Moms and Dads

More Than Meets The Eye: What It’s Like To Be A Single Mom

When parenting’s a job supposed to be done by two people, how do you make it work when you’re alone?

When my son was five years old, he was obsessed with Transformers. You know the ones— blockbuster movies, alien-robots that transform into vehicles or other mechanical things. He was struggling with a particular one that turned into a pick-up truck, and asked for my help. I prided myself in being a boy mom, I knew my toys. There was rarely ever a problem I couldn’t fix for him, but this one seemed to be beyond my skill set.

He started getting upset, as children do. The more I fumbled with the Transformer, the more distressed he became. Soon enough, the annoyance turned into whines, and the whining turned into full blown screams. I threw my hands up in defeat and apologized. He grabbed the figurine from me in a desperate attempt to solve it himself, until he finally snapped, and violently hurled the Transformer back at me.

“Fix my toy!!!” He roared, his tiny body rigid with anger.
“This is what dads are for!!!” I shouted back in frustration.

Playing a role meant for two

I was 25 years old. I was aware my temper needed some work. This memory, in particular, sticks out in my mind because it was the only time I ever admitted (out loud) that my child needed someone other than myself. I couldn’t believe I actually said that.

It was something I thought about when I would wake up to vomit on our bed at 3am, because that’s what happened whenever my kid had a fever. He’d be crying in the bathroom as I rushed to change the sheets, because I couldn’t comfort him and clean at the same time.

It would enter my mind every time I had to go to school by myself to discuss progress reports with faculty who didn’t see me as an adult. It was a challenge to be taken seriously as a parent at a young age, and I often felt like judging eyes were burning holes in the back of my head. Facing it alone was an insecurity I had to get over.

It was definitely all I could think about when my child would have a meltdown, his deafening yells just ringing in my ears. There was no tag-team, no taking turns, zero breaks, and no escape— it was always me. And I did it all, round the clock.

When you’re a single mom, you do what you gotta do

I was mommy by day, breadwinner by night. I found solace at work, where I could somewhat act my age, occasionally leaving my son under the care of trusted friends or his grandmothers. It was a welcome relief until I had to snap back to becoming a dutiful parent by the time he woke up the following day.

There were so many things I felt I had to make up for because I was raising a boy without a father. Playing both roles, mom and dad as a single mom, only became trickier with each passing year. How do you play good cop and bad cop if you’re just one person? Where is the balance? Could I really tackle every aspect of parenting, alone? What about… boy things, like circumcisions and facial hair (or any hair, for that matter)?

I always figured I would cross whatever bridge necessary when I got there. This wasn’t something I could actively prepare myself for, I didn’t even have a clue where to begin. So, I took it all in stride, and handled anything that came my way as best I could. It’s the ultimate parenting tagline, really.

It’s all or nothing…

Single moms put on an unbreakable facade. We are no more courageous or resilient than other parents out there, but tackling a responsibility meant for two people weighs heavily on our minds all of the time. Beyond the superhuman persona is simply a mother that pulls it together because she has to.

When my son thinks of his childhood, I want him to remember that I gave it my all. I worried too much, failed more times than I can count, but I tried my hardest to give him a life I knew he would love. I was still learning about life myself, growing into a mother that did not yet exist, and I made questionable decisions that didn’t always work out. I loved him enough to keep going, and on days it felt like everything was all too much, the thought of his happiness brought me back to my senses.

Eleven years later, we have come a long way from being that dynamic duo. At the age of 16, now taller than I am, he is able to take me into his arms and tell me that he understands every sacrifice. He knows what I’ve been through, how much he is loved, and constantly shows his love for me in return. He has grown into a kind and compassionate young man, a blessing I am grateful for every single day.

I did that… and that isn’t something I would trade for anything in this world.

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