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A Reader Essay On Single Parenthood

May 14, 2019

Some Nights
By: Abby Gibson

One of the most common cravings parents with small children have is the need for more sleep. I am TOTALLY in that group of people. Every time I go to bed, I just lie awake thinking through my checklist for the next morning–that has constantly been tweaked to achieve minimal prep time to get out the door and hopefully be on time to work–which later dominoes into a bunch of unnecessary futuristic scenarios about the next 10 years of my son’s life. He’s 2. Now granted, I’m a high school teacher constantly hearing about all of the new ways my son can do whatever he wants on the Internet without my knowledge, thinking about what college he’ll go to, how to handle heartbreak, balancing his time between me and his dad’s family, or if he’ll still love reading. Every mom I’ve talked to has played some of those clips in her mind at some point. While all of these mental gymnastics are happening, there’s another part of my brain attempting to open a whole filing cabinet full of work-related files I need to be considering for the next few months. So…. what’s the one thing I’m not doing that actually NEEDS to be happening? SLEEP. It’s always the one feeling I want to give into all day, but I easily push aside after getting in the coziest position in bed.

While absentmindedly listening to a song that has nothing to do with parenting, the words seemed to hit all the high notes of a mom’s thought process. 

Some nights, I stare at the calendar Waiting for catastrophes, imagining they’d scare meOh my God! Have you listened to me lately?Lately, I’ve been going crazyAnd some nights I pray a sign is gonna come to meBut usually, I’m just trying to get some sleep.      -“Some Nights Intro” by fun.

While you read that and drank your large cup of caffeine, did you feel like someone was writing the anthem for parenting?

If I could write another verse to the anthem, I would dedicate it to the extra responsibilities that single parents have. As a single parent, I don’t have that partner to join in on the “chorus” about the countless hours spent rocking our son to sleep every night for months or to lean on and confide in whenever my mind takes over and makes me think I’ve been going crazy. Nor can I share the struggles of trying to perfectly fit together all the scheduling for daycare, visits to his dad’s, Mama and son time, doctor’s appointments, work commitments, seeing my own family, etc. Juggling all of those different aspects is enough to make anyone dizzy! So, whenever I feel that rush coming on, I usually go to Instagram to watch some soothing cookie decorating or calligraphy videos like everybody else. Yet in that moment when I need to disconnect from that overwhelming feeling like I’m failing to be enough for my son, I continually scroll past a lot of wonderful mamas and families happily living their lives. Families that have both parents living with their kiddos. 

Which is awesome! 

I always want to celebrate the triumphs of parents because we so rarely have an extra cheering section. 

But, what about me? 

I’m looking around at the full sink, the floor cluttered with toys, and a pile of wrinkled laundry I keep forgetting to fold. This is so not Instagram worthy. There’s no 5 o’clock that comes when I can expect my partner to come home and help me clean up the proof of my son’s fun-filled day. It’s just me. And my checklist.

Since he can’t fully communicate, I’m always questioning whether or not we really are close: “Will he miss me?”  “Does he know I’m not there?”  “Does he think I left him?” I know these are questions all parents think about at one point or another, but I think it’s intensified whenever you share your child with someone else who isn’t with you. There’s an extra weight of “fear” when I can’t receive that verbal validation from my son yet.

When all of that collides and I start to feel rundown and like there’s too much to do in one day, my son comes up to me and says, “Need hug?” This small request reminds me of the incredible bond we share. Since I’m a single primary parent, my son and I spend tons of time together. During all this time I’ve noticed how well we understand each other. His mimicking of my mannerisms helps him better understand me while he’s trying to communicate. It also lets him see my emotions. Of course, he’s only 2 and doesn’t recognize that. But when he’s sick and I’m worrying about him going to his dad’s, I sit and stroke his cheek hoping he won’t think I’ve abandoned him when he needs me. Or I wonder if he’ll even recognize I’m not there! At that moment, I stopped rubbing his cheek (mostly because my arm fell asleep) and he looked at me, picked up my hand, and put it back on his face. If I really pay attention, he’s always showing me, in his own way, that we have developed a close bond of understanding. 

Keeping a human alive is no easy task. God knows keeping a small human alive AND happy AND nutritionally fed all at the same time is damn near impossible. But add the constant worry that if I do something wrong, I’m going to be called out by his dad and you’ve got a guaranteed ticket to “Crazytown.” So, what keeps me from being a permanent resident there? The wonderful army of women I have on my side. I have friends and family I can call and talk to, be mad with, and be hurt with. I am held up by those people who know me well and can give me that support whenever I need it most.

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