Being A Single Parent Means Picking Your Battles… and your Roles

Posted on | March 18, 2013 | 5 Comments

One of the hardest parts of becoming a single mother, for me, is the desire to be everything for my child. I desperately want him to have the childhood I had… the baking cookies, the team sports, the music lessons. I don’t want him to have moments when he thinks “Man, I could do that if I only had my dad in town.” I want him to grow up happy and well-adjusted and to me, that seems to mean working over time to ensure that he misses out on positively ZERO experiences.

Case in point… about a month ago, I signed him up for both soccer and t-ball because, well, everyone else seemed to be doing it and I didn’t want him to miss out.  I bought the tiny baseball pants and cleats and shin guards and balls and everything else on the “must-have list” even though it cost a small fortune just to clothe the three year old for six weeks of “fun.” When the email came out requesting help for coaching, I signed up.  Because in my head, that’s what a dad would do… he’d volunteer to coach the 3 and 4 year olds. right? So I should, too.

I am trying too hard to be too many things.

It’s the curse of the single mother… the need to prove to the world that we’re good enough and strong enough to be everything that a normal two-parent household is.  We volunteer, maybe more than partnered mothers, because we feel like we have something to prove.  Or maybe it’s just me.

I don’t want J to miss out on anything… not scouts, not soccer, not field trips…. not anything.  As a result, I maybe stretch the purse a little too far, maybe stretch myself a little too far.  At the end of the weekends, I’m exhausted from trips to the park, trips to the museum, t-ball games and soccer practices.  I’m worn out and frazzled by my inability to do everything outside the home and anything inside the home.  I am tired of trying to convince people that I can  manage everything that a two parent home can manage and still have a smile on my face at the end of the day.  The truth is… I can’t.  None of us can.  Juggling children is always easier with four hands.

People joke that single parents are superheros and maybe we are… but if we are (and that’s a big if), it’s because we don our own capes and make our own messes.  We try too hard, love too big, spend too much to make up for the absence of the other… the second who isn’t around, isn’t present, isn’t able.  We take on the weight of being too much to too many people and the fear of being not enough to our own child.  Maybe by pushing so much and working so hard to make sure that he misses nothing by being a son without an in-town father, I’m robbing him of the chance to have the mother he needs.

J hated t-ball.  He didn’t want to be the son of the coach… he wanted to be a son with his mom there beside him, like all the other kids had their parents beside them.  He didn’t care that I’d signed up to show him or myself or maybe the world that I could do even more… he just wanted me to be there.

I forget that a lot, in my rush to accomplish bigger and better things in the name of my son.  I forget that all he really needs is for me to be there, happy and strong, present and available.  So the next time the volunteer sheet comes around or the email goes out asking for someone to step up and be the leader or the coach or the room mom… I’m going to put down this heavy superhero cape and pen and just let it pass me by.  Because for J, I can be enough just by being me.

So that should be plenty for me, too.



5 Responses to “Being A Single Parent Means Picking Your Battles… and your Roles”

  1. An old friend
    March 18th, 2013 @ 10:06 am

    Hey darlin, remember there are an infinite amount of experiences to be had. So that means you maybe had cookies and sports, but that also means you never had the amazing experience of having a single mom like yourself who could teach you perseverence in the face of adversity. So you never had important lessons that j gets to see everyday. There are no right or wrong paths, and there’s no telling what experiences will transform us.

  2. Law Momma
    March 18th, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

    Very very true… thanks, you. 🙂 Old friends are always the best. 🙂 🙂

  3. Type A Nightmare
    March 18th, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

    I get it. I do. Even though I’m not a single Mom. I tend to skew to the other side. EK will NOT play 3-yr-old sports. I’ve already put my foot down. Yes, I’ll sign her up for dance tho. Shhh. Why? Because I took dancing at 3. However, I won’t over involve her because I’ve watched my stepdaughter be over-involved. Practice 5-6 nights out of a 7 night week. It’s absurd how our schedules have bended and stretched at the whim of her then 8-yr-old schedule. 3 softball teams, cross country, cheerleading, basketball, competition cheer. It’s CRAZY! And I think… when was she ever just a normal 8 year old? When did she have unscheduled time? And you know what? She didn’t. So… EK will probably have too much unscheduled time. It’s crazy how we strive for balance and yet it eludes us always.
    Funny that you mention coaching tho. I always joke that I will be EK’s softball coach (when she’s 5) because of my unbridled need for control. However, just this week in my news feed, was a Mom ranting how her husband had contacted every Dad on a team for help coaching and it was the first Mom he contacted who offered to help.
    You’re doing GREAT! No beating up allowed. And great! You’ve determined what he doesn’t love at this point, so it’ll be easier to choose next year’s activities. Chin up, supermom. I think when we grow up, despite our activities or lack there of, what we hold on to the most is the way we were loved… and you have that one down pat!

  4. Robbie K
    March 18th, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

    I’m not a single parent though I did solo parent my kids for 16 months while husband lived 1200+ miles away. But I am the kind of mom who will volunteer, coach, lead etc because that’s just me. He will learn to love that you will take on the roles at some point. Even when we lived together Husband had weird work hours so I was the only mom on the boy scout camping trip, the only mom at the Tiger Scout meetings hammering away on a project with a 6 month old on my hip and a 4 yr old at my feet. You are doing the best you can and that is what matters!

  5. Law Momma
    March 19th, 2013 @ 10:19 am

    So true. We’re all plodding along and trying to make it work, right? I just sometimes forget that I don’t have to do EVERYTHING in order to BE everything for J.

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