My friend’s husband was out of town last week. She missed him and commented genuinely that she didn’t know how single parents do it.
I thought about that for a few days, and I guess my answer would be–the same way folks who co-parent do.
The best they can with what they have at the time.
Which can look as different as the one or the two who are parenting at any given time.
I’ve been a single parent. First, I guess some would say, by my own choice. Only it wasn’t my choices that led me to that decision.
I had great supports. My parents. Family. Friends. Folks who were a part of my village in helping love on my baby girl. I give thanks everyday for each one of them and the role they played in who she has become and in me keeping my sanity. Well, most of it anyway.
The second time I became a single parent, it was situational and temporary. Sixty-two days, ninety-five days, one hundred thirty days, and roughly ten months that one time–when the Fella deployed. He was as much a part of things as he could be from his place in the Sandbox, but for the daytodailies it was all on me. And my village.
This parenting thing, this thing I love so much, it isn’t easy. Ever. With a partner or without. I’ve walked both paths. It’s all hard. But it’s harder, just like everything else, when you’re discriminated against.
Oh, not the second time. The second time folks were all willing to pitch in and thank me for my service. (Umm, you’re welcome? I’m just making sure everyone’s fed and the house doesn’t burn down, and occasionally I try to talk the Fella into things long distance–like getting a puppy. I don’t necessarily make it easy for him. He’s the one sacrificing here, but I do appreciate the support.)
But that first go ’round? I hit some roadblocks.
The first time I remember was when I was looking for a school for my girl. We lived in one town and I worked and spent many long days in another. I wanted her in school where I would be closer. I remember sitting in the office with the administrator at this one school. She didn’t know our story at all. But in one swift statement, she alienated me and mine and I never set foot there again. “We love to have our families involved. It’s important to have both parents an integral part of the child’s life. Studies show that children do better when both are very involved.”
Ahem. Maybe not so much.
My girl and I were both better off. Without sharing stories that are better left unshared, let me share this–she saved me because I wanted better for her. A huge part of who she is today would be so different if we had kept the whole two-parent household thing going on. So studies be well, you know. The truth is, in many cases, the child is better off in a one parent household. But a lot in this world tend to look down on single parent households unfortunately. Single and stereotyped. That’s it.
As evidenced by something that we came across in the past three or four years. It was a school organization. One of the tenets on their statement that had to be signed for membership gave their definition of family. I was reading it, and Aub was reading it over my shoulder. She frowned and shook her head. “No, Mama. We are not doing this. According to this–‘we define family as a married man and woman with offspring’ you and I were never a family when we were on our own. No, Mama. Forget it.”
Yes. Exactly. We ourselves were plenty. We were enough. We were family. And a much better one than we had been before. We were safe and we were strong.
I’m sad when things like this happen. When well-intentioned folks say, “Studies show that children are better off in a home with two parents.” That takes away something important for all the rest of the families that don’t fit in that box. Something very important.
The truth is no one but me really knows all of my story. About why I wound up where I did when my daughter was three months shy of three. About why I am where I am today. It’s my story. Even if I told it, no one would be able to fully get it.
And the same is true with each one of us. I don’t know your story, or yours, or yours. I wish we could just give each other the space and the grace we all need to be who and where we are without folks judging or making us feel less than. I just wish…..
I read this news article recently about a program in Canada, the Nanny Angel Network. Founded by a cancer survivor who saw moms with cancer sitting in treatment rooms with their small children and who thought, this is no place for children, this non-profit provides free childcare for moms with cancer. Over half of these young women have been single moms.
I cried when I read about it. This is it, isn’t it? Loving without judging. Taking care of each other. Having each other’s back. Being each other’s feather. Yes. This.
We need more of this in the world today, y’all. And less guidelines and studies and belief statements that put folks aside as < less than.
That. Ain’t. Right.
Tonight I’m thankful for our village. The way they allowed their stories to be so intertwined with my very messy one–is there any greater gift we can give someone? Than not being afraid of their mess? If there is, I don’t know it.
I give thanks for women like Audrey Guth, the founder of the Nanny Angel Network, who see a need and let their heart and mind figure out what they can do to help. And then they DO it. I aspire to be one of those women too. Sometimes all folks need to shine is a little love from someone else.
Let’s take time to find someone with a messy story and go love on them and let them know it’s okay and #bethefeather, okay? And if you feel like your story is too messy to be of a help to anyone, look at me right now. (Well okay, the screen.)
You and your story are not too messy.
Read that again. I’ll wait.
We are all beautiful messes, and we are meant to journey together. Don’t let your mess keep you from letting folks in. Ever. Life’s too precious and there are people who need to know you and your heart and who need to hear your laughter. Let it ring.
Love to all.