writ by Lark
As a mom, I'm constantly worried about my kids. As a single mom? I'm a constantly crazyworried about my kids. Am I working too much? Am I too poor? Am I missing important moments? The answer to all of these questions tends to be a resounding yes. When you have limited everything--time, money, help, breathing space--everyone gets to suffer.
I take this personally.
After all, my kids didn't ask for life with a Single Mom. To be honest, I didn't either. I began mommyhood assuming I'd be the next great June Fucking Cleaver. I found my prince, said my "I do's" young, and starting popping out tiny humans to inhabit our picket home like a bunny rabbit on crack.
15 years and four kids later, the prince ran away with ebola and I got left juggling a heavy sack of shit--aka--everything. Kids, income, house, school, vacations. They're all mostly entirely up to me. And it can be exhausting.
My kids get it. They've watched our lives devolve from stay-at-home-greets-you-at-the-door-with-homemade-cookies to work-like-a-mofo-mom-trys-to-do-it-all-and-fails-miserably-most-days. I'm hypersensitive to this. Now that I'm a single mom, I don't just want to give them a good life, I want to give them the best life. I try often to make up for all they're missing. I try to make their lives easier. Happier. More full of love.
Because I'm so painfully aware of the imaginary existence I'd assumed they have, I try frenetically to make this foreign life feel magically delicious.
Limited time and limited money has changed the way I parent. Since I no longer have a house or parenting partner, my children have become partners in their own existence. They've moved into more responsibility for their schedules, their activities, and our home. It's as if the absence of another grown-up and the limited presence of myself amplifies their presence. With one less adult available for harping, planning, directing, and guiding, my kids have to self-direct more.
This all sounds fine and fancy, doesn't it? Letting the kids guide their existence. Letting them be responsible. Helping them understand their own power. Giving them their own power.
Yeah, fuck that.
Well, fuck that today. Because here's the truth. No matter how much you envision yourself as a good teacher, a good leader, and a fairly put together hipster single mom who's kind of making it work-- kids are kids. They know they shouldn't be shitty roommates but they're still going to toss their gum wrappers on the floor when you're not around. They nod and smile when you say it like the a Parenting Book ninja, "guys it means so much to me when you tidy up after yourself, because it means more time for all of us to do the things we love." But turn your back for two seconds and they still drink pickle juice from soda lids. They still smear toothpaste on the toilet seats. They toss moldy towels in giant underbed heaps lined with razor blades and e-cigarettes. Kids choose disgusting whenever they have a chance.
Lord of the Flies is the single most prophetic book of all time. If a single mother didn't ghostwrite that shit, I'm ready to give an honorary title to the goddamn author. Because, yep. Kids left alone turn into chest-beating, YouTube sneaking, candy-snorting pigwipes. They don't need an island of their own. They just need you to leave them be in the house for 63 goddamn minutes.
Yesterday was one of those days. I worked an hour longer than usual. In that hour, the kids arrived home from school, cracked open a seven-pack of Ice Cream, painted ukelele's with vats of honey, and spread candle wax on their naked bodies like cranberry-scented war paint.
As soon as I was home, I was out again. One daughter needed to be dropped off to an event. A dinner needed to be attended. I didn't have time to take a whizz last night, let alone survey the damage. Early this morning I came downstairs to a sink full of crusty dishes, a kitchen table identical to a Meth Lab, and 8 1/2 socks strewn across a dusty floor. Yep. 8 1/2 socks. Don't even ask.
As usual, I felt bad. This was my fault. I was working and they needed me. I should have been there after school to greet their faces, pinch their cherub cheeks, and light the Cranberry Candle of Goodwill. Fueled by guilt, I frantically started cleaning. Picking up. Putting away.
And somewhere between finding a Pokemon Card in microwave and wiping up 54,000 egg crumbs (how do eggs even HAVE crumbs?) I realized we were stuck in an I'm Sorry Cycle.
I say 'I'm Sorry' for being gone, working, not being a Borg model of the mother I always wanted to be. So I pick up, tidy up, clean up, save face, try to make go away. Then, after a nice firm chat, the children see the error of their ways, say 'I'm Sorry' and we all go about our merry business. The house gets clean because I cleaned it. The kids get scolded because I scolded them. The mom gets tired because the mom is doing fucking everything.
Not today. I stopped mid-microwave wipe. Grabbed a paper and pen. Unplugged the wifi router. And decided to stop lecturing, stop saying sorry, and start holding my kids to basic expectations that every kid should have.
Of course, since I'll be working late tonight, I won't be there when they get home. So I left them a few love letters instead. 11 Signs That I'm Done With the Cycle. 11 little reminders that I'm sorry that they have a busy mom, but I'm not sorry they're alive. And I'm sure as hell not sorry that they're capable.
It's tough being a mom. I think it's fair to say it's tougher being a single mom. But, I'm starting to see that the hardest part of single motherhood isn't the gig itself, it's the expectations I place on myself. Time to start changing that. Time to stop doing everything. Time to let in everyone who can help.
Put on your war-wax, Piggy. You've got egg-crumbs to clean.
(click on le photo below to start the slideshow)