It’s not easy being a single parent.
Some people do it with more aplomb than others, some just put their heads down and do what’s necessary. I fall somewhere in the middle.
Sometimes there is so much aplomb that the proper wreath for the upcoming holiday is placed on the front door of our house at an appropriate time. Sometimes, we have a Christmas tree more than a week before Christmas, and sometimes it’s decorated. Sometimes, I have my act together and I look like super mom. That’s the side I show on social media mostly.
Then there are the “slog through it” days. The days where I drag my weary body into the house after work, to realize that the “hocus pocus” sign is still on our front door and Thanksgiving is four days away (and oh by the way, I haven’t started planning the Thanksgiving meal). The days where Wolfgang and I say “there’s nothing in the fridge” when trying to forage for dinner (which is code for “we don’t want to cook, screw the carefully hand-lettered meal plan on the fridge”) and go to the supermarket for whatever we are craving. The days where I realize my days as an active parent are numbered, and Wolfgang will venture off into the great unknown on his own, and I will only be an active parent 1 or 2 days a week.
It’s not easy.
We have had some rough times, my little single parent family. I was barely out of my teens when I had Wolfgang, and there were days when I didn’t know what I would eat, because my fridge was bare after feeding the kids. There were days when I could not face another day of working at a job that sucked my soul dry just to pay bills, for my paycheck to disappear through my fingers like sand before payday even arrived. There were the days where I arrived home to a shut off notice, and couldn’t pay to turn it back on. There were days when I didn’t understand why I was doing anything, when the food stamps became my “scarlet letter” and I was sure everyone was staring at me and judging.
The days where I would dress down to go to the grocery store, because I thought if I felt good about myself and put on makeup and had to use my food stamp card, that people would think I was “working the system”. The days the state-issued medical insurance for low-income families wasn’t enough to pay for an epic visit to the ICU for a tiny Wolfgang, and I was buried for years in medical debt.
The days where all I really wanted was someone to hold me and tell me it was okay, and to help me. I thought I couldn’t survive without a boyfriend/partner/husband, and convinced myself that settling for someone who was just OK was better than being alone. I spent a few years thinking I had found someone, only for that relationship to blow up in my face, and burn me for a long time afterwards.
I would like to say it always gets better. To say that raising children on your own is satisfying and rewarding on its own and you will have a beautiful fairy wonderland of a life after your children move out of your house and continue their own lives. Sometimes that happens, sometimes they hug you and say “thank you mom” and leave you to go be awesome, like you taught them.
But as a single parent, when they move out and go out into the wild blue yonder to start their lives, that also means that you are left alone. It means you spent all your time supporting them and checking homework, going to PTA meetings and football games and band concerts instead of looking for dates. It means that you lived your life for your kids for so long, that you don’t know what to do when that stops.
It is totally ok to feel lonely when that happens. It’s completely understandable that you try to cling to your kid and keep them with you – it’s scary to think of what your life will be like without your kids. It brings the fact you have made it this far without a partner into sharp relief, makes one side of the bed a little colder than usual. It might even frighten you enough to make you want to try internet dating…that’s a scary thought indeed. (do not recommend. 0/10, there’s scary stuff out there.)
But you are ok. This was what was supposed to happen – you are supposed to raise your children to be independent beings who go off into the world and use all the little lessons you taught them to make the world a little brighter and a little better. Your job is done, and you can move into a phase where you don’t have to keep track of your children 100% of the time.
It does get better. Things do eventually settle into a new rhythm, and your heart will stop hurting. I promise. It may or may not involve a new person in your life, but the one piece of advice I can give you is this: don’t seek out a partner to fill the hole your kids left behind when they grew up, or if you’re still in the throes of parenting, to fill a hole your previous partner created. You are a whole person all on your own. You parented a child to adulthood and you did a pretty damned good job.
Don’t forget that, and don’t hitch yourself to a guy/gal/non-binary human just because you’re lonely. You deserve better.