocolate bar tied in ribbon on the porch or between the doors and you’ll generate lots of smiles. I remember when some of us got together and provided a bag of groceries and diapers for a newly single mom; she was touched beyond words. It’s these acts of thoughtfulness and generosity that mean so much to a tired, and often frustrated and lonely single mom. Of course, these loving gestures can be done for anyone, but I think our friends who are single moms need them! It’s amazing how putting our energy, thoughts and focus on others can change our own mindset and attitude about ourselves! Be someone’s oxygen—their breath of fresh air—this week!

Excuse me now while I clean up the dinner dishes from our grilled cheese, carrot sticks and apple slices so I can focus on the Siamese twin sisters, followed by women who didn’t know they were pregnant. Really.


  1. I must say, Kathryn, that you have a gift for sending that handwritten note. I am really good at "thinking" of sending a note, but never following through with it. Thanks for the reminder! :)


  2. I can totally appreciate your blog -- having been a single mom for many years. Today, I find myself raising a child (for the past 10 years) WITH someone. It's amazing how different the experience is - knowing that you have a partner at your side. No, perhaps he isn't home every night for dinner and has to commute an hour plus and is only home on weekends - but still, in my mind I know he is the second parent in this relationship. Thank you for remembering single parents and doing something for them. It truly is those small tokens of appreciation (when there isn't anyone else to show appreciation) that make the difference in a single parent's life. Parenting is 24/7 and somehow I think the "absent" parent has just as difficult times on occasion - wondering what they are missing out on...

  3. I was a little worried when I first read the title of this blog. Having been a single mom and now being a married mom with a husband who can be gone for periods of time I get a little sensitive to married women who complain that they are "like single moms" just because their husband is out of town or works late. BUT... I love that you saw the temporary part of your situation and that though you are responsible for all of the work and that is definitely a challenge it's not quite the same as never having relief in sight, being responsible for income, insurance, health care, appointments, shopping, events, bedtimes, bath times and all of the worry of doing it alone and not having someone to back you up in anyway is a very different experience. I thank you for your enlightened point of view and for sharing it!

  4. Once when I was frustrated, I told Eric that I was tired of being a single mom during the week. Which lead to this big "discussion" about how much NOT like a single mom I am at all - even though I am alone with Zach all week, every week, and have been doing it for 3 years with no end in sight. I get to be a stay-at-home mom, who does not have to worry about almost any of the things that most single moms worry about - money, working enough to carry the family health insurance, child care, paying the bills, illness upsetting the precarious balance, etc and doing it all while never getting a break, there being no end in sight and not having anyone to share the burdens and worries with. He was so right and I have never said that or thought that again - even when I have been feeling totally crazy.

    All that said, I DO think there is a lot to deal with and adjust to when your husband is not around during the week. It is hard for the mom and as I am finding out lately, it seems especially hard for the kids. And it definately helps to join together with other families in the same situation. Sometimes, it totally does stink, big time. But because this is our regular way of life and we have worked really hard on balancing it out, most ot the time I think that it is not such a bad gig at all.