I am some kind of mom. Ever since my beautiful, strong-willed son was born into this world almost five-and-a-half years ago, he has been my defining attribute. Of course I am my own person with my own goals and dreams who craves time to myself on a daily basis, but my child will always be my greatest achievement. Because of him, I am proud to be a mom. However, I am not always proud to be this kind of mom.
I am not the kind of mom I always wanted to be. I try my best, but I fall short in many ways. I am not the mom raising my son in a traditional home with two parents who have an equal part in his daily life. I am not the mom who can currently give him the thing he desires so much, which is siblings, and I can’t tell him when that time will be. I am not the mom I once was, who could stay at home all day with him, plan play dates and library story-time as our main outings for the day, have an abundance of time to read together, try out kid crafts from Pinterest, practice flash cards, eat all our meals together, and cuddle him to sleep each night after winding down with an unrushed nighttime routine.
Currently, I am the kind of mom who lives with my son at his grandparents’ house (and what a blessing that has been). But even now, after almost two years living with them, he’ll sometimes correct me, saying, “Mom, it’s not our home; it’s Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We don’t have a home.” And that stings a little. Of course I re-correct him, saying, “We live there. And while we live there, it’s our home too.” And then he’ll ask me, “Have you saved enough money yet to get our own house? Where we can have our own yard so I can finally get a dog and name him Bark-Bark?” I can’t help but chuckle. “No, not yet, Sweetie.”
Currently, I am the kind of mom who babysits as my day job so I can have those hours with my little boy during his last year before going to school full-time. That time, of course, is not undividedly his, but I am available to him, and I feel that is a huge blessing. Available to wake him up, get him ready, get him to preschool, pick him up, hear what he’s been learning, make his lunch, yell at him for tormenting his little cousin, play a quick game with him or toys or read a few books together before cleaning up the house, getting our dinner prepared and packed up and both of us ready to go to our evening job.
Currently, I am the kind of mom who works for little more than minimum wage (plus tips! thank the heavens), because I was blessed enough to find a job where my son can come with me and go to the daycare a room away for free. Even though that means we’re at work several hours five days a week, and he doesn’t get to sleep until about two hours after his bedtime most nights, he comes with me even the days he could stay home with Grandma because he prefers the security of being in the same building as me and knowing I’m close by. And I feel more content and less guilty about our time apart knowing I can say “hi” to him and give him a hug and make sure he ate his dinner the next time I’m not too busy.
Currently, I am the kind of mom who gets home with my five-year-old at almost 10pm, wishing he would’ve fallen asleep in the car so that I can relax sooner rather than have to get him his snack, rush him to eat quicker, chase him to our bedroom because that’s the only way he’ll go willingly, race him to get our pajamas on, brush teeth, read five minutes of scriptures because he’ll never let me skip it, say a prayer, sing two songs, and finally lay next to him stroking his hair until he falls asleep. Occasionally, I fall asleep as well, but that is rare, because I am more eager for some wake-time to myself than I am for sleeping. I have about an hour before I’m ready to crash, and somehow that never feels like enough time to write something heartfelt and profound, lose myself in a good book, find an agent to get my novel published, paint something that makes me happy, organize and declutter to feel a bit less overall crazy, feed myself spiritually through scripture study, work toward my goals and aspirations, achieve my dreams, etc. etc. etc.
Of course these are all excuses, and I am currently the kind of mom who is full of excuses. My plate is full, and I feel stretched thin. I break down in tears every Thursday because the week has been long but it’s still not over and I am overwhelmed and stressed and frustrated by my load and limitations. Desmond’s dad is able to visit every few to several months, but I am currently the one responsible each day for him and his growth and learning and discipline in all aspects of life. I am the one my son acts out to, cries/yells/kicks at, turns to, confides in, seeks daily assurance from. I am his main source of frustration, anger, love, comfort, stability, safety. His future is in my hands, and I’m doing everything I can to make it great while feeling the burden of planning my own future. It is up to me to make the right choices for both of us. To not mess up. Don’t make a mistake. I can’t make a mistake. He deserves the best and I can’t ruin that for him.
I once made a comment of how being a single mom is hard. I was questioned, “Do you receive child support?” “I do. It pays for Des’ preschool most months.” “Don’t you live with your parents?” “I do. They’re a huge help. I couldn’t do this without them right now.” “Well you’re not really a single mom. You’re just a mom who happens to be single.” (As it turns out, there’s a number of stipulations that must be met to refer to oneself as a single mom.)
I was a little taken aback, so I didn’t mention the fact that I was dating a wonderful man on Saturdays and a few minutes a day a few times a week when we can squeeze each other into our busy conflicting work/parenting schedules, so really I wasn’t even a mom-who-happens-to-be-single, but just a mom. A mom like any kind of mom, no different in title from the mom staying home whose husband works eight to five, comes home for lunch, gives her a break from the kids in the evenings, lets her go on girls’ trip weekends a couple times a year and she doesn’t even have to feel guilty about leaving because they’re just as much his kids as they are hers. She and her husband go together to back-to-school nights, Christmas music programs, she doesn’t have to feel awkwardly alone. They get the kids to bed together, Netflix and chill together, laugh and discuss and pillowtalk together. She has a constant live-in partner to make important decisions with, to share the family financial load with, to turn to when she’s stressed and overwhelmed and he’ll make her crazy by trying to fix her problems when she just wants to vent but she knows how much he loves her and just wants her happy. Yes, I suppose I am more like her than a single kind of mom.
Of course I know not all moms with husbands have it easy. Few moms ever have it easy. Many married moms work and feel just as busy and torn as I do. Some stay at home, but their husbands are constantly working. These moms go to events for their children alone, spend the entire day teaching, disciplining, raising their children alone. Their husbands get home after the kids are already in bed. And sometimes, even though she loves her husband and is grateful for all he does, she almost feels like a single mom–but she better not say that out loud. Many will be quick to tell her she has no right to compare herself to a single mom and how dare she be so insulting. No matter if she often feels like she has no shared parental emotional/physical/spiritual support during the long days of corralling children alone, because she and her kids are taken care of financially.
I know my life would be so so much harder right now if I was living alone with my son, no family around, paying for every. last. thing. from no source other than my own paycheck. To these women, I honestly don’t know how you do it. “Single mom” is not enough for you. “Unfathomably Unparalleled Sole Parent Amazing Super Mom” is more fitting. I mean no disrespect to you when I feel like a single mom. I know you’re doing more than me. You are getting little to no daily support when it comes to raising your child, but I hope you know there are many women out there who can support you. Because they can relate to you. Maybe not in every single way, but they can relate to you in the feeling of parental loneliness and having to carry so many burdens alone.
Now that I’ve gone on this spiel describing kinds of moms and the kind of mom I am and the kind I’m not and the kind I often feel like… really it honestly doesn’t matter to me what word(s) are most applicable to me in preceding the word “mom.” Mom is what I am first and foremost, and that is one of my best personal attributes. Like any mom, however, I just want to be able to vent occasionally about one of the hardest stages of my life without being reprimanded and told I’m unqualified for how I feel or what broad group of people I think would most relate to me in that moment. Mom-ing is not a competition. Some will always have it harder and some will always have it easier. We all have highs and lows; moments of pure joy and days that drain us until we think there can’t be a drop left to give. But somehow we find more to give, no matter our situation. Whatever kind of mom we may be, we all deserve support, and we all deserve to feel validated.