I love the shit out of my kids.
I really do.
But holy hell. Sometimes they (kids) take you (me) for a ride to Bolivia and back and you (I) don’t know what just hit you (me.)
I am not alone in this. (Please, dear-sweet-baby-Jesus-in-a-manger-all-swaddled-up-for-some-spices-and-dudes-a-comin’-your-way, tell me that I am not alone in this. Because I’m not sure I could survive that blow too.) I know I am not alone in this. And if I’m wrong, please don’t correct my delusion.
Most of you already know that I am a single mum. Being a mother is a very, very hard job. Being a single mum, depending on your situation, can be both easier (WHAT?!?) and more difficult. Let me clarify that one…
I am incredibly blessed. Don’t get me wrong, I (we) have worked very hard for these blessings, and they didn’t always come easily. But when my ex-husband and I were first married, there was someone in our lives who was going through a terrible, nasty separation and ultimately divorce. As in, these friends split up while we were away on our honeymoon. And that got an interesting conversation started between us.
On our honeymoon, we talked about what we would want it to look like if we were to eventually split up.
Slightly morbid, yes. But I think that conversation set some things in place so that, fast-forward three kids, five years, and a move to England, when we did decide to separate, we had already decided that we wanted to remain a family. Our family would be taking a different shape, undeniably. But we would always be a family.
And I think that’s one that a lot of people miss. It doesn’t actually matter who has done what to whom, or how angry so and so is, if you have kids together, you will ALWAYS be a family. Period.
Now, our situation was such that our relationship just didn’t work anymore. No one had had an affair. No one had gambled away the life-savings. No one had done anything along those lines that brings out the kind of anger that can be hard to move through and get to the other side of. I soooo get that. In that sense, we had a much easier time than lots of people separating. But we talked it through and we decided that ultimately, our kids came first. We wanted to eventually be able to have family gatherings that included each other and new significant others, when the time came. The point was to give our children two happy parents living apart, but who were still a family, rather than two miserable parents living together, destroying any semblance of family unity. And I am so grateful that we both turned out to be the people we hoped we would be throughout the process of splitting up our lives. I credit part of that to the fact that we chose to pull the plug before we hated each other. There was still love. It was just not the kind of love that could sustain each other and a happy, healthy household.
And we have been successful at that. We still have some holiday dinners all together. Birthdays are a common affair. He still has a key to my house, so that he can come in and out with the kids when needs be. He got remarried last summer, and his new wife and I are each other’s biggest supporters, both recognizing that we have tough jobs. My Mother’s Day message to her was this: “Happy Mother’s Day. Thanks for being such a great stepmom to my kids. It takes a village, and I’m so glad that you’re a part of it. ♥” Her message to me was: “Happy mama’s day, sista. I couldn’t have asked for better kids in my life and you’re to thank for that.”
You see, I am blessed. I have three fabulous kids, and a friendly and supportive relationship with their dad and stepmom. We are all still a family. This is what I believe is best for the kids in a divorce situation. It’s not perfect – they still have to go back and forth between two houses, and of course, we still have our issues from time to time. (If things were perfect, we probably wouldn’t have split up in the first place!) But there is a mutual respect and I am forever grateful for that.
The upside to being a single parent? My kids are at their Dad’s house 40% of the time. That means that I have 40% of the time “off.” When my health is acting up, that is a blessing – I don’t have to try and take care of anyone else, and I don’t feel guilty that my kids are taking care of me. When I am in healthier times, I get to be a regular grown-up. I can go out with friends for a meal or a movie. I can stay up late writing. I can make decisions that only affect me. There’s the blessing.
The challenge (or for sake of the phrase, the “curse?”)
I have my kids 60% of the time. I adore my kids. And the older they get, the easier it is getting. HOWEVAH….
It also means that when they’re being little shits (as all children can be, come on now!), there is no one for me to trade off with, no one to back me up, and no one there when I need to take a time out. Parenting requires the patience of Job. And you make concessions you would not make if you were parenting as part of a household team, because there is just not enough energy to police 3 kids, by yourself, in every aspect that you otherwise would.
You pick your battles.
For instance, my kids’ rooms are generally a high holy mess. In fact, most of my house is usually a high holy mess. But, I have only so much energy (less than most, due to my health crap) to mete out. And I choose to spend it with my kids, not against them. That being said, sure they have to clean up their rooms once in a while. But I am not one of those people who will spend my entire day following my kids around, picking up after them (again, I don’t have the energy). So our house is far from a Better Homes and Gardens showcase. The mess makes my skin crawl. When it starts giving me anxiety attacks (which it does), then we attend to it, usually after I’ve lost my shit with them. (Not always the best parenting choice. But there you go.) But I’d rather they got their homework done and we eat a healthy, balanced meal than they have clean rooms. Because I also think it’s important for them to have playtime to just go out and be kids too. Striking a balance is always…something we strive for, and usually miss by a long shot. I’m just picking my battles.
When I get angry, I really struggle through an inner dialogue about whether I am going to stay engaged and in control, or whether I am going to abdicate my parental responsibility, disengage, and go hide in my room, basically just saying, “Fuck it.” Again, maybe that’s because I have less energy than most people to spread out throughout the day and use to meet all my parenting responsibilities. But I’d guess I’m not the only one out there who goes through that process.
Like I said, I love the shit out of my kids, and being a parent is the most important job I have (I did, after all, CHOOSE to bring these three little lives into the world). But it can be a bitch, this parenting thing. Hardest fucking job around.
They push your buttons. They come at you from three sides at once. They are all teenagers, I swear, although none of them are 13 yet. They NEED this and they NEED that and they forgot their lunch and canyoupleasedriveforthisfieldtripmummy and can I have this friend over and I want, I want, I want!!!! Buttons, ladies and gentlemen, buttons.
And then they crawl into bed with you at night, or first thing in the morning, and they fall asleep in your arms, snuggled perfectly into the crook of your shoulder. They look at you and see that you can’t handle even one more tiny thing, and they lift up on their toes and wrap their tiny arms around you and just say, “I love you, Mummy. I love you.”
And suddenly, every challenge you’ve faced along the way, every battle you’ve had to fight with or on behalf of your children, every wet towel on the bathroom floor…they’re all worth it. With that one touch of little body against Mummy’s body, little arms around Mummy’s neck, and that sigh, that exhale, that…release of everything heavy in the world, because they know that you can shoulder it for them for a little while…and it’s all worth it.
I love the shit out of my kids.
Even when they take me to Bolivia.