When I gained the unwanted title of widow, I also gained the unwanted title of single mom. Correct that—solo parent. And I say I’m a solo parent because even 20 months after Seth passed away, I still don’t feel like I’m single, yet I very much feel like I’m flying solo. So, the first time I saw single parenting labeled as being a solo parent, it seemed more fitting. It is just me now, flying solo with these beautiful, smart, sweet, sensitive, funny, loving and amazing children.
I must play both roles, mom and dad. I must play good cop and bad cop (sometimes within the same 60 seconds). When completing forms for the kid’s schools and doctors, there is only one parent to list and as I stare at big blank sections on the forms it reminds me that all of this is up to me now.
I must make all of the parenting decisions on my own. Go to school events, parent teacher conferences, and doctor appointments alone. There is no one to talk through issues with, make decisions with, defer to when I just can’t decide what to do, and no one to balance the day to day chores and responsibilities with.
There is one else to take care of bath time, make lunches, read stories or give snuggles. Don’t get me wrong, I thrive on my kiddos snuggles, but sometimes you don’t want them when you’re taking a shower or going to the bathroom.
I’m so blessed to have lots of friends and family around to help but nothing is the same as having your spouse, partner, confidant and father to your kids by your side.
Being a solo parent is hard. And tiring. And makes me feel broken and weak more often than not. Ever since Seth died people have been quick to tell me how strong I am, and that I’m a great example for my kids. And it’s funny because I’ve never felt strong. I’ve always felt brave to face this new reality but never strong. Maybe because in the face of the sudden death of your husband with two small kids depending on you, there is no choice but to be “strong” and keep moving, even though you’re stuck in a fog and don’t quite know what it means to be strong. There is simply no time to crumble into pieces, which many days feels like it may happen.
I say I haven’t felt like a strong solo mom because there are lots of days when the house is a mess, the sink is full of dirty dishes, packed lunches are more of the “snack” variety than well balanced meals, and we have more movie days than I’d like to admit. Which makes me feel weak and tired. Not the strong solo mom people tell me that I am.
But lately I’ve really been reflecting on what it means to be strong and if, despite the “I’m too tired to take the kids to the park” days, maybe I still am a strong solo mom.
It hit me this past weekend as I was taking apart my daughters’ crib to get ready for her big girl bed. As I got the tools out to dismantle the crib, my kiddos were sitting in the rocker watching me get to work. As I looked into their excited, eager little eyes, I stopped and looked at me sweet little girl old and said, “Sweetie, watch your mommy take this crib apart and take it downstairs and know that you can be a strong and independent woman who can get things done on your own, too.”
And I then looked at my sweet little boy and said, “Buddy, always remember how your mommy was able to do things on her own and look for a someone someday to be with that is just as strong and independent as I am.” They both smiled and said, “OK mommy!” Followed by, “We are so strong, too, and will help you take the crib downstairs!”
It was a really cool moment that reminded me I am strong. My kids are strong. We can do this life together.
So while I may feel weak when I’m not doing it all, I’m reminding myself that I’m strong for showing my kids it’s ok to be sad, to not do it all, and to say “I just can’t do it today.” And I’m going to do whatever it takes to be the best example I can be of a strong, independent mom. And I know that if I can keep getting up every day, try to be the best mom (and dad) I can, and make them smile, then we may just be ok after all.