Single Mama, Overwhelmed

Everyday is not always a good day, so here are 10 things I hate about being a single mama.

1. I have to do everything.

Since I’m the single mom of an infant whose father is a thousand miles away, there is no “your turn” or “my turn.” It’s always my turn, whether I’m sick, exhausted or simply needing time to recharge. My entire day is made full by simply keeping this little human being alive AND trying to stay on top of household tasks. That’s not to mention job-related work I try to complete between moments of chasing my daughter away from shoes she’d like to eat or deterring her from sitting on my laptop screen.

2. I can’t do everything.

Among the worst parts of HAVING to do everything for a baby alone is the crying. My daughter wants me to hold her, but I have to put her down to use the bathroom. It doesn’t matter that she’s right there with me–she’s a baby, so all she knows is mama put her down and it made her sad. And to a baby, being sad is or might as well be the end of the world. Every time. I try to take the opportunity to explain to her that mama is busy but will still take care of her and that she is feeling mad and feeling mad is okay. But it doesn’t make it any less stressful for either of us. Nor does it help that we repeat this scenario throughout the day when mama tries to wash dishes, do the laundry or prepare meals.

3. I can’t give my daughter the relationship with her father that she will crave.

This is a big one for me. I had a terrible father whom I didn’t even love, but the fact that he lived outside the home didn’t help me deal with those feelings or rejection any better. Little girls learn how to relate to men by the way they relate to their dads and how their dads to them. I can try to explain this to my ex, but it can’t convince him to be there for her or bond in any substantial way. I hate this. I make notes to myself of how to talk to her about her dad as she gets older, and how to give her the freedom to process her father wound, but I can’t make it go away. I feel in a sense, that I failed her from the start by not giving her a present father.

4. People want to help… but only in ways they think would help.

By far the most often offer of assistance I receive is to babysit so I can have time away from my baby. The problem? At barely 11 months old, that is rarely what I need. One very well-meaning person suggested connecting me to a program where a foster type family would take my daughter for a week or more, just to give me a break. I won’t lie–the offer flabbergasted me. Where do I even begin?

For one, I’m a nursing mama whose baby will only take milk from me at the breast. And two,  I would never be alright leaving my daughter in a stranger’s care for a few hours not to mention an entire week. I couldn’t leave her with a family member for a night or two. It’s still too soon for that.

The things that would actually serve me and my daughter tend to be things people don’t really like to do. Like bringing us over a meal or helping us to get out of the house more often. Practical offerings that still allow me to be mom. We actually are currently in need of a new home, of people who would welcome us into their home, because we don’t have family that can take us in. Obviously, few people want to help like that.

Perhaps the only way most people want to help is to babysit. But when I say that one of the most helpful things for me is a babysitter who plays with my daughter while I do stuff around the house (so I’m there when she needs me), the potential babysitter usually looks befuddled. If that’s our need, why is looked at so strangely?

5. I have no partner to tagteam with, back me up, or pour into me when my reserves are empty.

Being a new mom is hard. For anyone, single or not. At the end of the day, I’m pretty sure all moms crave a little attention and relief from pouring themselves out non-stop. But when you’re a single mom, you may very well have no one there for you like you desperately need. I am so constantly pouring myself out with no chance to get refilled that I find myself envying other women who get to go out for coffee, go to the movies, or simply have people over when they feel like it. Going back to number 4, I wonder if it ever even occurred to them I might like (or need) an invite.

6. If I talk about being overwhelmed, people blame my parenting style…

Or recommend therapy.

So, in an attempt to be, I dunno… genuine and real, I have talked about my experience as a new (and single) mom. It’s overwhelming much of the time and I’ve expressed as much. To further complicate things, my baby is a high needs baby. No, not special needs. High needs. Yes, it’s a real thing,  read this.

I have learned–for the most part–to keep quiet about my frustrations unless I feel like being told that my parenting style is creating my problems. Again, well-meaning folks who tell me I need to take care of myself first and let the baby cry. That I need to detach and take time off from my baby. It’s useless to explain my parenting philosophy and my commitment to being an attached mama. It’s way too easy for people to tell me that as a single, far-from-wealthy mom, I have to face reality and make “compromises”.

This is where I simply smile and nod. When my daughter was 8 months old, people thought it was weird that she had some separation anxiety. They certainly think it’s weird to still be an issue now. People like this tell me I must prepare my daughter for disappointment at an early age. I tell myself I’d rather my child have a secure attachment to me in these early days. I can teach her how to handle disappointment when she is able to, um, reason.

7. Most single mom programs I come across are for moms battling drug issues or lacking job skills.

Every time I get connected to a new church or ministry or program aimed to help single mamas, I get my hopes up and think maybe this will be the community that welcomes us with open arms and helps us meet some of our practical, emotional and relational needs. And while individuals certainly make a difference, I usually find that these programs offer mentorship and friendship to moms who “really need it.” I get cut because people say I’m not a hot mess. I’m not where I need to be, but I’m not endangering my child either.

Sigh. I don’t even have words for this feeling. Except “falling through the cracks.”

8. The attitude that I asked for this and as the woman should be solely culpable.

So you might think that in our modern day and age, people would be a little less sexist, but they’re not. I was in a supposedly committed relationship with marriage having already been agreed upon. We discussed both control and the fact that I was not on the pill and he didn’t want to use condoms. He knew I’d had a non-viable pregnancy in the past and that I may not be able to carry to term. We took a calculated risk together, but once I became pregnant people accused me of doing it on purpose. Um, I have PCOS and couldn’t map my ovulation. Many more people lectured me once he left that it was my job to be an unselfish mother and that I shouldn’t expect him to stick around for an unplanned pregnancy. Well, it’s nice how that works for men. Women can’t check out of the situation or claim the need for time to think. As soon as we know the test is positive we find ourselves on a ticking countdown.

People still tell me how I shouldn’t want her dad more involved if he doesn’t want to be, because that’s obligation and no one should be obligated to do anything. Right. Except for single moms. Our society thinks it’s okay to tell single moms that they have all the responsibility for pregnancy and child rearing. And then if the father decides he wants to be involved after years of abandonment or neglect, that is a woman’s responsibility to allow.

If we expect so much of our women, should we expect more of our men? Or maybe we should at least offer substantial and consistent community to single mothers responsible for future generations.

9. The attitude that wanting to be a stay at home mom is selfish, lazy or impractical for single moms.

Again, I’m sure people mean well, but they all too often want to tell me how being a single stay-at-home mama isn’t possible because I need to make money. And not just a little bit of money, but I need to do everything it takes to not only care for my child’s day-to-day needs in addition to providing complete financial stability. Amazingly, it’s socially acceptable to neglect my baby’s emotional needs to make money, but it’s selfish to put those emotional needs first and rely on others for help with housing or transportation.

This attitude nearly assumes I got pregnant without the help of a man. It once again says the mom is wholly responsible for the consequences of pregnancy. Why?

Still others think I’m merely lazy and want an excuse to stay home and do nothing. You’re right–I love not being able to go to the bathroom or shower in peace. What? If you really think caring for an infant by yourself affords anyone the ability to be lazy, that infant must be a Hasbro doll. Because in the real world, caring for a helpless human being and doing it well IS work. Just an fyi.

10. The loneliness.

By and large, this is the one that produces the most snark in me. It’s the reason fueling this post. Being a single mom–at least for me–is heartbreakingly lonely. There’s no way around it. I currently have housemates and I still feel the crushing weight of isolation because they don’t have kids. They have lives. They have stress and problems, yes. But they also have friends or family and they get to de-stress.

I am a single mama without much family. My best friends live states or even countries away. I find myself longing every single day for companionship, for family, for people I can lean on during this hard time. But at the end of the day, or in the middle of the afternoon, it’s just me and my baby girl. And it’s lonely.

So those are the 10 Things I Hate About Being a Single Mom. Stay tuned and I’m sure I’ll tell you the 10 Things I Love about it–once I figure out 5. And I’m sure there are a lot of proud single mamas who wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s great, but maybe this can help you understand why we don’t all feel that way.

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