Parenting with Prefixes
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I never wanted to be a coparent or single parent
I did not choose this. I did not choose this single motherhood. I know there are many who do, and I look at them with amazement, awe, and wonder. Why would anyone voluntarily put herself in this position? I ask myself because solo motherhood can be so very, very hard.
I did not choose this. Well, yes, I did choose to file for divorce from my ex-husband, the father of my two boys, so maybe in a sense I did choose this, but this is not what I signed up for when I had children. I never wanted to be a parent with a prefix, never desired to be a “single parent” or to “coparent” with an ex-husband. I couldn’t bear the thought of someone being a “stepmother” to my kids.
A “mother” is what I wanted to be, no complications or confusion. And when I gave birth, that’s what I was: one-half of a two-parent family, unhappy and unhealthy as it may have been. I was determined to give my children something that eluded my brother and me—two parents, one household—until giving them that required me to give too much.
I did not choose this.
What I chose when I got a divorce was to be healthy and whole, and as a byproduct I hoped that my children would be so as well, despite the statistics about single-parent households and in the face of stereotypes about kids who come from a family of divorce, notwithstanding the fragmented family in which my children now found themselves.
And they are healthy and whole, and although it certainly has not been easy, we have been fortunate, blessed even, but I would not be bearing witness to my most authentic self if I did not also articulate that even in the face of undeniable blessings, sometimes, even 10 years later, it crosses my mind that I did not choose this.
It could be on any given night when it hits, when I come home beleaguered after a long day of work to my “second job” of cleaning and making dinner and helping with homework without any relief. Or it strikes me on a Saturday when I have to get my two boys to two different places at the same time, and I have forgotten one’s permission slip and the uniform for the other is at his dad’s house. Sometimes it whispers in my ear when I go to church with my children and notice the happy two-parent families in the pews around me. There have been times, I admit, when it overtakes me, when the boys are with their dad and I am alone on Christmas morning or Thanksgiving dinner, or on one of their birthdays or the first day of school. But mostly that thought crosses my mind when the everyday rhythm of this life is pounding its drum too loudly in my head so I cannot hear myself think and there is no one to vent to, to share and “be in this” with me, and I feel so alone. It could be in any one of those moments and countless more when I remember that this is not what I ever wanted for myself or for my children, but yet here we are.
I am a firm believer in feeling one’s feelings and sitting with discomfort and pain because that is ultimately how we heal—to face the hurt and recognize that you have more power over it than it has over you. So while I allow myself to think/feel/express that where I am is not where I wanted or planned to be for myself or my children, I also remind myself that where I am, where we are, isn’t all that bad.
I love the way that music fills our home in a way it never did when I was married: the impromptu dance parties the three of us had when they were younger or how we used to pick a theme song for every season. I am thankful for the close bond I have with each of my two boys, fueled by the late-night conversations with my eldest son when he comes in my room “just to talk” or the Whole Foods sushi dinners I share with my youngest when waiting for my oldest to finish practice. I am filled with gratitude for the “village” that has sprung up to support me and my family: the Solo Mom and her son who came over with cupcakes and together with my boys sang me “Happy Birthday” after my ex-husband moved out; my best friend who has no children of his own and let my boys visit for a week one summer so I could have the much-needed break he knew I needed; and the moms on my group text who faithfully sent reminders each school year about dress-code changes and early dismissals and any number of school-related details and minutiae that so easily slipped my overcrowded mind.
I think about my own personal growth and reflect on how much more grounded and rooted I am, knowing that could not have happened but for my experience as a Solo Mom. I think about the many things I know now for sure—about myself, others, and life in general—I learned by navigating this path not of my choosing. I think about how much different my life and the boys’ lives would have been if they had grown up seeing their mother hurting and broken, and I think to myself with a heart full of amazement, awe, and wonder: I did not choose this life; this life chose me.
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