The whispered voice is heard coming from my open bedroom door. My seven year old walks over to me, sweating and pale.
Mama. I just threw up.
I push the warm covers off and sit up, wrapping my arms around him. I get him cleaned up and settled back into my bed.
I am sorry, Mama. My tummy hurts, Mama.
I hush him and soothe him. Pulling the warm covers over his shaking body.
Then I turn and sigh. Now time to clean up the mess. And a mess it was. One I had to clean up two more times hours later.
When we all wake up, I face the day. Laundry. Cleaning. Grocery shopping. I have no sick kid food in my house. I promised my 4-year-old pumpkin painting today. Thank you cards to finish. Preparations for the week. Fun Run pledges to acquire.
I drink my second cup of coffee while switching my third load of clothes. I mentally go over the week in my head and I am exhausted. Spelling words. Dentist appointments. Therapy appointment. A concert I scheduled months ago. Another busy work week. Baths. Daily commute. Trying to balance it all.
Motherhood can be a lonely place. I remember in my early days staying home with a newborn, how lonely I was. Yet, I always had my person. Who walked in the door at night, taking some of the burden off my shoulders. When I became overwhelmed and overemotional, I could call him and just unload it, knowing he would listen and support me.
But it wasn’t just the hard. The silly, fun, and enjoyable parts connected us. We would laugh and look at each other with that proud, amazed love only a parent has for their child.
It is lonely as a single mother. Lonelier than I ever imagined.
The boys’ dad and I still share stories or cute pictures with each other. But it isn’t the same. There is grief present. A sadness of what each of us is missing. One that was chosen and one that was forced. No longer is support given. More avoidance of any conflicts or problems that are present. The connection that once was is long gone.
There is no one coming in the door at night. No one getting up with me to clean up the sickness. No one joining in on the spontaneous dance parties or Nerf gun fights. No one standing next to me when an epic meltdown brings all of us to tears. No one sharing the responsibility of bills, appointments, and school homework. No one to tell me to go lay down and take a nap. No one worrying with me that we are screwing up as parents. Wondering if the love present will be enough.
When it all becomes too much, I have my family. My friends. However, I worry I am a burden. They give me and my boys so much love and support. I will never be able to show them how truly grateful I am.
But when the rough days turn into rough nights making it to bedtime is a struggle. I stare at my sleeping sons and I am overcome with love. I whisper to God a thank you. I brush back their hair and kiss their soft cheeks. Holding this moment into my heart. I am exhausted. So much that I can’t even let the tears out. Spent. Done. Sad. Knowing I wake up in a few short hours to do it all over again.
I still have moments of resentment. Knowing I didn’t want this life and would have done anything to save the marriage and family life we had.
Accepting single motherhood is an ongoing process.
I am not the only single mom. I am not the only woman who never imagined her life as this. I am not the only single mom who struggles daily with the staggering, soul-crushing weight of responsibility. Juggling adulthood, motherhood, dating, healing, working, finances, living, thriving. Alone.
It is a lonely place, single motherhood. One that attempts to drown me. One that pushes me to keep going.
One that forces me to find strength I never knew existed.