When I moved out of the house I shared with my son’s father, I took two things: a cherry wood desk and a faded brown couch. I didn’t want the pots and pans and bed sheets, the reminders of shared spaghetti dinners and intertwined nights as a cohesive family unit.
I needed to start fresh: to use my limited funds and my vast imagination to build a new abode for my smaller family unit: a home that was child-friendly and tranquil. I needed a room of my own, separate from the memories that were still so fresh and raw.
I went to second-hand shops and examined floor model armchairs: under-the-chair rips and chipped wood could be easily replaced and a little creativity could make that old hassock look new. As I built my Single Mama home, I kept thinking of a conversation I’d had with a good friend who’d recently become a single Mom herself. She had two young boys, a career in telecom, and a relatively amicable divorce.
“I don’t know how you do it,”I’d said, in a tone twinged with admiration and sympathy, a small thread of thank god you’re not me.
“I just do it,”she said,”I don’t think about it. You take what life throws at you and you weave it into something doable. When there’s no option, you’re forced to take the best way, because there is no other. ”
Those words have stuck with me. I’m often asked how I manage to pay the bills, care for my son, thrive in a career (truthfully: I work two demanding jobs at all times, sometimes three), clean the toilet and brush my hair. I reply that I don’t sleep much, and that’s very true. But what the uninitiated don’t know about single Motherhood is that there is also a very glossy silver lining.
When I was coupled, I spent a lot of time resenting my partner. Why couldn’t he replace the roll of toilet paper when he used the last shred, why was he snoozing on the couch when the living room floor needed repair? I spent a lot of time glaring quietly while I put his milk back in the fridge, picked up his socks from the bedroom floor while plotting passive-aggressive retaliation . Now there’s no resentment, because I’m responsible for everything. If a bill doesn’t get paid, it’s my fault. If my son is sick, I stay home with him. There is no argument and I have to say: there is something empowering about being the sole head of household. I can get irritated with myself at the leftover dishes in the sink, but fighting with oneself is much less toxic than lambasting someone else.
Sometimes, late at night, while the house is silent and my son is sleeping, I miss a warm adult beside me. On Sunday mornings, I take my son for soccer and brunch and avoid making contact with young couples with children; it’s too raw. But most days, most times, I’m actually very satisfied with where I’ve landed in life.
I understand fully what my friend said, now: you just do it. You just do it, you do it well, and though it’s not the path you expected, it’s peppered with richness and love and not nearly as bad as you might have expected.