I am a married-single mother. Meaning – I am betrothed to my soul mate but he is unable to co-parent alongside me because his job keeps him away from home sixty to seventy-two hours a week. He is the family provider and the children’s extra special Sunday playmate. I am the stay-at-home mom-ship captain-prison warden-public relations director-service coordinator-keeper of allthethings.
This is by far the hardest job I have ever had. I have worked in an upscale, posh fruit market and deli with over two hundred register codes to memorize. I have worked in Bingo halls, ice rinks, and daycares. I have been employed as a food counter cashier, a restaurant hostess, and a banquet hall dishwasher. For many years, in between, I held down a second job as a nighttime security guard. After college, I worked as a Health Unit Coordinator, managing patient care in some of the most fast-paced, unpredictable units of the hospital- Labor & Delivery, Pediatrics, Neurology, and the I.C.U.. None of those jobs even begin to compare to the stress, exhaustion, and physical drain of Mom Duty as a married-single mother. A married-single mother without her tribe, that is.
Everyone undoubtedly knows, it is the village which makes or breaks a good mother. This mother was breaking under the pressure.
Going into my first pregnancy, I was a bit on the younger side of the average age for first-time moms. In my naïve twenty-two year old mind, the picture of motherhood American Baby and Baby Talk magazines painted, would become my reality. What a slap in the face it was to realize those farcical illustrations were far from the truth. Having the best of everything baby and following the crowd of sheeple down the trail of baby care fads was not enough to join the exclusive motherhood village. I did not have the right socio-economic bank roll and suburban background to be noticed. No matter how many Mommy and Me classes we went to, how many playgroups we auditioned at, or how well I adhered to the advice in articles like “How To Find Your BMFF (best mommy friend forever) At Gymboree” and “Build Your Mommy Crew In Style,” I never felt welcomed, nor, did I ever make a single friend.
I did not give up my search for belonging and acceptance without a fight, though. I continued on relentlessly, trying to make myself a village to rely upon; to belong to. However, there is only so much fight in any one, and, by the time I was expecting my third baby, five years later, my fight was gone. Dried up. Vamoose. My tribe would never be, and, I was surprisingly okay with that. A natural introvert by nature, it was truly torturous bearing the barrage of mother-baby socialization necessary to find a gaggle of girl friends who weren’t single, childless, Molly-loving club goers. Those kind vanished, to never return again, the first time my newborn baby cried in their presence. So, when the third child was born, I finally began to let go of the fairytale depicting, magazine idealism entirely. All it had done was leave me friendless and on the brink of insanity – and, truthfully speaking, I was afraid of what would come beyond the point of insanity if I continued. By the time my fourth child came, I had fully adjusted to motherhood without the stress of social pressures, and, subsequently, without any outside support. Yet, I was still riding the crest of the wave, dangling precariously on the edge of sanity and did not understand why.
Four kids and one mother – twenty four hours a day, three hundred sixty five days a year – with only the varying levels of school during the school year to break up some time with a few of the kids. Coupled with the task of managing the entire household, and all the bullshit associated thereof, my hands got so full, I began losing my grip on it all. My sleep, random and sparse, is constantly interrupted by one little person’s needs or another. My body is perpetually ready for bed and continually fighting wakefulness, because it has no idea when sleep is supposed to happen anymore. The chores have gotten farther behind then I ever imagined possible; giving up on the idea of ever having a presentable looking home. Not even a flawlessly clean home, just presentable. Looking around, all I could see was failure in the overflowing piles of paperwork, stacks of laundry baskets that will never be folded before we’ve worn it all, dishes in the sink for days on end, and a smell emanating from our dingy carpets the kids are surprisingly not nose-blind to, but actually seem to prefer. Days turn into nights which turn right back into daytime again, sending shockwaves of confusion through my brain as it tries to decipher time and date. It is because of this, that I am perpetually late to everything, since I feel as though time ceases to exist within the walls of my fortress. I am one thread away from unraveling into a heap of tattered remains and no one will be there to help stitch me whole again.
I feel trapped in the twilight zone of stay-at-home parenthood, where every day seems just like the last and the memories of each blend together in jumbled chaos. This is the life of a married-single mother.
In all of my painstaking endeavors to become an attractive, friendable Mom, it has become apparent to me, motherhood is an isolating, punishable, and taboo feat in which society makes you feel as if you haven’t done enough. It is a lonely and daunting role which threatens to consume you, if you let it. For a long, long time, it seems, I have done just that. I have focused solely on the parts of motherhood which were unexpected and/or unattainable. I was blatantly ignorant to the value of what I had staring me right in the face. Becoming aware of the fact that I am miserable by my own fault, has been liberating. I have realized I was only mirroring the rejection I felt from my endless attempts at finding my best mommy friend. I was finding fault in my inability to be a real life Wonder Woman and keep up with life in its high-speed chase towards death, to prove there was value to the opinion of a bunch of mothers I only knew the back page summary of the story of their lives. By judging them, I was only personalizing these missed connections (which may very well have been not meant to be for good reason), therefore judging myself. I was holding myself to someone else’s standards. I was putting unreasonable and unrealistic expectations on myself, ones which I could never meet – even on my best of days. Their circumstances in life were different than mine. They were living the stereotype of suburban stay-at-home lives. I was a married-single mother. They had a village of family and friends waiting to step into their roles long before they ever conceived their first time and the crew only grew with each subsequent child. I did not. I was on my own. Both mom and dad, and everything in between.
And, you know what? My way of getting through is a-okay by me. I haven’t made the leap off the insanity cliff, yet. Actually, I am probably a lot further from the edge than I ever was before, without the added pressure of a motherhood fantasy dangling above my head. This is the most arduous, back-breaking, demanding, and wearisome role I have ever been graced with. The most rewarding and fulfilling, too. I have the opportunity to see my children every possible moment along their journeys. I can take the time to talk to them, play with them, learn with them and from them, sharing a bond we wouldn’t have had on the same level, otherwise. So what if I’m not good at managing household repairs and spring cleaning regimes? My children’s laughter fills the air and their smiles brighten the rooms of our home, bringing joy to even the most mundane of household chores.
We are busy making memories and memories can be quite messy at times. So can dealing with temper tantrums, sicknesses, and injuries, too. Not to mention those natural kid disasters which No Body and Some Body-Else were fully responsible for causing.
My children are healthy, they are excelling in school, activities of interest, and athletics, they are kind and compassionate, they are immensely and uniquely humorous, and they are confident in their own skins being exactly themselves. Raising kids to be as such, in this day and age, is quite a tremendous feat – one which I have done with no helpful support, whatsoever. I have no more room for comparisons in my life. The opinions of others do not make me anything unless I allow them to. The pressure to conform to society’s misguided idealism of motherhood will no longer have the power to create a tunnel vision of failure in my mind. I am merely doing the best I can with the hand that I have been dealt in life. I am incredibly proud of myself for coming this far on my own, as I should have been all along.
Life as a married-single mom tests my limits and capabilities on a daily basis. It plays on my weaknesses and empowers my strengths. It brings me to my knees in despairing frustration and lifts my heart to the heavens, bursting with unconditional love and wonderment.
My physical and emotional well-being can falter at times, but at others, they are unstoppable forces to be reckoned with.
For whatever reason, I was meant to go this journey on my own, but, for the first time ever, I am so damn grateful that I have. I have proven to myself that I can. That I am. That I will. I am simply a married-single mother whose course is a little off the beaten path, but still in the race. I am the mother I was meant to be and there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.
The internet… It brought me my village. There is a place where moms can belong without judgement or social pressure to be anything but, well, Mom! Just as you are. No rules, limits, or boundaries. No unsolicited advice, shaming, or leveling up. Just pure kindness and loving support. Wanna join? Come on and make a #Mommitment today!
By: Kristina Hammer, aka, The Angrivated Mom