My mother grew up in a farm town in Illinois. She had an older brother and a younger brother, and her parents had double standards. She could only go so far into the woods, she could only swim so far out into the lake, she had to be home before dark — that kind of thing. Her brothers did as they pleased and she was informed that girls were not allowed the same freedom.
I wonder if that’s why she never complained about raising me alone. And I mean alone, no support system whatsoever, no help from my birth father. I wonder if she just decided to prove to everyone that she was strong, and fully capable of being both parents. She was strong, she was capable, but of course she couldn’t be two people. Neither can I.
Fortunately, for the most part, I don’t have to be. Owen’s dad has him more than any other ex-husband has the kids in any of my girlfriends’ lives. We both work hard to maintain that relationship for them.
Unfortunately, I am still exhausted. And the really prevalent memory I have of my mother, after my folks split, is of her forever trying to catch up on sleep. She was always tired. I am always tired. (Sidenote: Being a parent, if you are doing it right, is exhausting even in the best circumstances. But in a two-parent household you can tag each other out and get a nap in sometimes. Ahh, naps, I remember those…)
Me, though, I complain about it. Mostly just to my other mom friends (single amd married). We feel like we have the right. I think my mom’s generation felt like they fought so hard to be able to have their independence, and their career, and their sexual freedom as single women, that complaining would be like saying they couldn’t do it all.
Well, I do a lot. I mean, a lot. And I’m tired, I mean tired. But I can’t do it all! And I don’t have to do this alone.
Tomorrow, one of my best girlfriends is getting married (ditching her single-mom title)! Tonight a bunch of us girls got together and did the “old, new, borrowed, blue” thing with her. All of our kids were there with us, and it is so natural for us all to be together, like family. I feel blessed by their existence in my life.
You see, I have decided that I want to be present with my son in a way that my mother often didn’t have the energy to be. I refuse to not ask for help when I need it (well, mostly). It’s true that my child is partly being raised by the village (I love you guys), my parents, my friends, my ex. It’s true that some of the time while he is with them, or at pre-school, he is wishing he were with me. What he gets in exchange for less time with me, is truly connected time with me. And I’m so proud of that.