Sunday, June 19, 2011

Single Parent? I got that!

Anybody who has been a single parent - I mean truly single; going it alone and doing nearly all of the parenting on your own without a second cooperative parent - knows how challenging this is. Balancing schedules, working, going to school if that's the case, taking care of kids, taking care of kids when they're sick, taking care of kids when you're sick, figuring out how to make ends meet with one income while being the sole care provider, trying to squeeze in something resembling a social life in the precious rare time to yourself when you get it.

And stress. Oh the stress. There is no reprieve, nobody else to help shoulder some of it for you, nobody to help create solutions. Most people are lucky enough to have good friends who provide support systems, but it is different than having someone in your own household, to help manage that household and its family members, with you.

The stress is like one of those pregnancy sympathy belts. But instead of a large bulge around the belly, it's a large weight on your shoulders and back. That weight is immeasurable, but harsh and cutting. Instead of weighing on your bladder, it weighs on your consciousness. How will I pay the next repair bill? How do I tell the kids we can't go on vacation because there isn't the extra money? How do I tell the kids I have to choose writing that essay over taking them to the park? Each thought, each worry, is a pebble in that pack of weight, and they add up so fast you can't even keep track of them anymore. The pack overfills and some of those pebbles fall out, but they roll right back. How do I work and afford to pay for child care? How do I pay off my own student loans and save for my children's college fund? And where one weight comes out, another replaces it. The car is paid off, but now the tires need replaced. Baseball season is over but now we need to have braces put on those crooked teeth. That weight is there and you can't take it off like you can a sympathy belt. It stays on while you work, while you play, while you try to fall asleep, while you wake up in the morning.

But as the burden to being a single parent is great, so is the reward. Me, I have boys. So I have gotten to teach my boys to cook, and taught them how to cast a fishing line. I taught them how to sort laundry, and took them to the batting cages and taught them how to swing a bat. I taught them how to thread a needle, and how to build a campfire. I took them to school their first day of kindergarten, and to their first concert, on their first camping trip, to the beach and to every frightening doctor appointment they've had. I get all the disciplining to myself, but I also get the hugs and the kisses, the laughs and the funny kid-isms.

Those rewards gives every ounce of that weight a gold filling, every cloud a silver lining, and every burden a reciprocal reward. Whether you're a single mom or a single dad, I wish you a very happy Father's Day.

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