Single Parenthood Isn’t Easy
Being a single parent isn’t easy. It’s certainly not the life you planned. When you dreamed about finding that significant other and having kids, you never thought you would be leading separate lives, shuttling your children back and forth. You never imagined you’d go without seeing your kids for days at a time. You didn’t think you’d be facing them choosing one parent over the other, or that it might not be you they choose.
I’ll never forget the first post-separation “date”, just me and Big C. He had just turned 5. I had planned to take my little guy to his favourite restaurant for breakfast, maybe the library or shopping mall, anything just to spend time with just the two of us. But as soon as we’d finished breakfast, all he wanted to do was go back to his dad’s.
Dad’s apartment was new, with brand new toys, and they spent a lot of time playing video games together. His baby brother was with me most of the time, which was perfect in his mind, because baby brother wasn’t much fun. He had his dad’s undivided attention, so naturally all he wanted was to soak up every minute.
I was devastated. I felt like already he was choosing his dad over me, and that I was going to lose him.
It’s so hard at times like this to hold your head up and smile. Yes, of course you want your children to be happy, to spend time with their other parent. You should feel lucky that their father is involved and wants to spend time with them (no matter how horribly they might still be treating you). But it’s easy to get down, feel like you are the “lesser parent”, especially when your child shows preference for the other parent, like they don’t notice you. You feel like you’re a failure, that no matter how hard you try, it never feels like “enough”.
What A Child Needs
But remember, what a child needs is love and support. When they come home excited and happy and want to talk your ear off, smile and listen. When they march through the door angry and fighting back tears, offer a hug. When they yell and scream at you, or blame you for everything, tell them how much you love them, no matter what. They notice…even if it doesn’t seem like they do.
Flash forward 11 years later. I’m having a bad day, feeling guilty because I kinda lost my temper with the kids, and was “angry cleaning” the house. After I had finished vacuuming, and took a little break, I came down the hall to find Big C just lounging on his bed. I asked what was wrong? He replied he was just sort of bored, sort of tired, just waiting for me to calm down and chill out. Yeah, they notice.
Feeling a fresh wave of guilt, I tried to lighten the mood by chuckling “I wonder how you boys will look back on your mom when you’re all grown up”. Fearing the worst answer.
But he didn’t even miss a beat…”That you were the one who loved me and stood by me in my darkest times”. I lost my breath, my eyes instantly welling up with tears. I smiled and choked out some kind of thanks, to which he apologized for making me cry.
Just keep showing up, being there, even when you can’t always fix the problems. Just keep loving on them. They get it eventually. They notice.
You’ve got this, mama.
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