I know what it's like to spend your entire day at work and
rush through traffic to pick the kids up from school, drive home, prepare
dinner, help with homework, spend time with the kids, clean up and barely
finish brushing your teeth before falling out in bed, desperately trying to
ignore the dishes in the sink that are whispering to you.
I've been there. I've done that. I truly understand. But,
now that my sons live with their dad, my life is completely different, in none
of the ways you can imagine.
I am sure you are sitting there smirking, waiting for me to
brag about all of the dates I have, the nights out partying or the freedom I
have to worry only about myself. On a
surface level, those things are true: I don't have to worry about a babysitter
if I happen to have a date, I can attend a party if I am invited and I don't
have to make dinner if I don't want to.
But, really, it seems as though when my sons lived with me,
I took better care of myself because I had to take care of them. Believe it or
not, I am not living it up on the dating scene. I haven't had a date in five months, and I haven't had a significant other for 11 years. I don't party, because I have social anxiety
and the very idea of having to mingle with a room full of strangers causes me
to have an anxiety attack. A home-cooked
meal—what is that? I don't even
remember. I vaguely remember standing in
front of the stove sometime last year and wondering, "Which dial do I turn for
Every moment of my waking day is spent trying to figure out a way to make this time away from them matter.
If you're a single parent and you're seething because you
think the parent who lives outside of the home is living it up, you're
wrong. The first thing that keeps us
from having a care-free life is knowing that our children are not with us. It's
the first thought when we're driving to work and we see moms loading their kids
in the car. We are reminded of it every time we watch TV or someone brags about
what their kid did at school. We feel less than. We feel guilt. We battle the
feeling of believing we did something wrong, and our worst fear is that we've
damaged our children by not being there for them around the clock.
I feel more pressure than I used to back when my sons lived
with me. Back then I leisurely freelanced for newspapers and magazines, making
barely enough money at my craft to buy groceries. I was OK with that, but I hid my potential
behind the fact that I was a single mom and I had to focus on my kids, so
everything else went to the backburner. Now, every moment of my waking day is
spent trying to figure out a way to make this time away from them matter. I
feel obligated to make it up to them by making an extreme success of myself, and
passing along the keys to a less complicated future, mentally and financially.
I don't really care about failing because I don't value the
world's opinion that much. But, for my sons, I have this unquenchable desire to
be at the top of my game as far as my career is concerned. I want them
to see that I wasn't playing around while I was away. I desperately need to make every moment count, and I lay bricks toward my success every single day out of love for what I do,
but also out of a fear of being a disappointment in their eyes.
Yes, my sons are doing better than I did when I was growing up.
Their environment is completely different, they don't live in the projects like
I did and every grown-up they know has multiple degrees and fascinating
professional careers. I had no exposure to any of that, and I try to express to
their father how lucky we are to be able to give our kids more than we had. Yet,
it eats me alive that we couldn't give them the ultimate gift of a loving home
with both parents.
Because of that, and because I have all the time, space and
opportunity to make a difference, I work double time. I take bigger risks, and I
will even fly to the moon if it will mean making a truly significant, life
changing impact on their future and future generations to come. Brick by brick,
I realize that I can't change the past, but I can certainly try to change our