Hello, I'm a married single mom. And everything's going fine.
So we can all start on solid footing, let's get the following out of the way, right away: I have the utmost admiration, respect and fascination with single moms and their tireless ability and tenacity to keep everything afloat. I have friends who are single moms in the truest definition of the word and in no way am I trying to minimize, undermine or compromise the most incredible feats they pull off every day. Everything depends on them, all the time. They are true goddesses in my mind. And that's the truth.
The other truth? I sometimes feel like one myself. OK, I feel like one more than sometimes these days; I feel like one pretty much all the time (with an exception or two here and there). I did a grand confession involving my 3-year-old drinking coffee last year, but now that sporadic feeling of being a "married single mom" seems more frequent and constant.
The reality hit me last week.
My husband was gone on another one of his medical missions (this time in Haiti) doing complicated operations for kids who otherwise wouldn't have access to the kind of treatment and care he was able to offer. (I admire these missions and also mildly resent them, but that's an unrelated story). Before he left, I mentally prepared myself for one of those "OK lady, Mom Up for the week" weeks. But as the week progressed, I found there was no need to 'mom up' ... it was business as usual even though he was gone.
Despite my expectation of having more of a workload when he'd be gone, my responsibilities and routine remained the same.
How could everything be the same, duty-wise, when he's gone?
Every day I got everyone up, did breakfasts and snacks and lunches, took everyone to their prospective schools and lessons, scheduled babysitters when I needed backup for work commitments and random dinner parties involving reality show stars, signed all the permission slips, wrote the checks, dealt with all the school and activity correspondence that kids require. I fed again, bathed, read stories and put everyone to bed before I cleaned the kitchen, opened mail, fit in some extra to-dos and so on. I also got up in the middle of the night a few times to return a certain 4-year-old to her bed after numerous attempts to sneak into mine. It's the same story that many of us do.
Besides missing my husband's cute face around the house and our family meals, my routine with the kids was business as usual. (Dare I say some things were actually a bit easier, since I opted out of cooking man-dinners and just stuck to things like pasta, fruits and mini chicken tenders since it was just the girls and me.) But how could everything be the same, duty-wise, when he's gone?
Because that's the kind of home life I live in year-round, with or without the presence of traveling medical missions. My husband operates on his own schedule and I work around it. As the wife and mom, aka "the default parent," I lead and carry out all round-the-clock household happenings concerning the kids.
That's not a jab at my husband, that's not a whining cry for help, that's not a cranky tattle-tale. He makes most of the money while I do the rest amidst hacking away at my own professional aspirations and deadlines. He has one full-time job, I have two (sometimes it feels like three). Frankly, my husband has a very limited understanding of what goes on here on a day-to-day basis.
I know a lot of women just like me, I know a lot of women who cannot understand this scenario for the life of them and think I'm absolutely out of my mind for not being more demanding when it comes to splitting responsibilities of home life (although I have gotten a bit more vocal lately, I think). I'm sometimes envious of other couples' divide-and-conquer approach, while sometimes I don't even bother comparing and contrasting.
Labeling myself internally as a married single mom sometimes just makes me feel better during those times when I'm at the end of my rope.
My husband is the most humble, nice, caring person I know. If you met him you'd think so too, trust me. But he just ain't the type that cleans up a kitchen, loads dishes in the washer or throws in a pile of laundry. It doesn't matter how frazzled I may be acting, he won't say "How can I help" unless I prompt him or throw some kind of temper tantrum. He sticks to giving occasional baths and teeth-brushing and that's that. (Which I am so grateful for, by the way. Take what you can get.)
Blame my "married single mom" status on my ingrained inability to veer from my heritage's traditional marital expectations or blame it on my own philosophy that it's just easier for me to do things rather than waiting for someone to volunteer (which rarely happens) or shelling out big bucks to hire extra help (money that we need to put towards living and saving and future college expenses). Or, blame it on me not wanting to have constant arguments about regularly splitting up duties for the kids' lives and then deal with my own personal guilt of "Why should he have to take the girls to school (even if he might be home in the morning)—he's the man."
I know, some of you want to smack me right now. It's a problem. Yes, I'm a very confused modern-full-time-working-stay-at-home-traditional-and-no-so-traditional type of mom. That buzzing noise you hear is my brain short-circuiting.
Trust me, I've gone over and over and over this in my head. The cycle goes something like this: I accept it, I own it, I believe in how things work here, I get frustrated and complain, I turn into a mean bitch and then I calm down and carry on. Is it healthy? Probably not.
But labeling myself internally as a married single mom sometimes just makes me feel better during those times when I'm at the end of my rope. Because single moms are goddesses—even if we're married.