Time & Help. We all could use more of each of those right? More time to work during the day, more time to do what we like to do, and less time of doing what we don’t. As a mom of a rambunctious little boy, who is in constant speed mode, I need time to myself to slow down and unwind; and I don’t mean that as time to sleep. However, like most single parents we don’t get the time or help we probably need, and because we lack one or the other, it makes us angry and sometimes resentful. So who is there for me when I need that time, or who is there when I could use an extra hand up, not hand out, when I need something for myself? For me I have a wonderful sister, well technically I have 5 sisters, but one sister in particular I can call on when things are tough, or when I just need a sounding board and she’s been there since, well heck since before my son popped out. She unfortunately lives on the other side of the country, so I never get to see her as often as I would like, but she has been a huge supporter of me mentally, emotionally, and even at times financially. But, what if you don’t have a sister like mine? Who can we as single parents call on in times of need? Maybe we should first understand what it means to be a true support system to a single parent, from the eyes, ears, and daily life of a single parent. Then surround yourself with those people who show and prove that they are true supporters, and not those who come along to support you for hidden agenda’s.
I had a neighbor a few years ago who I would frequently see walking her newborn son through the neighborhood. She was (and still is) a beautiful woman, and even though at the time this story takes place, she had just given birth to her son a few months prior, she was already thin again, had long thick hair, and was smiling from ear to ear. She didn’t look broke down, scrubby, or like she needed a break from reality to get herself back together. So in my mind, I just knew she was a woman who had a great boyfriend, or husband who came home to her and her son every night, because she was so well put together. One day we both happened to be walking around the neighborhood at the same time, and I stopped to compliment her on how amazing she looked this particular day. I joked that I hoped to look like a fraction of her when I had a child in the future. We both laughed, as we continued to introduce ourselves to one another. From then on, whenever we would see each other around the neighborhood, or at the grocery store, we would speak, and eventually became very friendly. One summer evening as I was finishing my walk, I passed by her house, and I saw her outside smoking a cigarette. A rare sight for sure. So I stopped to see what was going on. She was disheveled, hair a mess, and looked like she was about to cry, or had just finished crying. Clearly sensing something was wrong, I asked if she was okay, and she began to confess a truth that honestly I did not see coming. “You know Bre, you think I have a boyfriend or husband, and I don’t! I do all of this alone.” As she waved her hands around in the air as if to refer to the house, car, and baby inside. “My son never see’s his dad, and the worst part about it, is that his dad lives right around the corner with his new girlfriend and her son. He’s been taking me back and forth to court these last few months, refusing to pay child support, and now is requesting shared custody. I just don’t understand how I’m going to fight this when I’m alone, and he’s trying to prove that he has a better support system than I do. I don’t really make a lot of money, but I make more than enough to keep things going alone. Except I have to take my son to my great aunt’s house for her to keep him during the week, so I don’t have to pay for daycare. How does that look for me in court, when I can’t even afford daycare?” She spilled her heart, and her eyes out to me as we stood outside on that warm summer night. I couldn’t believe that a woman like her, college educated, a manager in her field, thin, beautiful, and seemingly everything a man could want, was going through something so demeaning and horrific like this. AND… Before you jump to any conclusions, she is White. Color lines cross awful circumstances, I’m sure even you, the reader know this. Nonetheless, I told her I was willing to do anything I could to help. At the time she didn’t really know me, but I told her that if she ever needed a break I would watch her son at night, or could help her on the weekends if she needed to run errands, or just get her life together in general. You see, in that moment that woman to me was like my mother, or another lifelong friend, or any woman for that matter who just needed an ear to listen, and a hand to hold to know that she was going to be alright.
As I found myself offering to be a support system to someone I barely knew, I realized that I also wasn’t looking for anything in return. That was odd for me. I didn’t want any money. I didn’t want any gifts, I didn’t even want her to verbally tell me thank you, because I could only imagine how her heart must have been breaking, yet all the while she walked around every day with a mask that said “it’s all good in my world”. You know we all wear those mask. It’s those mask that say you’re happy, when you really might be breaking down. The mask that says, I got this, when you are barely holding it together. So for my friend to have finally shed her mask, to let me see behind the veil, it was a reflection of who I was too. I was also hiding from the world at the time, and sometimes I still do. With fear of being taken advantage of, or fear of someone trying to prey on my son and I, I keep a mask on, so that others aren’t able to see who I really am inside.
Now, it is my belief that once you get into the habit of being a giver, that the universe will ultimately begin to give things back unto you. As a single parent myself, I barely have time to do anything for anyone else, because I have so many things to do during the day. Yet I still find time and energy to give a little here and there for people who may need it. But, just for giggles, here is a brief glimpse of a day in my life. 5:45AM wake up for prayer, meditation, and sometimes yoga if I can squeeze it in. 6:15AM quick shower. 6:25AM (half way dressed) I begin making lunch for son, and pulling out pre-packed lunch for myself. 6:35AM wake up the child (be very careful you don’t know what mood it’ll be in). Until 7:05AM I try to finish getting my child ready, pack my gym bag, and begin feeding my son a morning snack, so that he doesn’t derail my entire life in the AM. By this time it’s about 7:20AM and I should be dressed and walking out the door, to begin my hike to the daycare, and then the 25 minute drive to my job. After 9 LONG hours in the office, I start round 2. 5PM, I maneuver through traffic, like a nascar ninja. Pick up the kid, rush to the gym, put in a SOLID 45-60 Minutes of hardcore working out, so that I eventually look like the MILF I’ve always wanted to be. Then head home, which at this point it’s already 7PM so now I have to figure out dinner options if I haven’t already prepared meals. 7:35PM shower, then dinner, a quick 30-45 minutes of television, by which it’s probably watching me, and I’m working on a new post, or navigating how to save the world one single parent at a time online. 8:25PM Bath time for the baby bear. Then I read my son a book, sing our bedtime song, say prayers, and he’s off to sleep (9 times out of 10 he does not get out of the bed at this point). By now it’s after 9PM and I don’t want to do anything other than NOTHING. So as you can see, single parent life, in my case one that I’m trying to have balanced, is not something that is so cut, copy, and paste. The challenges I face are different from other parents, and while I don’t want to sound as if I’m complaining, I also don’t want anyone to EVER dismiss the immense amount of work single parents put into raising and providing a good life for their children.
SO DON’T ASK ME WHAT TAKES ME SO LONG AGAIN!
Point of it all is that support comes in many shapes and sizes, but as a solo parent, we need support that sometimes others don’t understand. Maybe you’re like me and can “afford” daycare. SIDEBAR: No one really is able to afford daycare, unless you make a buttload of money, then at which point you’ve hired a nanny. However if you are able to afford various things like daycare, or a sitter every once in a while, you still need someone to listen to you when you’re feeling low. To show up when you’re feeling sick, or to comfort you when you’ve hit a low point, and just overall be there when the times get tough. I know this is titled Support-Her, but we need to support him too. Dads who are primary caregivers to their children also need love and support, and it’s not enough to say I support you all from a distance. Pick up the phone, offer to do something random, or just in general step out of your comfort zone and be there for someone else, especially when you know you may not get anything in return. I’m tired of people who say, yeah I’ll do this or that for you, but it’s on my terms, or knowing that someone is doing something for me, and they are preparing to want something from me at the end of it all. My sister Kat, as she’s affectionately called, has never once asked me to do something in return for her, and honestly I doubt I could pay her back fast enough for all the things she’s done for me. So, whether we look like we have it all together or not, we all could use a ray of hope from time to time. If you are someone who could use some hope, start by becoming so hope for someone else, and I promise you, the universe will send you a supporter better than you’ve ever imagined.
-Be the best version of YOU!-