A Poem by A Solo Mom: Instructions for Sleeping Alone

A Poem by A Solo Mom: Instructions for Sleeping Alone

ESME Resource Guide Susan Lemere explores loneliness

Instructions for Sleeping Alone


Marry young.

Choose someone benign,

as if nonthreatening

means the same as


and overlook his disdain

for the novels

and poems you love.

After the baby,

work opposite shifts,

which minimizes

the need for childcare,

along with


Find yourself bickering

about ridiculous subjects,

like whether passion matters

or even exists,

and whose fault it is

that you moved to Chicago.

File divorce papers

with the briefest

and most naive optimism



Attach like a tick

to the most not-your-ex-husband

man you can find,

drifting into cohabitation

in the bachelor pad

which shows no signs

of you.

Find out you are pregnant.

Ignore nagging concerns

about his drinking,

his temper,

his spending sprees.

Let his intensifying rages

crash over you and then

dissolve, like waves.

Flee when the danger

is undeniable,

clutching your restraining order

as if a piece of paper

can keep you safe.

Zombie-walk through court hearings


and again

and again,

in the general direction

of free.


Try not to notice

that free can feel lonely,

or that you’re thinking

more often about that old

high school sweetheart

who just friended you

on Facebook.

So what if he’s

a thousand and twelve

miles away,

in a long-term relationship,

and in failing health?

Discover unhappily

that wishful thinking

combined with insomnia

does not make

a delicious cocktail.


Just when you’re convinced

single mommies don’t date,

meet someone

at a work conference.

Discover too quickly

about liking the same TV series

and your shared interest in skiing.

Jump to compatibility conclusions

and then into a hotel bed,

falling quickly, too quickly—

at this age,

shouldn’t you know better?

Afterwards, be a contortionist,

thinking that if you can just

twist yourself up enough,

there has to be some way

this can work.

Feel the futility

like the sound

of every receding footstep

down a never-ending hall.


Be woken from a sound sleep

by a kick in the head

from your four-year-old,

who has managed

yet again

to maneuver her way

upside down

in the Mom-bed you keep

trying to reclaim.

Review nighttime rules

and listen to

her indignant protests

about monsters,

weird noises,

twin-size sheets that won’t

stay put,

the unfairness of you

having the bigger

and comfier bed.

Wipe her tears

with your fingertips,

but escort her back

to her room, anyway.

Then, stare at your ceiling,

knowing she’ll be

back again soon,

and that this time,

in your exhaustion,

you’ll let her stay.

It’s the middle of the night.

Both of you

are still learning.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Susan Lemere is a Solo Mom of two, as well as a therapist, a writer, and an artist coach.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

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