This Mother’s Day I might as well say it: I never set out to be a mom, much less a single mom. Out of curiosity and not wanting to be left out, I probably would have eventually reached the point of saying “I’m ready, let’s start trying” but I can’t say for sure. I never had a burning desire to procreate. My daughter was conceived when I was on the pill, one year into a marriage I was starting to admit to myself might be the first but not last. I tried to be excited, but the truth is that from the time I found out I was pregnant until about the third month, I cried every minute of the half hour commute home from work.
Outwardly, things were aligned. I was married to a good guy. We had friends. Fun friends. We had a bungalow in an intown neighborhood. We had supportive family. We shared lifestyle goals. We knew how to throw a party. We were compatible. I tried to dismiss the misgivings. After all, everyone was doing it. Maybe having a baby would complete us.
The first few years were a blur. Good times, bad times, our daughter was and is beyond all expectations. When it seemed that things were in danger of falling apart again, it was time to have another. I’m an only child. For me it was lonely. My ex has a sister with whom he shares all kinds of pop culture references and private jokes. They speak their own language (which as adults fueled by alcohol can clear a room). If nothing else I wanted that kind of connection for my daughter. I wanted her to have someone to discuss her parent’s craziness with, so she wouldn’t think she was the crazy one. We got pregnant the first month we tried and were lucky enough to have a boy. One of each, two and a half years apart, perfect family.
It didn’t work out. Turns out kids don’t make a strained relationship easier, they make it harder. I moved out when they were 3 and 5 and in the beginning felt all kinds of free. When I was on I was on, but when I was off, for the first time in many many years, I was free to go to yoga, have hummus and chips for dinner and watch movies that only I wanted to watch. From my bed on a Friday night. Heaven.
Reality sunk in. Those off nights came at a price. Being fully on was hard. Really hard. We all had breakdowns. Even on some of the best days, I had no energy left for cleaning up the mess. I alternated with loving them madly and wanting to “disappear” them. There were dark moments, especially during long stretches. I counted the days and hours until I could pass them off and then immediately missed them. Except for the times when I didn’t. This went on for several years.
I feel vulnerable saying this because even though I suspect that people who profess to find parenthood totally joyful are just lying, feelings of not being good enough come easily. I’ll say it anyway: in my experience, kids suck every bit of your time, energy, money and patience. They will grate on every last nerve. They are a total assault on the nervous system. They expose all our weaknesses. They necessitate a personal evolution.
I am far from being the mother I want to be, but now that my kids are 11 and 13 I finally feel like I’ve got more to offer them. As a result of my yoga practice and my growing business experience, I’ve uncovered a fierceness that seems to come more easily to other people than it has for me. Regardless, I feel connected to the kind of magical powers that come from loving someone so much that you could lift a car if they were trapped under it.
I am driven to constantly seek out even greater levels of discomfort than I’ve gone through as a single mom because I know my kids deserve the best I have to offer. They are such good people and if I give them any less than what I’m capable of, I’m doing them a disservice. This whole thing is so much harder than I ever could have imagined. In spite of all my shortcomings, I am determined to become the best person I can possibly be for their benefit. And when all else fails, I dance to songs like this:
To those who were raised by single mothers, please forgive the ways she let you down, she tried. Single moms out there, I feel you. I am you. To those dearest to single moms, please consider that her deepest desire on Mother’s Day may not be to spend time with her kids, but to take a break from them. Spas, pedicures, yoga class, naps, reading on the couch, all very restorative. Just sayin.
If you have any stories to tell about being a single mom, being raised by a single mom or of single moms you know, please share in the comment section.