Eye on the Prize ~ Reflecting on life as a single mom

When I first became a single mom, I turned to running to maintain my sanity. Single parenting has been a lot like endurance sport training. I must pace myself, sustain myself, take cut-back weeks and most of all, keep my eye on the prize.

How do I pace myself at this? Sick kids, challenging behaviours, overwhelming sense of responsibility. Something I continue to learn about: not taking on too much, not in the things I choose to do, nor the emotional sense. Just as training plans sometimes call for something beyond my current limits, so too does life. What then? How do I keep on moving? There are times, when I simply have to grin and bear it, but for others I must learn to say no. Perhaps it’s saying no to that playdate arranged last week, or giving myself permission to serve PB sandwiches for supper. Perhaps it’s a much needed soak in the tub while my children watch more TV than usual, or letting go of the guilt when the boyfriend sneaks in after bedtime.

Sustenance comes in many forms. Balanced meals, nutritious snacks, and tide-me-over-fuel-to-go-the- extra-mile energy drinks. But there are also recovery workouts when I take it easy but keep my muscles moving to prevent them from seizing up. I needed to figure out what sustains me, especially mentally and emotionally. For me it is literally running out the door away from it all to focus on no one but myself. It’s rarely easy. Sometimes I have had to sneak minutes (and even a little “crosstraining”) here and there. I had to learn to ask for and accept help when I needed it.

Taking cut-back weeks have been challenging. There is a fear of losing ground. But studies have shown that athletes are much better off when they take them, than when they don’t. In parenting it means, I try say no to some of the regular activities and demands. To make a conscious effort to be less busy for one week out of four. No playdates, no favours for friends, no stressing over bills, no arguing with the ex, no, no and no. This is one that I am often less successful at.

Keeping my eye on the prize can be the most challenging part. I am no elite athlete. But I will finish, and in a goal time that I have realistically set to challenge myself. As a single mom, my prize is a little harder to quantify, but is so much more rewarding. It’s the smiles and hugs from the two who love me unconditionally no matter how much I mess up. The ones who know that whatever I bring, is the best I have to offer in the moment, and is everything they need. And sometimes it’s in the secret rendezvous. 😉

Children & divorce

I’m going to offer just a handful of my observations as a soon-to-be-divorced parent: children are far more insightful than we ever give them credit for; there are considerable differences in how siblings view their lives; as the primary parent with whom they reside for more than 85% of the time dad’s weekends when the kids are away CAN (and should) be spent doing whatever suits my fancy.

My nine-year-old was five when we split, my seven-year-old, just three. For more of Seven’s life her dad and I have not been a family, than for the portion of her life that we were a nuclear unit. I rarely hear lamenting from her of how much better it would be if we were all still a family. Her sister says it less now than she used to, but it’s still ultimately what she would wish. I’m not sure what that picture looks like in her mind, but suspect it’s a slight distortion of reality as we once knew it.

Seven’s artistic renditions of family pictures almost seem to include her dad as an after-thought. She’s never been one to talk about him in any serious sort of way. She thinks nothing of skipping one of her bi-weekly weekend visits (he lives 3.5 hours drive from us), and she doesn’t miss me when she’s gone, even for extended stays. Someone once asked her recently if she missed me while I was away on work travel for a week. Without hesitation she reported no. This is just the way it is. It’s really the only way she knows.

Her sister on the other-hand, not only would have missed me, but would have wanted very much to assure me that she did, so I’d know just how important I am to her. Seven just has the confidence that she doesn’t have to tell me, I’ll just know.

As we’ve all grown accustomed to our new lives things have changed. While I struggled for the first year with being “on” 24/7 and needed those weekends to myself so desperately, now we’ve all come so far. There are less crying jags (on all of our parts). We all feel more settled into our new routines. And I miss my babies terribly while they are gone. Don’t get me wrong I still need and appreciate having a little time-off when someone else gets to be the primary parent. In fact I probably take better advantage of the time, but I find myself wishing more for the normalcy of a single household where our lives are less divided. It’s difficult to describe exactly. The more content we all are with our new lives, the more I want of it.