A couple weeks ago, my husband traveled to Chicago for a few days. A few excruciatingly. long. days. Four days and three nights without my husband proved both lonely and chaotic.
One night before bed, one kid was diaperless, literally pooping in the corner of the living room; One kid was naked running around with a pull-up on his head pretending to be an astronaut; And one kid was obediently getting his pajamas on….outside on the back deck. That same night, ten minutes later, my youngest was licking the bottom of the bathtub while I was putting toothpaste on three little toothbrushes and shouting into the next room, “Stop jumping off the top bunk! You’re not Spider Man!” And, with my husband gone, there was no guy with a booming voice to sweep one or two of the kids up, plunk them into their appropriate positions, and save the day.
So one night, I had a naive split-second thought while pouring myself a giant thermos of wine: This must be what it’s like to be a single mom.
Then, in an involuntary-yet-necessary spasm, one of my hands rose up to promptly slap me across the face. No, my husband taking a business trip did not mean I had even a clue about the life of a single mom. Here’s why:
I don’t just have “financial support” in the form of a check deposited every month for 1/2 of my childrens’ expenses. My husband’s entire paycheck (and mine as well) goes toward our family and household. Because of that, my husband and I, together, could decide to go on a vacation, remodel the basement, or repair the cracked driveway. Because of that, I am able to pay someone to replace my headlight, get my kids professional haircuts, and get my kids Bakery-bought birthday cakes instead of doing it all myself to save a buck. I have a true partner in finances, not someone that simply writes a check for a bare-minimum amount which the judge decides should cover half of clothing, food, sports, and education.
Whether single moms get a monthly check or no financial support whatsoever, they are often living paycheck-to-paycheck, as it is nearly impossible to raise children on one income while having to pay for child-care (even if the father covers half of daycare). On the other hand, when I find myself utterly exhausted in my husband’s absence, I am able to consider getting a babysitter or ordering a pizza without worrying about where the $20 is going to come from.
Now, this is going to make me look old-fashioned, but this is a perk that I do not take for granted: When I order a complicated crib or kids’ table from some discount site that does not provide assembly, my husband is there to take care of it. If something funky is happening to my car, or if I need a huge piece of furniture moved, or I just can’t figure out how to hook up the stupid blu-ray player, my husband is there to take care of it. Even if my husband is away on business, he will eventually be back to take care of it.
When I am sick, my husband is often able to pick up the slack with child-rearing or taking care of errands or the house. If I have a big meeting the next day, and my child is sick all night, my husband is there to step in and give me a few hours of shut-eye. Even if he is away on business, I have his sympathy and emotional support (which was HUGE during the infamous stomach bug of 2010 while he was in Germany), but I also have his willingness to dip into our “emergency/non-essential money” to hire a babysitter, and his willingness/ability to call his parents to ask them to help his struggling wife.
My kids know their dad loves them, and is consistently there for them, even though he has to go away for work sometimes. My kids also know their dad loves their mom, even though he has to go away for work sometimes. Many times, single moms have to work extra hard to reassure kids, heal emotional wounds, and fill voids that married moms may take for granted. Many single moms are tasked with understanding and dealing with challenging behaviors or emotions that their kids experience in the absence of their father.
I have a built-in friend and partner that gets it. Even when my husband is away on business, I can give him a call to tell him about my fried-nerves and ringing-ears after a day with the boys. I can just say, “Benny was being Benny today,” and he knows Benny was climbing in the toilet and scaling the back-fence. I can simply say, “Charlie was a little upset,” and he knows I am referring to a two-hour meltdown before his body finally succumbed to his nap. Single moms don’t have that person that truly understands every detail of every aspect of their daily challenges. Or if there is another parent that “gets it,” they certainly don’t view them as a friend, partner, and confidante.
I may be lonely for a few nights here and there, but I know not the loneliness of a single mom. Sure, single moms can join a moms group and meet moms at work. But they don’t have a partner at home to allow them to go out to the “moms night out” or “happy hour,” and many times to not have the financial resources to hire a babysitter. After the kids are asleep, the crickets start chirping, and families across America are turning-in for the night. Married partners turn to each other for companionship, but single parents don’t have anyone by their side.
Peace, This overthinking mommy