We like to complain about our spouses a little here on TwoFunMoms—not too much, just enough to keep them honest—but the truth is that I really don’t know what I would do without my spouse, my partner in parenting. And this inevitably moves me to think about the many, many people in the world who are single parenting and somehow making it work. Frankly, it boggles my mind how single parents do what they do, day in and day out.
Take, for example, our family’s most recent trip to Costco. Apparently we shop at what is considered to be the “busiest Costco in Canada,” which we were informed of by a very helpful Costco employee after we were already in the store and it was too late to make a break for it. After a few cycles around the parking lot looking for a parking space, and the quick fight my husband and I had about the spot that had a lady unloading her last few groceries into her car in, which, in my opinion, was worth waiting for, and in his opinion was not, he eventually just dropped me off at the front with one kid and kept the other kid with him to continue looking for a parking spot for fifteen more minutes, during which time I was trying to shop while putting a four-year old into a shopping cart, taking her out of the shopping cart, telling her not to touch things a zillion times, and putting her in the shopping cart, and then taking her out of the shopping cart again. And then when my husband did arrive, he immediately had to leave to take a kid to the bathroom. And then, a few minutes after they got back, he had to take the same child to the bathroom again, while I held four hotdogs and four drinks in a cardboard box in the middle of a crowd, and my younger child ran in circles around me, offering to go home with at least one fellow Costco patron because she reasoned that that patron would generously bestow treats upon her at his home. And the second bathroom trip took ages, because, as my husband later explained to me, the bathroom was being cleaned, and so they had to stop and make small talk with the janitor,
Anyway, my point in explaining all of this is that, as ridiculous as this experience was, I can’t imagine how it would have been in that circumstance to have to park by myself, drag the kids in by myself, leave my cart in the middle of Costco to take my child back and forth to the bathroom several times while also holding four hotdogs and four drinks (full disclosure: if I was doing twice the parenting, I figure I would deserve twice the hotdogs) and trying to keep my second child from adopting herself out while making small talk with the janitor. And I would have to do all of this while KNOWING that there wouldn’t necessarily be someone to tag me out at home at the end of the day, in time for me to redeem the day somewhat with wine and/or hiding in the bathroom.
I know that I am simplifying things a bit, because there are many other circumstances, and other helpers, that make child-rearing bearable besides a parenting partner, but it must be tough when the day is finally done, and the toys and the Cheerios are still all over the floor, to know that there is no one else to pick them up besides yourself.
Add to this the fact that, as my friend who is a single parent has told me, sometimes it feels shameful. She feels like people look at her as though she gave up on her relationship with her children’s father to their detriment. This makes me so, so sad, because I know how hard she has worked to make her life balanced and manageable, and how hard she is now working to make sure her kids feel all the parenting presence they will ever need so that they will feel loved and wanted their whole lives long. And I believe they will.
And so, for what it’s worth, single parents, I want to tell you that I think you are simply incredible, and that you are heroes of parenting. When the going gets tough, you are the ones on the front lines, alone—cleaning up puke in the middle of the night, rolling your eyes at no one in particular, and continuing to put your own personal needs behind those of your kids. If that’s not a hero, I don’t know what is.